Saturday, 10 September 2016

Where have our values gone?

A very pertinent question that comes mind today is whether we might not have failed, as educationists to instil positive values in our children today! The recent incident of a student stabbing his teacher to death in a Government School in Delhi makes one wonder if the student was not perhaps lacking in respect for a teacher, an elder person. Violence in schools today is most probably a result of the deterioration of values in the society. Perhaps the single most important value that we are lacking as a society is respect - respect for our elders, respect for those who are younger to us and respect for each other! Can we not ascribe ascribe for that effect, the increase in the number of incidents of road rage to the deterioration of values in the society? How about the increase in the number of cases of crimes against women? Is it not because, we have done away with values that give respect to women in the society? Are we not therefore lacking as educators, in teaching our learners to respect the rights of others? Have we not in our drive towards academic excellenc somehow forgotten the importance of timeless values in ensuring the all round development of the personality of the learner? Man is a social being, and in order to be better integrated into the society he lives in, he needs to be grounded in the essential values that make social integration a success.
Where have our values gone today?Do we really need a value based education in our schools today? The questions might be taken otherwise, what with educationists arguing against the dissemination of values as values themselves. To such educationists I would like put forth a question, 'Do you value marks more than integrity or honesty?' To them I would like pose another question, 'What is your aim for education, is it to create professionals who can mint money, or is it to build character and good adults?' People who are against the direct nurturing  of values will argue that values should be taught through examples, whereby, students learn values by looking for them in their peers, elders, and teachers of course! While the idea of teaching values to students through the setting of examples might be a good idea, especially since it is more experiential in nature, its effectiveness might vary from school to school, and situation to situation. What I don't understand is why some people are hesitant to label 'Honesty' as honesty but are ready to rusticate students for plagiarism or academic dishonesty!
Today, more than ever, it seems as if there has been a dilution of the importance we give to values in schools and at home. The advent of the age of competition, thus validating the idea of 'survival of the fittest' has meant that we have become as a generation a selfish generation, a generation that thinks of the self more than anything else. While selfishness or self-centredness is on the rise, it has also led to a sense of emotional detachment, an inability to forge relations that last, for the basic reason that we are not ready to let go of our needs, perceive or otherwise, nor are we ready to respect the needs of other people. This shift from a readiness to put others before the self to a desire to put the self before the others is in itself a corrolary to the teachings that we have recieved from the family. Out children are today taught to look out for themselves, fight for their rights, and in general demand that they be served first! Ironically enough, this obsession for rights has led to our forgetting our duties, duties towards our elders, teachers, younger ones, and even towards 'other human beings.'
The disintigration of the extended family into a nuclear family, in fact the disintegration of the society as a whole might be to blame for the lack of a robust value system in our children today. Unlike the past, few children get to live with their grandparents in present times with the result that they are not able to benefit from listening to folk tales based on values that our grandparents used to tell us. Grandparents provided a much needed support structure for their grandchildren which, unfortunately is missing today in nuclear families. With both parents struggling hard to make a decent living, children might find it really difficult to connect to grown ups. Parents are not able to spend quality time with their children, and thus, that important aspect of value based education that is nurtured by the family is missing. The family ideally  provides  a rich environment of values in the child  but then  when parents are not able to spend time with their children and there are no grandparents to take up from where the parents have left, then the children are bereft of sound values.
Many years ago, I happened to assist my colleague, Dr. Yadram with his thesis on the importance of a value based education in present times. I couldn't help wonder about the relevance of such a research as at that time it did not appear as if such a topic deserved researching. Then things started changing swiftly, there were stories of confrontations between students and teachers. There was the story of a boy stabbing a lady teacher in a school in Yamuna Vihar, Delhi, all because she would not allow him to cheat in an exam. This is one example that suggests that if the student had better values then he wouldn't have taken up such a drastic step. The number of cases heinous crimes involving juviniles is on the rise today, take for example the involvement of a minor in a rape case that took place in Delhi and rocked the entire nation. One might argue that these are mere instances that involve a particular section of the society. The fact however is that the deterioration of values cuts across all the sections of the society. The delegation of parental responsibilities to the domestic help, day care centres, and other so called surrogate agencies, all in keeping with the culture of outsourcing has begun to affect the emotional and mental development of children today. The fact, simple though it may be is that children need to spend as much quality time with their parents and grandparents as possible. The family is the primary source of moral values and it is the moral duty if not obligation of the family to nurture the timeless values of honesty, respect, sincerity, humbleness,  and generosity in children.
Schools can only take up from the family the duty of nurturing of sound moral values in their students. Unfortunately this becomes difficult when the school takes up children who have little or no idea about sound moral values. To make matters worse, there is no actual or direct teaching of moral values because of the hue and cry it would draw from various sects and communities that would claim that their religious beliefs had been hurt or even neglected. Well if one cannot teach moral values in school, then can't these be taught through a careful selection of rich literature that celebrate the timeless values that have made us civilized?
An important question before us as educators and parents is whether we really want to inculcate the timeless values in our students and children. After the family, the onus of inculcation sound values in children lies in educational institutions, colleges, and other organisations that provide some form of educational instruction. The CBSE, (Central Board of Secondary Education of India) has introduced value based questions in its board exam papers, but then more needs to be done than just add value based questions in its Board Examination Papers.  Looking at the fast rate at which erosion of moral values is taking place in the family and the society at large, it is high time responsible  educationists, social activists, and policy makers took steps to intervene in a decisive manner. School is the last resort for addressing this deterioration in moral values in our children. It is therefore, important that school curriculum should include some form of syllabus that attempts to instil basic values in its learners. Ultimately, what matters is that we train students to not only excel in  academics, but also to be good human beings with sound principles and values. A good education will always be reflected good behaviour, humbleness, modesty, and the ability to carry oneself with dignity and poise. When a child with sound values graduates from school and grows into an adult, he or she has an aura of dignity, and poise that is unique and distinct.
Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam, the erstwhile President of India, is a symbol of what it means to be person with sound moral values. His humbleness and modesty could only enhance the fact that he was one of the most learned persons in our country, the missile man who helped develop India's Space programme further. The maturity to assimilate greatness, and the ability to handle success, or for that effect, failure, depends to a large extent on one's value system. Research has shown that E.Q., or Emotional Quotient is as important, if not more important than I.Q. or Intelligence Quotient. A sound Emotional Quotient depends to a great extent upon the type and kind of values one carries with him or her!
It is a fact that we are facing a serious crisis today, the society, as we know it, is breaking down. The family is breaking down. Today we have more cases of divorce than ever before. We have more young people committing suicide. More and more children are abandoning their elderly parents. Our children lack patience. We are ready to fight with each other even for the smallest reasons. We shifted from the joint family to the nuclear family, the nuclear family often breaks further and then we have a broken family, we have more single parents today who are struggling between parenting and working to make both ends meet. The whole society is disintegrating, as we have less and less tolerance for other communities. This is a disturbing picture, but it is true and it is staring at us in the face, irrespective of the fact that we don't want to look at it! The only thing that can perhaps reverse this integration of the society is to build up a strong value system in the society, the family, and our children.

Note: A list of important values would probably include 20-25 values that need to be focussed on. Values might be further divided into Moral values, Social values, Ethical values, Religious values, Emotional values. However, it would be too difficult to categorise values into sub-components, therefore when I referred to values, I meant all the categories, and I would not mince my words to justify the importance of Religious values. When our elders said that they were God-fearing people it meant something! Today however when I ask some of my students if they have no fear of God, they reply that they are atheists!

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