Pink Floyd’s, ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ makes much sense when I reel rewind to my structured school days, back in the 90s. As thought controlled machines, our brains were overburdened with the importance of academic competition – achievements of our day defined by the heaviness of our bags and exhaustion in our eyes at night.
A regular reminder by our shapers to slog and win, to be ahead of another machine of the same batch, to be faster and more efficient each day. “‘Non-study’ material can only lead to an unsound career, and you’ll practically reach nowhere” – a warning which was pronounced at the beginning of every school day and thus pushing us to live in fear and eventually making it a trait of our personalities.
The concept of how wrong it was for a class topper to be a leading dance performer was always highlighted in bold, making sure that we don’t mistakenly miss it. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the dependency of competition on excelling but I fail to process its diminishing characteristic in co-curriculum.
Why prioritise books over theatre skills? Why the year-round importance received by exams but not other skillsets?
I distinctly remember writing an all India level Science Marathon exam but an all India singing competition? Nope, doesn’t ring a bell.
The segregation of our sections and benches based on academic performance was as humiliating and agitating as the caste-based discrimination which exists in today’s society. The persona of a student being repeated in discussion in staff rooms, students being judged and defined, bigotry, the creativity of a student overthrown by his tag of a ‘backbencher’ – it was cruel and protest worthy.
School authorities never failed to set an example by taking the the most severe action against those who were vocal about their different set of thoughts and opinions or were a rational presence in the classroom. They made sure that fear persisted. They made sure that we remained tongue-tied. If not, ‘rebels’ is what we were labelled, but never in a positive way. Physical punishments were a sure shot way to structure us and fit us in a pre-designed, era-old mould.
For days, my naive mind contemplated between the reasons, evaluating those framed guidelines and often questioning my inner self: is acceptance of everything as presented, the way of life?
The use of manipulation to control our thoughts and withhold our voices has made us brain dead. The absence of music, theatre and sex education has pushed all of us into ignorance. Our curiosity was dealt with dark sarcasm and the motive was to quash us, demean us, so much so that we turned into another of their designed ones – the kind which they chose to make class representatives.
In this disturbing setting – potassium nitrate and algebra, Mughal rulers and their reign – we lost all that our minds were capable of. Machines we were, running as operated.
Today, as I and a lot like me are busy figuring out our way out of labyrinthine production lines, we continue to fail and get up. I see the younger generation having access to iPads and digital teachers, their capabilities to excel and their dreams soaring high.
I doubt if it’s their dreams.
In spite of this new age education, the mandatory English-speaking and redoubled mental exhaustion; the foundation remains the same – orderly and administered in the most uptight manner. The competition to score in annual exams is still a handful and has, in fact, been much exaggerated.
I see that they are pushed to love the abacus more than drawing. I witness how mud toys have been replaced by processed multi-coloured clay ones but their engrossment in apparently ‘everything that matters’ has left them with no time. The urge to be rebellious (as the system calls it) is somewhere dead.
Certainly, we were the experimented upon; these ones are more refined. But no different than ‘Another Brick in the Wall’.
Aishwarya is an engineer from Bangalore who took up journalism. A backpacker and a history enthusiast, she’s an extrovert but still loves books.
Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty