My Classroom Was Sexist and Undemocratic – And I’m a Product of It

I’m a nobody as of now.

Just a recently-turned “woke” Gen-Z teen who will graduate from high school this year. While initially my aim was to write a personal essay on my classroom – detailing my experiences all these years – I ended up introspecting. Introspecting really hard.

Down memory lane, I realised that besides studies, friends and some teachers, my classroom wasn’t really a pleasant place to be. And it was certainly not woke.

In grade three, I came across what you would call cronyism for the first time. My teachers chose an academically strong classmate for a school dance performance over a skilled dancer only because he was weak in studies.

And just to let you know: Mr. Perfect ruined the show.

Two years later, in class V, I had my first dose of sexism. On the first day, after our classes got reshuffled, the new teacher entered the class and said: “Boys and girls shall not sit together”

I still can’t fathom the logic behind such an instruction.

A teacher in class VII once distastefully enquired about the number of non-vegetarian students in our section and gave a nice lecture calling them “murderers.” He didn’t even spare the eggetarians.

Class IX was particularly interesting as I participated in my first ever debate competition. The topic that had to be argued, the points raised by the opposition and the overall debate was really nice. However, the rules and regulations were quite absurd. We were told to raise our voices if the opposition refuted our point; bang the podium while debating to make it more “impactful.”

And there was nothing on how to do good research or how to sensitively deal with controversial issues. In a nutshell, they were basically asking us to be Sambit Patra to win the debate.

Then I graduated to class XI and it was a mixed bag of all the previous classroom experiences. From one teacher saying, “Ladkiyon ko PCM [Physics, Chemistry, Maths] mein dekh kar hairaani hoti hai (It’s shocking to see girls taking PCM)” to another teacher proudly denouncing democracy with a statement like: “Hitler ka raj achha tha, democracy se koi fayeda nhi hai(Hitler’s regime was better, democracy is of no use),” we had it all in class XI.

While I may have inaccurately dated some of these incidents, the fact remains that they are all 100% true. All this has happened at one point or the other, and it might have happened with you too!

I have no shame in admitting that I unknowingly internalised these questionable beliefs while growing up. But, as I enter into the last year of my school life, I realise that even though my school was the best thing that happened to me, it might have left an indelible blot on my own belief system.

Even though I try to wash it away, I know that I still have a long way to go.

To set things right at my own level, I try to share positive stories with my juniors because I don’t want them to be a part of the same regressive classroom culture where I was raised. I believe that they can – and will – become better individuals if given the right direction.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that my classroom was sexist, insensitive, undemocratic and much more. And unfortunately, I am a product of it.

Saud Siddiqui studies in class 12th in Bhopal and he can be reached on Instagram at unidentified_identity

Featured image credit: Reuters