Warning: This article is fictitious enough to appear real. Read it with a pacifist.
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One day in a classroom…
When I mentioned reading books in front of the first semester students, they laughed at me and asked; “Last week a student broke his neck by reading a book, sir.”
I enquired what happened, actually, and they said the student had fallen asleep while reading from his textbook and that caused a cramp in his neck. It became a college legend and the student was revered as the wise one, the nerd, the intellectual with a broken neck. Although his neck was not broken really, this metaphor stuck. I tried to tell them that I was not talking about reading textbooks alone. Reading indicates a constant interaction with any book. It could be a textbook, or a novel, or poem, or short story collection. It was a pity how narrow their understanding about reading was.
However, right then, I observed their drooping eyelids and suddenly changed the subject to movies. From my experience, I knew this could energize them and wake those who fell asleep with renewed enthusiasm. Films have magic, indeed. “How many of you watched Harry Potter movies?” Yeah! Most of them did! I was happy. I moved on to books and made the shocking revelation that Harry Potter is actually a book. The movie was made out of a story written by a writer called J. K. Rowling. For this, the class responded with exclamatory OH!s and AH!s. Grand!
Another classroom candy is cricket. Suppose, as an English teacher, one has to teach ‘Critical Thinking’. Well, to tell you the truth, there is nothing to suppose in it, ‘Critical Thinking’ is part of the common course in one of the universities in the Northern part of Kerala. English teachers are pitted against the task of scrambling the pieces of quasi-critical thinking strategies from a poorly edited and misguiding textbook and puke it all in front of the poor students. So the matter is thus. I was teaching Critical Thinking, and had to tell them about ‘questioning attitude’.
At first, I explained the idea, and substantiated the whole concept. “You see…umm…when someone asks you to do something or teach you something do not blindly accept their words. A mere acceptance of what others say, without questioning the ideas or concepts, should be intellectual irresponsibility. In order to be an “intellectually responsible adult”, one has to question ideas, concepts, people and thoughts.”
For a moment, I forgot myself under the impact of the words I was delivering. Man, I was rocking!
That was when I noticed, a boy in the backbench was nodding heavily. I thought, in the beginning, that he might be enjoying my class. That was the reason even after noticing his behavior I kept quiet. Watching his demeanour for a moment carefully changed my perspectives. He was not exactly nodding to my class, he was nodding at the fairy of sleep, and he was dozing off.
I changed the gears once again. Cricket is insanely popular in India. Even though, the recent spot fixing frauds in IPL (Indian Premiere League) has caused some damage to the ‘gentleman’s’ appeal of the game, the game of millions, still survives. So I said, “When a batsman gets LBW, what do you do?”
The boy, who was dozing off a moment before woke up suddenly, and shaking off his lethargy, started getting curious about the class. I was laughing internally, but showing any of my whims in expressions would be disastrous. Therefore, I managed my countenance at an emotionless angle. “When an Umpire is reluctant to give OUT sign to the batsman, the bowler and the other members of the opposing team would appeal to the Third Umpire. This is how we should be in life too. We should question others, but without being hurtful.” They all nodded in understanding.
I could not have explained ‘questioning attitude’ any better with any other example. There was an inherent possibility that the students might misunderstand the ‘questioning attitude’ as an aggressive stand against ideas and towards people.
“You see, it is all like falling in love with a mannerism in thinking, just like we fall in love with people, in real life.” I said. I was pushing my next strategy to keep them interested—Love. A hand went up. One of the students stood up and asked, “Sir, do you believe in love at first sight?”
“Well, I am afraid that question is out of purview with our current topic. We can talk about it on another occasion,” I said.
“No, sir, my question is…uhmm…uhmmm…that why don’t we use strategies of critical thinking in this matter?”
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“Ha!” I got the point! Love is another magnetic idea among the young adults we teachers deal with, in graduation classes. This is not just limited to the Indian cultural context nor within a particular age, it seems. Everyone happens to be in an urge to get intoxicated by love’s sweet tendrils.
Anyway, I am sure my students understood the point I made, as they successfully derived the idea that critical thinking can be applied in every aspect of life.
NOTE FOR HOTHEADS****
Every event, person, university, idea and place mentioned in this article is either fictional or the conjuring of the quirky mind of the author. Consider him inflicted with a serious bout of insanity and spare yourself the pain of filing a petition for libel against him or this blog page.