Tuesday, April 01, 2008

In her own words

I cannot emphasize enough what a great teacher and extraordinary human being Chitra Srinivas was. She did not merely teach history from a book, she told stories complete with the triumphs and failures, the hits and misses and the highs and lows of humanity. Her integrity and genuine love for the subject she taught reflects in this piece she wrote after she opted out of the commission set up by the NCERT to review the new history textbooks. I'm posting an excerpt. The full text can be found here.

Text books: Sectarian Story or History?
by: Chitra Srinivas, November 10, 2002

"I am a schoolteacher who has taught history for the past 25 years. I have enjoyed teaching the subject. I don't claim to be an expert, and I do not belong to any group or subscribe to any particular ideology - the Left, the Hindutva school, or any other. I think the study of history is important because it helps us discriminate and judge, see patterns and connections and, above all, think logically by observing cause and effect.

History has long been treated as a boring subject; indeed, not many students want to study it at the college level. Yet, every government wants to control the writing of this subject. Because it is history that makes a nation. It is through history that one can control minds, especially the young, impressionable minds at school.

I was a member of the five-day Review Workshop organized in January 2002 by the NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) for the class 10 textbook. I went with an open mind, but as the reading of the draft proceeded, I observed that there was virtually no discussion. For two days, the history text was merely read out. I was the only one who raised objections, whether about the language, facts or even the obvious ideological slant. It was a lonely battle.....

I have always told my students that the beauty of Indian culture lies in its ability to accept and assimilate any stream of thought. As a responsible teacher, I am unable to accept distortions in the writing of history that go against the very spirit of India's existence.

I wish for all my children a world where they will be free from hatred towards one another. I also love children too much for them to be left to the mercies of politicians who have their own sectarian agendas. "

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