The beginning of the new academic session is an interesting time to watch the parents. Watch how they react to the results of their children. I assure you of infinitely illuminating experiences. But, alas, the victims are always the children.
One of these days I saw in a school a parent arguing with a teacher about her child’s position/rank in the class. The teacher was trying to explain that the child in question had stood first in the first semester but came to the second position in the aggregate of both the semesters taken together. The mother couldn’t accept it for some reason. Probably, she didn’t understand what the aggregate meant. Or maybe she just found it difficult to accept that her child’s position had come down to the second.
My memories immediately rushed back to my childhood. I remembered how my parents, particularly my mother, were upset if I ever failed to secure the first position in the class. The position mattered little to me personally as far as I could remember. I would rather they, my parents, let me enjoy the company of my friends and learn to live in a society than secure positions. Maybe, this is retrospective thinking. Of course, I couldn’t have reasoned that much as a child. But I can remember my childhood as a sad one because of the unnecessary demands placed on me by parents, teachers, and the Catholic Church: the three forces that formed the labyrinth in which I wasted my childhood. [I found my Ariadne’s thread* in middle age!] I can remember how I was always trying to please these people rather than learn to live my life as an individual.
Did that first position in the class help me achieve anything significant in life? Not at all. If I had learnt to live in greater cooperation – instead of competition – with my companions I would have achieved more, I’m sure. At any rate, I know very well that the position in the class is not a matter of any significance in the life of a student as long as the student is doing as well as he can. The purpose of education is not to put a student at rank number one in the class. It is to help the student grow up as the precious individual that he/she is. Precious, yes, irrespective of the rank in the class.
The first position that I was taught to secure in the class only failed me in life. I grew up with skewed notions about achievement. It gave me nothing more than a conceited ego. Even the knowledge that came with the position never helped me face the struggles of life.
I felt pity for the child whose mother was fighting with the teacher for her child’s position. Poor child!
* Ariadne’s thread: Ariadne is the daughter of Minos and Pasiphae who gave Theseus the thread with which to find his way out of the Minotaur’s Labyrinth.