Living with dignity is a fundamental need for all normal human beings. The human being is simultaneously a creator and a product of his/her environment. The Biblical notion that “the imagination of man is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21) strips all dignity from human existence. It thus became an imperative for the Christian God to become man and nail his dignity on a cross in order to redeem that dignity. Consequently also it became an imperative for all Christians to surrender his essentially evil self to the commandments of God and his priests.
The Reformation and Renaissance movements sought to redeem human dignity from such a pessimistic view by viewing man as essentially good. Rousseau, for example, argued that man was essentially good and that it was his environment that corrupted him. Such views transferred the blame for evil from human nature to the external environment.
Perhaps, both these views are flawed. Perhaps, the empiricist and objective standpoint that man is essentially neither good nor evil is more correct. According to this view, man is capable of developing in either direction. A favourable environment is likely to create a good human being, while an unfavourable one tends to nurture the seeds of evil.
The purpose of education is to enable the student to deal effectively with his/her environment. No environment is totally good or evil. Education should enable a student to deal with the evils in his environment in such a way that its impact on him/her will not sap the potential goodness in him. Rather, putting it more positively, education should enable the student to rise above the evil and even change the evil into good.
That’s why the role of the teacher is of immense importance in the world. It is the teachers who create the environment of the students and also guide the students to deal with the environment outside the school.
But what if the teachers are not given their due share of dignity? There are too many private schools today in the country that impose more and more duties and responsibilities on the teachers while at the same time withdraw their permissible allowances and other benefits. Teaching has been degraded into an undesirable profession by such schools. Can such a system expect any capable persons to join the profession of teaching? Can teachers who choose the profession out of necessity rather than personal choice do justice to the job?
The impact of privatisation and the greed that accompanies the capitalist system is certainly not limited to the profession of teaching. However, since the Teacher’s Day is round the corner, I chose to muse on this ancient (oldest?) profession.