There’s only one course of studies that I pursued out of my own interest: literature. All the rest were either imposed on me by someone or pursued by me out of fancy. At the age of 51 I decided to pursue a post-graduate course in psychology partly out of fancy and partly interest. It’s now turning out to be a big joke for me.
The most popular Open University in India which has hundreds of study centres all over India (including J&K and the North-east) as well as abroad started a post-graduate course in psychology in 2010. I joined it assuming that it would be a thrilling experience in the autumn of my life. The University, however, chose to make it a funny experience. I’m enjoying the joke now. Let me share it with you.
In the first year of the two-year course there are seven papers. I cleared six of them and could not appear for one because the notes sent by the University failed to make sense to the most knowledgeable people in the field. The paper is called Statistics in Psychology. The Printer’s Devil turned out to be a ghost that haunted relentlessly every page – nay, every line – in the notes sent by the University. It confounded me beyond my imagination. I’m reproducing just one example in the picture given here.
Ok, the Printer’s Devil got into one paper which was typeset by someone who had no idea of mathematical precision than an administrator has of the value of quality. I let it pass.
Today, (Sunday being the only day when the Open University opens its study centres), I went to the study centre to find out what has happened to my application for the revaluation of two of my assignments. I gave them for revaluation because the examiner had chosen to give me much less marks than I had got for the written examination. I had written the examination relying solely on my waning memory and intellect while I had written the assignments depending on the notes sent by the University as well as a few books I had bought for precious monies which my employers (too many of them wearing the chef’s cap spoiling the broth) pay me grudgingly (as Bill Gates donates to the AIDS victims in South Africa) after each month’s sloggery that they extract from me.
My complaint was quite precise. My answers were not evaluated according to the criteria provided in the question paper at all. For example, in one question I was awarded 11 marks out of 10. That was the first question. After that the examiner’s generosity dwindled until the marks went down to 2 or 2½. [See the pics.] Finally the marks totalled to 53 while in the same paper I secured 66 percent in the annual examination conducted by the University. I presented the matter to the Coordinator of the Study Centre who told me to give a written application. I followed the counsel. Today I went to collect the result. I was told bluntly that I had to deal with the particular teacher who checked the assignment since he claimed that he had given the marks I deserved. I asked who the teacher was. The Coordinator gave me the name. The name was enough to put me off from going to him.
He was the same Professor of a historical university in Delhi which enjoys certain minority status, the same Professor who took the viva voce exam of my practical paper. The first question he asked me was, “What is intelligence?”
Do I look like a high school student, I wondered. But I mustered up my common sense and said, “Intelligence is the ability to deal with one’s given environment.”
“No, you are absolutely wrong,” said the Prof. “After all, what do open university students know? They just do some course thinking they can improve their lot…” he gave me a big lecture which I was condemned to listen to just as I have been condemned to listen to a lot of balderdash in my workplaces from many persons who call themselves administrators.
“Have you heard of Galton?” asked the Prof when his diatribe against distance learning was over. His question reminded me of the opening question in Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged: “Who is John Galt?”
I confessed ignorance. When I came home I consulted my ultimate fallback on psychology which said this about Galton: “Sir Francis Galton was a cousin of Charles Darwin and was strongly influenced by Darwin’s theory of evolution…” I understood that the Prof was a radical who knew how to pull out a student by the roots and kill him. What an eminent teacher!
The Prof looked slyly at the gentleman who sat near him [I’ve never managed to find out who he was/is] as if to say: ‘See how I make a fool of this fellow too…’ and asked me: “Who do you think would be a theorist of intelligence: Freud or Binet?” I liked the way he pronounced Binet though my familiarity with the French language is confined to knowing that the last consonant is not pronounced except c, f, l and r. But his pronunciation rang a bell in me. I said, “Sir, Sigmund Freud was more concerned with the unconscious and all the dark, embittered, feelings buried in that terrible crypt of the human mind. Alfred Binet was one of the first to develop an intelligence test…”
“Enough of that,” the Prof cut me short. “What was the age of the subject of your experiment?”
“Sixteen-and-a-half,” I said. ‘Subject’ meant the person I had used for my psychological experiment in the practical examination.
“Sixteen years and six months, sir.”
He looked at my answer sheets once more and said, “You can go.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Today when I narrated the fate of my assignments to another student who looked as old as me, he said, “What do you expect? They don’t even read your answers. They just look at your name or your face. If they can recognise either, they’ll give you good grades. Otherwise it’s your destiny.”
I laughed. I was learning new lessons in psychology. Lessons I learn without paying any fee!