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Futility of education - Time to crack the whip in JNU - The Indian Express

Editorial ()
20 November 1996

Title : Futility of education
Time to crack the whip in JNU
Author : Editorial
Publication : The Indian Express
Date : November 20, 1996

The late Chairman Mao Zedong once remarked that the more
books you read the more stupid you become. It is not
known whether or not the library is the favourite haunt
of students of India's most pampered "centre of excel-
lence" - New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University. Howev-
er, judging by the determined manner in which leftists
prevented a function on the campus where BJP President L.
K. Advani. was scheduled to speak, there are reasons
believe that an overdose of Marxism has made students
incredibly narrow-minded and stupid. They may have half-
digested the collected works of Marx, Lenin, Althusser
and Sitaram Yechuri, but they have failed to grasp the
meaning of a liberal education. Whereas genuine inquiry
promotes intellectual humility, pamphleteering provokes
unwarranted arrogance, dogmatism and a belief that one
side has a monopoly of the truth. JNU appears to have
had too little of education and too much of pamphleteer-
ing. This is true for the other side as well.

To some extent the blame can be pinned on a beleaguered
left which remains unreconciled to the rapid growth of
the ABVP on the campus. But that is only half the story.
Tuesday's disgraceful incident raises two important
questions. What is the role of JNU teachers in promoting
an attitude of intolerance in the students? Is it time
to take disciplinary measures to prevent similar incid-
ents from recurring? On both counts, JNU does not come
out in a blaze of glory. Having defined itself as a
bastion of "progressive thinking", the JNU curriculum -
particularly in subjects such as history, politics and
economics - has a conscious left-wing bias. This may not
have marred the prospects of its alumni in the civil
services examinations, but it has certainly warped their
outlook on life. The distortions did not matter a dec-
ade, or so ago when India was chugging along purposeless-
ly in search of the real socialism. In today's world,
when the need is for the new generation to acquire
market skills to give the country a competitive edge, JNU
contributes to the squandering of resources. It is time
the notion of academic freedom was made less absolute and
tempered by the compulsions of accountability. The JNU
students have tried to adapt; they are being held back by
dogmatic academics who are out of synch with the real

Maybe the solution lies in forcibly changing the culture
of JNU by, say, chanelling funds for the creation of a
school of management. Not only will teachers and stud-
ents in the course be far more motivated, some of that
motivation will rub off on fellow-students. But for
perestroika to acquire a meaningful dimension, it may be
necessary to purge the campus of those who are bent on
misusing their privileged status as students. Tuesday's
incident was not an example of ideological grandstanding;

it was an instance of indiscipline and should be treated
as such.

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