Last week I visited my native place, a village where my father has built a small house. Our only neighbors are a small family of four ; parents and their two kids, 7 year old boy and 9 year old girl. To cut the long story short, after they came to know about my existence they were kind enough to educate me about their daily routine at school. Their subjects and interests. These two were so talented. They were excellent at spellings and numbers.
My mind soon jumped to obvious questions. Where this talent will be used? how people will come to know about them? But more than that, I was amazed at their sheer ability to recite poems and rote tables. I soon learnt from their father who is a school teacher about how well they do in exams. I observed the sheer diligence and dedication of these kids. I witnessed a spark of idealism. I could easily imagine the caricature of these kids on front pages of NCERT textbooks.
Back in the city , I couldn’t resist myself from contrasting these two kids with my neighbors kid, 5 year old Akshat. Akshat hates homework (who doesn’t?). He likes his toys. He likes to break toys. He likes to play for extended hours. He likes chocolates. Akshat doesn’t like to answer any questions. When I ask him about homework , he makes a face. When I ask him what he learnt today, I always don’t get a good answer. But this kid likes to counter statements. He likes to question and reason. He might not believe in homework but he knows a lot more beyond the realm of his syllabus.
Did I draw any conclusions from these two contrasting observations ? really not. These were two different samples of kids from the different parts of India. It is foolish to compare kids. kids are kids.
But I will surely draw an analogy here. Most of the village kids I observed have so much certitude thriving around them. It is like a revealed truth which most of the revealed religions like Islam and Christianity preach. Get good marks and you will shine. Work hard and you will be successful. Be ideal. Most kids from village believe in this revealed truth and focus towards that. They like to answer a lot. They are sure of things around them and proud that they know. They are not taught to ask questions, now this might sound arcane and one might argue that all kids are not taught to question but relatively speaking, village kids are more averse to questioning than the urban kids.
Kids like Akshat remind me of embracing uncertainty. They don’t like to answer so much. They are really not proud of knowing stuff. It is ok not to know. The understanding that it is OK to not know gives them courage to ask. Sometimes certitude can be limiting.
As Socrates puts it : I know that I know nothing.