We Indians take pride in being a country of strong morals, ethics, and values. The respect we have for our elders, the compassion for young ones, the natural humility, and overall humanity. It is one of our strongest strengths. I remember studying about morals and ethics in school, writing compulsory creative writing topics summing up how to be a good and thoughtful human being.
How It Was
I was taught the power of saying thank you, sorry, and please. Strongest three words you should always mean and use without hesitation as and when the situation demands. Unfortunately, the landscape has shifted drastically today as I see schools and colleges running mindlessly in the race of perfection. It all has come down to the ideal scores, the flawless students, and the perfect development. Prizes and certificates have successfully created a hoax of what was once an important subject in a student’s curriculum.
Moral science and values, in my school days, was a 60-something page book filled with stories and a takeaway at the end. Today, it is different, more technical, more proper. While there is nothing wrong, it seems less of a children’s textbook but more of a necessity. We have lost the sensitivity of the subject to the compulsion of including it in the syllabus and the pressure of making the students morally sound.
While university lectures of human values see an empty classroom, a typical school classroom of moral science and values is more about cramming question answers for examination rather than discussing and debating the delicate concepts that the subject entails. Knowing famous philosophers and their quotes used to be a smart and cool thing in my school days, now, you are hip only if you know about twitter trends and hashtags. The first time I felt old was when a teenager told me that Nietzsche and Marx sound like some really old dudes. Well, they are old, true, but they are also philosophers with some great theories and philosophies that you can debate about for hours.
Teaching morality is difficult, you don’t teach it, you instill it with examples. You show what morals are when you say a thank you with a smile on your face to the nice lady who helped you with your clothes or by saying please to the cashier taking your food order. It is their jobs, yes, but some nice words can help build your character in ways one can’t cram.
The real question here is what is the reason behind the diminishing values?
- Could be the rise of social media and smartphones in our hands.
- Could be the never-ending race of being best.
- Could be the fast-paced world which has forgotten about niceties in its quest to become advanced and modern.
- Could be the pressure of surviving in the 21st century.
But mostly I believe it is the schools that are taking it as another subject that has to be completed before the exams. It is the colleges that let students copy and paste assignments. It is the teachers who are busy grading rather engaging in discussions and daring students to ask the right questions. It is the students who would rather start a protest on streets than question their elders, their seniors, and their society.
It is easy to ask others to choose a side. Choose between the good and the bad. But real dilemma lies in the line between the good and the bad; the gray area where everything is blurred. Putting things in a box is an easy concept for our mind to comprehend but it isn’t what the actual world is based on. It is extremely complicated than that. It is shades of every color in between.
Be it CAA or elections, be it religious clashes or state division, these are matters which one can truly understand by understanding the moral implications; thinking about the millions who are affected by these decisions and by understanding their plight. These issues cannot be resolved by burning vehicles and throwing tantrums on the roads. They can be won over only by raising the ethical dilemmas these decisions cause.
There are facts and technicalities to be considered, but unless we have strong sense of humanity, of being kind to each other without having a reason to be, the only thing we will be moving towards is chaos, a chaos that has potential of turning into a mess we may never be able to get out of. As times become uncertain, it becomes our responsibility to educate ourselves and the younger generation of what it means to stand by our ethics no matter how difficult it may be or how easy and lucrative the other path may sound. This is the time to teach about the power of saying thank you or sorry, of having integrity, of accepting when we are wrong and forgiving others when they accept their mistakes. The power of being one.