Epiphoney Columns

Course correcting kids

I always thought that the ‘kinder-’ in kindergarten had something to do with young tots being less judgemental and more accepting of the world around them. Alas, it was much later that I realised it was German for children. It is also possibly the softest word in that language I imagine, because given the general inflections, merely asking someone to pass the butter can easily be mistaken for Hitler’s self-delivered passages from the Nazi film, Triumph des Willens. It’s a language where, the minute you learn the future tense, you end up feeling peckish for power.

But I digress, so back to the story. Recently, my friend Tushar, who in another life was an indefatigable Ironman but is now the father of two with a modest will to exist which only surfaces on weekends — yes, the same Tushar who had spoken of the “Jordan principle of social media posts” — enlightened me about how schools are doing things differently nowadays.

Now both he and I, and some of you I imagine, grew up in that era where mobile phones were as absent as publicly beating your child wasn’t. For anything we did which was deemed unacceptable, it was a solid hiding followed by the whole, “We didn’t have shoes, or new clothes, and grew up studying under the street lights, you ingrates” spiel. And so I often wondered that when that glorious moment arrived in my adult life when I could rap my kids around, what demoralising stories would I recount to them.

Alas, no such joy was to be mine (given how I am still not allowed to reproduce, mainly because nobody has consented yet), or our generation’s. Tushar recently told me that nursery rhymes were being reappropriated for political correctness. No more Baa Baa Black Sheep. Okay, I get that, I think. Another friend told me that lunchtime meals were ‘curated’ to be the same so that there’s no coveting another kid’s food, which could lead to disagreements of disparity. Hard pass on that. Let’s just say the rich kids used to love my impoverished, greasy, reheated leftover excuses of lunchtime snacks and happily bartered their precious sandwiches for a bite of my “rustic and adventurous”. Nobody died of food poisoning, so I guess it worked out fine.

And then Tushar hit me with the worst of the lot, Three Little Pigs. No, nothing wrong with that, neither the taxonomic category of the porcine variety or their population density. But the story had been, well, erm, let’s just say, reappropriated. The Big Bad Wolf tries to blow down the houses made of… you know the story I am hoping… well, endgame, the pigs ask him if he had ever considered not eating pigs and trying a vegetarian diet. The wolf must have been possibly as surprised as Tushar, because at no point in any Attenborough documentary had a prey ever proffered an alternate lifestyle choice as a mercy plea to the predator. It was, how shall I put it softly for the Cancel Culture enthusiast generation, not the way of nature. Well, the story ends with the wolf turning vegan and befriending the three pigs.

As if man wasn’t ruining the planet enough already, we are now building a new narrative which will ruin the next generation, too. Not because they won’t know how to appreciate grade 10 Kobe, but because they will imagine wolves and lions being herbivores and die very gory deaths at their paws on the first safari trip they take. It’s one thing to have medals for the kid who finishes last (I have a whole rant ready for that mind-mess of an act too, but will refrain) but it’s an unacceptable notion that by making nursery rhymes and fairy tales steeply politically aligned with the lowest common denominator of sensitivity we are rearing a generation of leaders and innovators.

To finish, I’d like to quote the coolest nerd ever, Bill Gates, “Life isn’t fair, deal with it.”

This column is for anyone who gives an existential toss.

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Printable version | Jun 24, 2021 9:20:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/course-correcting-kids/article34449689.ece

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