Any day is a good day to remember your teachers and especially the better ones, but on this day, September 5th, one should particularly give their thoughts to the bad ones. Of course one would say that why give them your time to which I agree, partially, but would also bring to their notice that the occasion demands it. Who said it will not be a distasteful experience, with all the years of bitterness inside you coming out suddenly on an equally bad Monday morning? But let us for a change reflect on a serious issue of bad educators thriving in our system, enjoying unchallenged power and influence when it comes to academic sphere, even though our governments play an undesirable leveller, much to the displeasure of all and quite rightly so. One would question that how do these bad educators in the garb of posh academics/teachers rise to heights of fame without anyone in the self-correcting academia realising! They might be celebrated personalities and a part of social elite running things. They are good in their fields too: great thinkers, unmatched hold of their respective discipline; thus it becomes very hard to challenge their aura. Also a proof of their success is their students who have now become recognisable figures in the academia, most of them occupying same influence as their masters. The system also helps these bad educators to literally rein in and ruin over the lives of their students; the yoke does not remain until the formal time of the course because after that struggle for employment begins; here also the guru helps shishya through various long-formed, trusted channels, networks of patronage, and quid pro quo conventions. Most of the students are happy with the arrangement and find no particular fault within it, to a level worth reacting; they just adapt and react naturally as they are expected in the situation as an intelligent person would do. Some unfortunately have a hard time, sometimes because of the structural weaknesses of the system like irrespective of reservation benefits they underperform because the superficial system does not empathise with their needs. No wonder students from distant regions as Northeast, weaker socio-economic background, and other such variables find it very hard to survive; their performance reflected in comparative bad grades than other so-called, structurally favoured, bright students. There is even a creamy layer of students who are often connected to these bad educators through various strings, but they are not at fault in this case.
The bad educators make the academic journey of students smooth or rough or terrible depending upon many other factors like bias, sensitivity, moral standards of the educator, zeal to impart knowledge and education, and student conformity. Hard work by students and will to learn often do not pay the expected or proportionate returns comparatively to other students, the ones who are having a great time unsuspecting the mismatch. The first set of students develop a fatalistic attitude towards education and often life in the long term, while the other set believes genuinely in hard work and spending time on books, satisfied their every effort pays off; the socio-economic as well as other mismatch continues here in education too. Bad educators help some students believe, for life, that hard work only pays for some and they do not fall into that category; low self-esteem, low self-confidence, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, low zeal to work hard all come disguised to the affected party; some cases suicidal thoughts, medical prescriptions; and in extreme cases suicides happen. Added to it are cases of rape, sexual harassment, gender harassment, violence, and instances of threats to ruin careers, a form of daily harassment, just a look is enough in some cases. Now we have to remind ourselves that the bad educator is also a student and is a regular in the world of academic discourse and needs to bring forth intellectual output from time to time to add more fame. Some publish books, some even spending most of their time in pursuit of developing content which has the potential to sell and attract large readership including laypersons, nothing wrong with it if they can spare time. However some just prefer to bring out serious stuff to be read by an esoteric group. Since the bad educators have teaching assignments apart from the supervisory roles assigned to them, they are constantly in want of time, zeal, and good sources. Mostly the ongoing research by students comes to their rescue, nothing wrong with it until proper credit is given; but some really greedy ones sitting at a higher bargaining position in a power relation—in all personal, interpersonal, and structural settings—operate with extreme impunity and present the work as their own or pass it to some other loyal-bhakt student thereby diluting the intellectual effort of some poor fellow. Very less can be achieved by the student through recourse to arbitration in these cases, but some do get lucky; but as always that would depend upon the position and influence the students hold in social fabric.
Bad educator is not an exaggerated spectre but an inconvenient truth, which is often ignored for the utilitarianism inherent in our education system. What if one student or a bunch of students are affected in a class of 100 or so? Look at the bright side! Unfortunately the damage is much more; the pattern keeps on repeating with the people taking over from these bad educators emulating the fine specimen before them, celebrating their lives, and becoming further carriers of syndrome. On a larger level a bad educator helps in keeping the social order intact, there is no challenge to the established fabric which has helped create hierarchies in the past out of thin air. A bad educator is an apologist for the conservative order, even though how progressive the stance may be but a bad educator is ‘old wine in a new bottle’, just the bottle and label is fancy but the content is more or less the same. Most, but some, pupils will emulate the same inherited ideas of the educator and therefore the influence will go beyond one classroom or one setting. It would not be farfetched to say that our personalities and behaviour as individuals regardless of our occupation, unknowingly, will manifest some part of what we learned from that bad educator. In that spirit let us all spare this day to remember the bad educators we have encountered in our lives and try to weed out the ‘undesirable’ they have given us. My choice of this day is not whimsical but based on facts, the best example I could find of a dishonest educator is, who else but, S. Radhakrishnan who was knighted in 1931 (same year as Bhagat Singh’s execution), got Bharat Ratna in 1954, became Vice-President and then President of India. This man had an impeccable academic career, hugely respected everywhere, became the President, and was successful in convincing people to celebrate his birthday as Teacher’s Day while he lived. However there is another crucial fact in this fairy tale; the most celebrated work of S. Radhakrishnan ‘Indian Philosophy’ was a work of plagiarism! Radhakrishnan was involved in intellectual theft of thesis of his own doctoral student Jadunath Sinha. My thought goes to Sinha, who would have had to go through unimaginable stress against a stalwart, his own advisor. In a land where there is a tradition of celebrating personalities like Dronacharya (Drona) as educators ignoring their treatment of many Eklavyas like Sinha, one cannot ignore this fact that discriminatory attitudes with a feeling of impunity still exist till today, and for that days like these should be a reminder. Access to quality education without any sort of discrimination is a fundamental human right, and adhering to it in all sincerity is the duty of a teacher.