‘?’ is the Key

‘A’ for ‘Apple’. Since times immemorial apples used to ripe and fall in every season. Till now thousands of crores of apples must have fallen and witnessed by even a larger number of folk. What people did with it?

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SAAD BIN ZIA

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‘A’ for ‘Apple’. Since times immemorial apples used to ripe and fall in every season. Till now thousands of crores of apples must have fallen and witnessed by even a larger number of folk. What people did with it?

  • some didn’t take any notice,
  • some devoured it,
  • some treaded upon it etc.

But it was the destiny of that particular ‘apple’ in 17th century to unravel the mysterious law of the gravitational force of the earth. Could you think why? Simply, because Newton unlike other viewers started questioning, after fall of that “blessed” apple. “Why” was the first word which struck his mind and that very “Why” led him to propound Newton’s theory of universal gravitation – mugging up which, is an important part of a child’s schooling.

Moral of the story: questions are the key of knowledge, ideas, inventions and social good.

But alas! Our educational system is repulsive of this particular reality. Yes! Our educational system better described as – gobbling down facts, figures, statistics, dates, and events and omitting it out in exams – is hostile to the very environment of questioning and critical thinking. Even questions are discouraged in classrooms (exceptions apart).

I am recalling an incident in this regard. ‘Long ago’ when I was in class 4th, I was listening patiently to a lethargic but ‘over eulogising’ account of Shivaji. As a shy, quiet and what you would call a ‘shareef’ guy, I was never interested in raising my voice (beyond whisper) in the class. Suddenly the teacher waved both of her hands and eloquently concluded the chapter by stating, “… And swiftly Shivaji took out his ‘khanjar’ hidden in his sleeve and stabbed it in the back of Afzal while hugging him. That’s how a ‘brave’ Shiva killed the ‘dastard’ Afzal.” Till then, I also cherished the ‘noble’ thoughts of Shiva regarding swaraj of Maharashtra but it was harder to swallow this particular incident in the manner in which it was narrated. Compelled by my inner self, I asked hesitantly, “Excuse me, Madam! Was it bravery?” Hold your breath and press hard your heart to listen to what followed. (Nothing much unpredictable), just the class watched and teased me for rest of the period, as I was standing haplessly on the back bench (abusing my ‘critical’ inner self) with both my hands-up. This was the ‘reward’ (read punishment) for asking that ‘stupid’ question. Believe me I was not regarding myself less than Socrates or Bruno at that particular moment of my life.

The trouble is out there engraved in our ‘dead’ educational system and its ramifications are awful, as it kills the critical and analytical thinking of students. It converts them into book worms who are robotically programmed to do well in exams and could easily top the boards and universities but hardly one per cent of them could be able to generate the ideas which would lead the nation on its endeavour to race smoothly on the path of modernisation (read it again, it is not ‘Westernisation’).

What’s the remedy, then? Let me tell you: Do not depend entirely on ‘kunji type’ guide books, investigate into your subject, read beyond the syllabus, learn through your own experiences, think analytically and ask questions, make the life of your teachers, professors and even your colleagues ‘miserable’ by putting forth new, creative, innovative and critical questions. Shake your critical bone miserably and turn up with innovative ideas, which were never thought before. Do not take anything for granted, always try to perceive other side of the picture. Invoke your spirit of critical analysis and questioning in whatever you read, listen or watch. Question! Aristotle, Question! Marx, Question! Durkheim, Lenin, Freud, Nietzsche, Darwin and all of them.

Ask why? “Good question!” Because they were simple human beings like you and me, never beyond criticism.