A student in school, a child at home, a cyclist on the road, and a viewer at the cinema — I am all of these and more.” This is how editor Mini Krishnan (pictured) starts one of the books in the latest edition of Living with Harmony (Oxford University Press). She wants the students to think about their multiple identities, among other things. A series of books for students of Class I to X on value education and life skills, it begins with simple ideas such as truth vs lie for students in Class I, and discusses complex issues of identity, sexuality, caste and violence for those in higher classes. Excerpts from an interview:
What was the idea behind Living in Harmony? Why do you think such a series is needed?
For a long time, many of us have been nervous about the pressure faced by school-goers — formidable academic content and unidentifiable influences outside the home, not to forget what unregulated use of technology might be doing to immature minds. We also have at least one generation of teachers who were not exposed to what today’s children are being bombarded by. By and large, there is no space in schools for children to look inward, to face themselves, their emotions or their fears. We felt that values needed to be taught in a classroom atmosphere. A series like Living in Harmony does not compete with academic courses. It may not yield answers that are right or wrong.
Tell us about the journey of the series through the revisions and editions.
In its first avatar, in 2005, Living in Harmony took a multi-faith approach to values. We soon had to secularise it to appeal to a wider audience. In subsequent editions, we included mini lessons on peace strategies, practical life skills, picture and poster studies to provoke thinking. In the last edition, we added a lesson on gender sensitivity in every book. This was in response to disturbing trends of violence against women in the last few years.
Issues like sexuality and gender, that were a taboo some years ago, have been discussed at length in the books.
Students in classes VIII, IX and X are young adults and we have to respect that. Moreover, they have been exposed to a great deal more adult realities than their parents were. The heat of the world reaches this generation quite early. Since the series is about seeking inner balance, we felt it would be appropriate to write lessons about difficult and delicate topics.
In the age of technology and social media, do you think that books like these are valued by students?
There is always space for a well-designed, conceptualised book. It has its own power, especially when interpreted by a committed teacher who is concerned about her students. Happiness is an inside job, and a happy child is automatically a better-balanced person.