Updated: January 14, 2022 8:58:15 am
Between the “new normal” of digital learning, prolonged isolation and an environment of constant uncertainty and stress, you’d think children are going through enough. Not according to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), it seems, which wants the learning of the English alphabet to be “Indianised”. To this end, the organisation has prepared a chart, which has, instead of “A for apple, B for ball…”, religious and historical figures corresponding to each letter. The new alphabet speaks more of the VHP’s ideological zeal than what 3-5-year-olds need.
Pedagogy in India has long been a victim of politics. A change in government, or “hurt sentiments”, has often led to texts being unceremoniously dropped from university syllabi or textbooks being changed ahead of crucial board exams. So far, though, the desire to control how the young think didn’t start till at least middle school. The alphabet is among the first things children learn when they have barely emerged from toddler-hood. Even the most committed ideologue, one would have thought, would let little kids be.
In its apparent eagerness to decolonise the coloniser’s language, the VHP seems to have run out of Indian figures to correspond to letters. So, you get “Q for Queen Lakshmibai” (queen is an English word, and “rani” doesn’t help matters) and “X for Laxman”. The chart also betrays an old failing of the Hindu right — it puts together historical figures it is trying to appropriate (Ambedkar, Bhagat Singh) with mythological ones (Laxman and a misspelt “Walmiki”). However, beyond the fodder for humour — what teachers for generations have called “silly mistakes” — the chart is terribly problematic. It places on children the annoying burden of correcting the imagined wrongs of history. A for annoying, B for burden, on C for children.
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on January 14, 2022 under the title ‘Let kids be’.
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