I haven’t written many public reflections on my work here, but one day this past August I found myself with a lot of things to say and a surprise three day vacation from class.
It’s about a day Hyderabad came to a stand still. No cars. No shops. No people on the street. It was eerie and out of the ordinary. But necessary. And I connect the events of that day to our experimentation with education reforms.
“One of my principals said he feels the current group of students may become a “lost generation” as their schooling may end up riddled with assessments and surveys to better understand how to improve Telangana’s literacy rates and school systems. As Andhra Pradesh and Telangana grapple with dividing electricity between two separate states, frequent power cuts darken classrooms and cut into any digital learning efforts. Teachers are also being tasked with many of these extra efforts. While Rachel and I were able to at least go home and continue lesson planning, teachers at both my schools were appointed to conduct the survey because they are government workers. This meant taking precious days off to knock on citizens’ doors and ensure they had given their information to the government.”
“I also think this has implications in the United States, where education reform is a divisive topic. Right now public education is being tested, prodded, and examined from every possible angle by activists, politicians, and business owners. Think about the methods we are trying out as solutions: Common Core, charter schools, Teach for America. Will they work? Many are gambling students’ only education in hopes that these programs make a difference. Who’s to say we may look back one day at kids who are currently in class and call them the “lost generation” of students in the US?”
One thing teaching in India has taught me is that all the problems we see around the world can almost always be reflected back to the US. Anytime we critique actions of other nations, it is imperative we then turn that critical eye inwards and look at a) how we may have been implicit in bringing that situation to where it is today and b) whether we are committing the same errors that we are so ready to point out elsewhere.
The most important conclusion I take from all this though is that I do believe, in some sense, that at the micro level individuals can make a difference in other individuals’ lives. Never should we use sociology’s truths to bully us into complacency. Action– thoughtful action– is an exercise in hope.