Behaviour management of youth has become quite an onerous task, both for parents and teachers. These little angels give us tough time. Talk to any parent or teacher, they complain regarding the behaviour of the young generation which is replete with resentment, impertinence and ingratitude. This problem does not exist only in low-socioeconomic, uneducated class but very much in well-educated middle class as well as in the high class of the society. Some blame the fast-paced life-style where very little quality time is given to the children while others accuse media for the damage. Nevertheless, there is yet another reason mostly overlooked but rooted in our very own education system.
Let us discuss the problem before digging into the causes. One common problem is lack of manners. An experienced teacher of Senior Cambridge tells, “I have applied for transfer to the junior Cambridge, I simply cannot take disrespectful and rude behaviour of these young adults anymore”. A mother pleaded, “My son’s arrogant attitude gets under my skin. My heart bleeds when he says, Ammi you are dumb! his father also gets furious when he tells his father , Baba, you won’t understand! all he wants to do, is hanging out with his friends or wasting his precious time on social networking.” Most of the young adults seem to live in another world very different from our culture, societal norms, ethics, where they are unable to relate with us, calling our ideas and traditions as old-fangled and derogatory. As a linguist and a university teacher, I would analyze the situation as: “The previous generations misbehaved as a rebellion against authorities, but today’s youths are so caught up in their own self-centeredness that no authorities exist in their minds. They can only relate with their friends which is basically a reflection of their selves.”
There are various reasons, for sure, other than media or modern lifestyle alone. One of the causes is language. This attitude of young generation has a deep connection with the language input that has been received by these young minds. The language we speak shapes our world view. A research conducted in 2001 at Stanford University by Lera Boroditsky has provided eye opening evidences in favor of this much-debated claim. She collected data from China, Greece, Chile, Indonesia, Russia, and Aboriginal Australia proving that people who speak different languages do indeed think differently. A linguist, George Lakoff and a philosopher Mark Johnson, suggest that metaphors actually structure our perceptions and understanding. It means that language shapes our thoughts and culture is the central force that shapes different aspects of language. It’s a bi-directional cycle. It means we need to see what sort of language and culture is transferred to our young ones. Most of the people hold media responsible for polluting the culture and destroying the character of our young buds but very few realize that the polluted language is playing a vital role in this destruction. The polluted language used in advertisements and electronic media is easily noticed by educated class but not many realize that the resultant wild ideas and ill-behaviours are products of Anglo-literature taught at our schools.
The problem has links with the parallel education systems, functional in the country. Government has no control over the private institutions. These institutions include books in their syllabus merely on the basis of their attractive physical appearance and high prices. Neither they have trained staff who could select books keeping the aims of National Curriculum 2006 in view nor is the administration interested in that. The schools run through Cambridge system are even more carefree. The fact is, though we cannot control the course outline decided by Cambridge Board, we do have complete authority to teach our children till grade 9 according to our own principles and value standards. Moreover, through a smart selection of fiction, we would still be able to prepare our students for O & A levels English Language and Literature exams conducted by Cambridge Board. It is only a matter of realizing, taking initiative and making correct decisions. Let us evaluate the core literature taught in English medium/Cambridge schools which is usually considered as Classics and try to find out the culture, ideas, norms, etiquettes, values and standards that are being transferred to our youths;
· Hound of Baskervilles- This is a mystery of a murder where the antagonist uses his wife to seduce the protagonist in which he gets fairly successful. These ideas are in direct contradiction with our religion and culture but it is presented in such a way that children accept it as normal.
· Around The World in Eighty Days: The protagonist is on a voyage. It drinks regularly and leaves a lover at every port like a playboy.
· Oliver Twist: Like most of the Charles Dickens’ work Oliver Twist is a reflection of bad effects of industrialization where the protagonist is surrounded by criminals. The story is quite gloomy and depressive with no essential good values. It is mostly taught at grade 4 which shakes the young minds’ faith in humanity and existence of goodness in this world.
· Tales Of King Arthur: The plot is structured around the extramarital relationship of the Queen.
· Treasure Island: A bad character pirate, who is crazy for wine, is portrayed as a hero.
· The Way of the World: The protagonist is a master of deception and sycophancy who conspires to avail the property of the female protagonist. Though the play reflects restoration period but it is certainly unsuitable for tender minds.
· King Solomon’s Mines: The novel, set in nineteenth century, is loaded with vulgar symbolism to male and female sexuality and anatomy. It discusses the uneven concepts of sexuality and sexual relationships.
· Importance of Being Earnest: There is nothing else in the play other than discussions on sex, affairs, projecting immorality as norm and gluttony used as a symbol for sexual appetite.
The role of literature is to mirror the society and portray the complexities of human conditions. Literature does not only help children understand varied cultures but also broaden their world view and knowledge but also helps in developing an emotionally balanced, reasonable personality. It is obvious now that what sort of role is being played by this awry literature that is taught in English medium schools. Our children grow up idealizing these characters. These novels and plays are neither mirroring our society and culture nor the present society of the West. This literature fails to portray the present human issues and conditions and students are unable to relate it to their lives. The children should be introduced to the classical literature and it means world classical literature not merely Anglo classical literature. It is not science or technology that is essential for the individual and collective progress. The books discussed above can be taught to the students of English Literature pursuing their undergraduate or master’s studies but these are certainly unsuitable at school level.
There are numerous quality literary works available in English. Some are translated from Russian, German, Persian etc that could be an intelligent choice for our children. World Literature must also be part of their syllabus but we should be extremely cautious in selection. It must be in conformity with the guidelines provided by our National Curriculum 2006. In short, it is evident that the indifferent, complex and socially unacceptable behaviour of our children is the direct reflection of the content that has been fed into their minds through their schooling and the painful reality is that, we pay heavy fees for this ill development and then strive for behaviour management.
Written by: Nimrah Waseem
The writer is a lecturer at the Department of English Federal Urdu University for Arts, Science & Technology