An English medium school`s definition of foul language

By Mushtaq Soofi

n English medium school in Sahiwal, run and owned by an apparently educated politician`s family, provides us with a new mind-blowing description of what constitutes foul language that unmistakably shows us why our education system is in an abysmal state despite all the tall claims of businessmen-turned-educators.

The school`s circular, dated 22-08-2016, addressed to the parents of its students which surfaced recently on social media states: `foul language is NOT ALLOWED within and outside the school premises, in the morning, during the school hours and after home time. Foul language includes taunts, abuses, Punjabi and the hate speech`.

We leave aside for a moment the issuing authority`s masterly skill over English language that stands fully exposed in the line quoted above. Having seen this itwould be an understatement to say that educators need education.

Linguists agree that all the languages diverse human groups speak are unique assets that make us what we are, human, and thus distinguish us from other species found on our planet. No language can ever be `foul`. Use of language is what can be foul.

There is no dispute about the sanctity of human language per se and consequently all languages are equally sacred and valuableintellectualtoolsregardless of the fact whether they are spoken by many or a few, the powerful or the powerless, the rich or the poor. But sadly in practical life things are not as neatly parcelled and tidy as we find in academic domain. Messily complex social life is an unending story of the dominant and the dominated.

Iniquitous difference between the former and the latter is not just confined to the economic sphere. It finds expression in the domain of culture, as well. Themost significant element of culture is language without which we cannot conceive human society and its evolution.

Difference between economic status of the ruler and the ruled inexorably leads to the creation of opposing worlds of culture.

The postulate that ideas of ruling class are the ruling ideas needs to be repeated as it holds an enduring truth hidden in the innards of popular culture.

Throughout history we find that one of the defining features of ruling culture is its specific language; the language that renects the power of its speakers. Thus the language of the powerful becomes language of power that weighs unevenly on the rulers and the ruled. When a group emerges as powerful the first thing it does in the domain of politics, economics and culture is the rejection of the language of the subjugated and consequently the imposition of its language becomes a sign of its ascendancy. With the emergence of caste system andBrahmanism, Sanskrit came to be known as the language of gods and deities (Devabhasha or Devavani) while the fact was that it was language of power sanctified by the rise of Pundits who were and still are a core of the ruling upper castes. When Greel(s had their moment of glory, it was the Greek language that among other things became a vehicle of their tidal power, cultural and intellectual. It spread far beyond its birthplace replacing multiple languages in the Middle East and beyond.Iranians`longimperialist tradition first imposed Pahlavi and later Persian in a part of Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia at the cost of native languages. The moment the Arabs mounted the stage of history they did what their predecessors did; imposed their language on so many peoples by killing or appropriating the languages of the conquered. The British colonialism, with which we are quite familiar, seems to be an enduring phenomenon in the former colonies suchas Pakistan. One of its cultural vestiges is the awe-inspiring presence of English as the language of power in politico-economic matters and phoney refinement in the echelons of so-called highbrow culture.

Post-colonial Punjab in Pakistan is a unique case that defies logic and common sense because despite being the largest in number and politico-economically dominant, its ruling classes have not only given up its language but also have nothing less than contempt for it (Punjabi).

Punjabi middle classes, scrabbling to win a social climb, follow the suit. Punjabis suffer from an unprecedented self-hatred, the result of internalisation of the colonial image the colonialists superimposed on them in a process that started in the mid-19th century. Their ghoulish fascination with cultural vandalism has no precedent in history. AntiPunjabi orientation fits in neatly with the state ideology that per-ceives diverse languages, especially Punjabi as a `threat` to the ill-conceived and historically untenable monolithic notion of national unity and social cohesion. So middle classes are shanghaied by a sizable number of toffs with their expensive `English medium schools` where badly written English is sold as knowledge and broken English spoken by underpaid teachers is packaged and flaunted as an academic achievement. How else one with an iota of knowledge can explain the headmaster`s directive that declares his own mother language used by tens of millions of people `foul`? This can only happen if you have rootless glitzy corporate culture taking over life. It`s an insult to one`s intelligence to argue with the ignoramuses who l

Source: Daily Dawn

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