ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Children as Citizens

Smaller Citizens: Writings on the Making of Indian Citizens by Krishna Kumar, Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, 2021; pp xvii  +  149, `395.

One of the most important problems every society faces is how to prepare young people for life in it. How should one behave with one’s family, neighbours and community, with one’s employers and employees, the government and its critics and so on? Especially important is what to do when there is a conflict of views and desires, which can occur over everything, ranging from whom it is acceptable to love to who should get more resources, what is worthy of respect or even what is true. Should one act with restraint or rage? Should we respect individuals or give preference to community identities, to equality or hierarchy? Do we try to talk about things or ask others to decide for us? Do we seek consensus or accept dissension? There is a great deal of debate over what an education that prepares young people for life should look like.

The question of how humans should live with each other is at the heart of many normative and reflective narratives like those to be seen in religions, political ideologies, academic writings and school textbooks. Some progressivist pedagogues follow Rousseau to say that all good lies within children themselves, and if only teachers and parents got out of the way, then children would automatically discover for themselves the best way to act. Most other educationists are less sanguine about this and propose a variety of ways of teaching a culture of public and family life. They recommend varying degrees of autonomy for children to reflect and decide for themselves. While some think that they have absolute truths to hand over, many believe that humans must always be tentative and open to other points of view. There must be some balance, it seems, between socialising children into virtues and learning to reflect on moral issues. Where exactly that balance lies, however, is not easy to see. All this is complicated by the way power shapes our understanding. The cultural and political agendas of powerful institutions and cultures like those from West Europe and North America have intermingled with agendas coming from our own land. In the latter, too, there are pulls and pushes in different directions from various political ideologies, castes, classes, genders, communities, and so on.

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Updated On : 12th Sep, 2022
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