Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child?

January 19, 2012

A few days back there was a news item in the paper about how Indian children ranked second last in the world in a test of Science, Math and English.

While the accuracy of statistical studies can always be questioned, but second last? For a nation that can not stop patting its back for its high-quality theoretical knowledge, where education is valued above everything else, how did things come to this?

The first thought that came to my mind was - “Boy, looks like Indian parents have finally stopped beating their kids.” Which might be where the problem started.

Back in the good old days, if you were a good child your parents rewarded you with a Five star chocolate. Maybe ice-cream. Perhaps a movie outing if you did something really special, like top the entire batch in school, three years in a row. Bad performance wasnt just not rewarded, but there were serious consequences. In Russell Peters’ immortal words, somebody got hurt a real bad every-time you got less than 90% in Math.

Moms were known to turn into tigresses and kids would pee their pants. It was nasty. But it worked.

And then we decided to get civilized.

No more competition, because it can emotionally scar the child. No more scolding them. FIRs to be filed if a teacher dares raise her voice on a child. No more marks. Only grades. This was socialism applied to education. Since no one could fail, the government need not worry about pass percentages anymore. Since students couldn’t fail, they could, well, pursue other interests.

Meanwhile, the Chinese kept beating their kids to bring out the best in them. Their kids grew up to be famous scientists, mathematicians, gymnasts, swimmers, etc. They grew up battered, but they were the best at what they did.

As this Chinese mom wrote, her daughter was not allowed to get grades below A in any subject, or “not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama.” That’s the sort of dedication it takes. If the child cracks, so be it. But at least most of them will grow up smart.

We, our kids went in the other direction. Mobile phones. Drinking. Sexual pursuits. Roadies. The parents thought their boy was going for his tuition, while he was in the park smoking a Gold Flake, girl friend in tow.

Some of the kids started taking too much inspiration from our cricketers, many of whom never completed college. Nobody reminded them of the crucial difference though, that cricketers don’t need to know Math or Science. Or even Cricket, going by recent performances, but that’s besides the point.

And then “3 Idiots” happened. Suddenly, good old slogging was a bad thing. Wildlife photography was in. You could mess around with your teachers. You could come to class drunk and still be a hero. You could commit suicide if the pressure got to you.

China continued to race on. They don’t have time to watch movies.

Our kids mostly gave up on studies, while there was a second group of truly unlucky ones who got pushed into starting IIT coaching from the 8th standard, thereby ending up as nervous wrecks. And before we knew it, we were at the bottom of the heap. Poor Kyrgyzstan must wonder where they went wrong to be the only country worse than us.

The silver lining is that at this rate soon our children won’t know the capital of the state they live in. India would then become America.

So beat your children, India. Beat them hard, and give them Complan. They’ll thank you for it one day.

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22 Responses to “ Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child? ”

  1. lifesorchestra on January 19, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Last winters, the kid of one of our family-friends went to his first semester in college in a T-Shirt, refusing to wear a pullover. He said, he would only wear warm clothes when his parents would buy him a particular Puma Jacket! The parents gave in after 2 days :|
    Somebody would have got hurt real bad if I would have asked for such things in my time ….. somebody !

  2. Dilip Muralidaran on January 19, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Now, establish how beating the child would lead to better overall mental as well as physical development with foolproof evidence. Also, please qoute source for the test results and adequate reference materials as required to validate how well this study was conducted. Additionally, statistically establish now the rate of child beating has come down since the 80’s or 90’s with adequate supporting material and arrive at conclusions.

    I have a theory as well. My theory is, education was commercialized because regulations on education were fucked up by the government thus leading to fall in quality of education. This lead to lower quality of skilled labour as well. Trouble is, im not in possession of much documentation to back my claims as well. At least my theory is a blind claim..

    We can start with the deeemed universities in south india and find out where things went wrong.

    • amreekandesi on January 22, 2012 at 10:59 am

      Dilip, of course, just beating up children will not solve the problem. There’s much more to it. Commercialism, flawed government policy, corruption, parents who dont have the time.

      This is no way a simple problem to solve, but it is a fact that we overrate ourselves and have a false sense of our education system being oh-so-superior.

  3. Charan on January 19, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    Well, i guess you got the message of 3 idiots totally wrong on this context. All that was preached was doing what you like..something that even Jobs said during his landmark Harvard Commencement speech…so the 3 idiots reference seems totally irrelevant here.

    • amreekandesi on January 22, 2012 at 11:01 am

      But that is the problem. The message of 3 Idiots is so easy to get wrong.
      Tell me you don’t think there are kids out there who think that if the pressure of studies gets too much to bear, suicide is a valid way out?

    • Aju Thomas on February 14, 2012 at 11:03 pm

      Another problem is that Steve Jobs never gave a commencement speech at Harvard.LOL

  4. Haritha on January 20, 2012 at 9:15 am

    If I hear the song “Give me some sunshine” again, I might just kill someone. Seriously, I agree its important to find what you want to do and what you are good at, but them how long are u gonna keep searching??

    • amreekandesi on January 22, 2012 at 11:02 am

      True. Most people don’t know what they want in life. Tell them it is right to take a few years to find out, and they’ll end up confused and sore.

    • rads on January 24, 2012 at 1:49 am

      Sometimes, there is *no* one thing at all. It’s fine that way too, except that reality sucks and we do need to pay our bills.

  5. Dhaval on January 20, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Did some one check if this ‘test’ where indian school kids stood second last was an open book test? Or were the questions outside the scope of the syllabus? In these cases beaten and unbeaten kids, from today or the 80s would score the same.

    I dont know what the tiger moms of China do, we should leave their way of life and process to them. The missionaries were instructed to create an army of law abiding stick-to-the-process middle class and that took us to where we are today. Best workers, worst innovators.

    These Golf Flake smoking class bunking kinds are doing things generations before them was afraid to do, living their live in their own terms.

    Ask them the capital of Nagaland, they will flick open their phones and a quick google search will give them all the details they dont have to remember.

    Being smart != Memorizing things.

    IMO, feel free to differ.

    Ps: You have filed it under ‘kids are evil’?! Kids are kids.

    • amreekandesi on January 22, 2012 at 10:58 am

      Dhawal, if we become so dependent on technology that we no longer know basic facts of science etc, then that is cause for worry. Google should be a reference for advanced information, not for everything. What will the generation that grows up so hooked up to the Internet do when Google goes out for a day? There is no substitute to knowledge.

      That aside, you surely realize that this piece is somewhat satirical in nature, which allows me to engage in sweeping generalizations and broad assumptions. So…

  6. latasuksham on January 21, 2012 at 9:32 am

    The children don’t need to be physically beaten up but they do need to be reprimanded for the wrongs/unwanted behavior.

    Presently the parents are scared of their children (read -why are we scared of our [email protected] in contrast to older times ,which is alarming and needs to be taken care of.
    Children are certainly not evil but they have to be apprised about what is evil.It is the responsibility of we elders and this has to be brought home sternly at times,the bad things are luring and more conveniently accepted by little ones.
    Discuss the different aspects with your children and they would certainly get the point:).

    • amreekandesi on January 22, 2012 at 11:04 am

      Well said. An open, healthy environment for discussion certainly helps create the right atmosphere for growth.

  7. Parul Gupta on January 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    speaking for myself, despite having been an academic topper throughout, and, by the grace of God, good at pretty much everything else (except sports), I am a firm advocate of trying to bring up children as emotionally whole as possible, and as positive individuals, rather than as academic miracles.
    However, having said that, I am an ardent advocate of firm parenting and insistence of a certain level of discipline, along with a democratic approach, providing support and guidance to your child in her area of interest … anyway, it’s complicated :)

    • amreekandesi on January 22, 2012 at 11:15 am

      You summed it up well, Parul. It is indeed complicated, and needs balance across many different aspects.

  8. Rajinder on January 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    To my mind, growing children in the present context of life style,need to be kept abreast of their importance in family,role of good education in their life for survival, respect and also for leading a happy life,be it a boy or girl at the time when are competent to understand all these,instead of resorting to third degree methods as by then it is too late to go for such conduct.
    Nevertheless, all the children since childhood need to be constantally monitored for their behavior, performances both in academics and co-curricular activities for their alround development and corrective actions on firm basis,even with beating/ or thrashing sometimes, be taken and I agree with AD here and also here the role of the parents in devoting time regularly for their wards is very significant,which they should understand and accept instead of repenting/cursing…. lateron.One day their children will definitely pay regards to them for the time devoted for them and good upbringing.
    The present primary education system is more inclined to gain popularity for votes/seats, by showing of the overall results by those who runs education system but does not appear beneficial for the ultimate growth of pupils,the signs of which are now more visible in the increasing crime rate,as aptly brought out in this post. Thank AD for this.

  9. Amlistening on January 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    AD junior watch out :)

  10. Vinay on January 26, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Oh no! For once 3 idiots was a movie which showed that mugging was definitely out. It was stupid. Rather it show cased and highlighted that this was a major cause for suicides. Beat the child, harass them, keep them disciplined, puts fear in a kid’s heart. So what if the kid smokes gold flakes instead of attending tutions. That is something he wants to do and attending classes is something he doesnt want to do. I totally dislike the article which emphasizes something which puts fear in kids’ hearts and makes them attempt suicides. Not to mention they grow up to be corporate slaves, rather than being a freelance expert on something that he really loves doing. I am sorry but I totally put down this kind of thinking.

  11. Ranjitha on January 30, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Seriously, Beat kids to memorize and make them remember the capital of Nagaland and hence ensure a better quality of life? A simple measure of how successful a parent has been is how joyful the child is no matter what situation he faces in life. The role of a parent is not to produce academically successful children but children who will grow up to be joyful, inclusive, humble and open to life. Using the rod is one sure shot way to ensure they dread education and learning. It becomes a chore and not something they look forward to. and if we left it to parents to use the rod and decide whats best for the child, we would only have engineering degree holders. What a loss that would be to all the genius and creativity in people. Seriously, please do not think of having children. You will do this planet a favor.

  12. Rishi on April 6, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    so my friend according to you each child should top every exam in his life.
    If he does not,then use the rod and make him understand that he has to top in every exam weather he is having potential or not or he is having his interest or not.
    according to me i don’t think that if the child does not top in the exam then the world ends for him\her.
    don’t you think that the time has changed & their are many ways and options in which a child can contribute lots of things to this world by working in the field of his interest.
    i would like to give an example of one of the great scientist of the world Thomas Elva Edison.i hope that you must have in idea about of the world’s great leader Abraham Lincoln.
    but i do agree that spanking a child is necessary if the child is becoming disobedient & spoiled.
    but forcefully imposing on him\her what is the thought of their parents or guardian,definitely it will not work out.

    what you think??

  13. deepsy on June 12, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    According to me, beating should be the last resort. Only, if it’s really needed/required. Things have to be dealt with a lot of patience when it comes to children. I have mixed feeling about beating. My mom used to beat me once in a while, and trust me it did nothing wrong! Infact, I grew up with good values and fundamentals in life. However, excessive beating can create emotional scars for life. Again it also depends on what kind of personality type is your child. If he/she is too overly sensitive, then beating is a no-no. If he/she is a bully then beating is the only option. There are not perfectly acceptable answers to anything. But, from what I can gather you’ve pretty much summed up the bottomline about today’s kids and their times. I am still in search of that era where there were inventions and discoveries. This blog pretty much sums up as to why we don’t have any geniuses today.

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