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Discussing Reconstruction in Philosophy by John Dewey

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We are initiating a discussion on John Dewey’s book Reconstruction in Philosophy’ from 26th May. We invite you all to read this book with us and contribute in our discussions by sharing your thoughts and reflections by posting comments on the subsequent posts based on the discussion on the book.

Looking forward for your participation.

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Favour: A Malignant Tumour

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‘Favour’ seems to be a very innocent and positive term. But in practice it is a malignant tumour, which is hard to diagnose and when discovered it is too late for treatment. It multiplies uncontrollably. It dominates other cells by suffocating them and then it kills them or converts them. Gradually, it kills the patient.
Let me deconstruct this term for you. Dictionary meaning of the term ‘favour’ is ‘an act of kindness beyond what is due or usual’. By asking for favour a person becomes vulnerable in front of the person giving favour. She is then obligated to return the favour. One must note that in the definition itself, favour is described as an act of kindness that is beyond what is due or usual. Why would anybody help you beyond what you deserve? But before answering that question, let us just take a moment to think that if this person who is asking for favour does not deserve it then, is he taking something away from a person who deserves it? What becomes of the person who deserves it but does not get it because somebody else received it as a favour?
I have grown up hearing ‘there is no such thing as free lunch’. So, obviously now this person who has been favoured will have to return the favour. In the doing so, another person who deserves something will be deprived to accommodate this person. This goes on and on. If an institution has one such person who has this habit, he or she will bring another and attract a few others. The circle becomes bigger and bigger with each favour. Soon the institution has a number of people who have been favoured, in other words, who do not deserve this place but by an act of kindness were accommodated snatching it away from someone who deserved it.Can an institution survive with so many ‘favoured’ people?
Now what happens to the people who do not agree with this policy of giving and receiving favours? They are sidelined and are often part of the collateral damage. They are suffocated till the time they die or are converted. Converts, we all know, are never really included in the group. So what happens to the institution?

First Issue of the Magazine is Out: Reflections

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After much delays and hard work, first issue of the wall magazine was out amidst a lot of confusion. We are yet to decide the price of the magazine. However, while children were busy colouring the magazine, I began reflecting on our two month-long journey. There are many lessons to be learnt from this experience. I am listing some of them in this post:

1. We decided to bring out a monthly magazine using Nai Talim but this process made us realise that if we want to keep our costs to the minimum in order to be self-reliant; use machines as little as possible, in other words, do everything by hand; and if we only work for two hours every Sunday, then we cannot possibly bring out an issue every month. So, we had a meeting today and it was decided that we will publish an issue every two months. So, that we can engage with the process.

2. Today, there was a lot of confusion because we were working on two issues at the same time. Confusion leads to stress, which defeats the purpose. We are publishing this magazine to know ourselves better; to understand the process of publication and most importantly for the fun of creation. Thus this confusion needs to be addressed. I found that the fault lies with me and not with my group of children. I need to first prepare a calendar of activities and share it with children and then take their suggestions and implement it. Children need that kind of fixing of dates in order to work systematically. Since all of us are doing it voluntarily, it is the last item on our list. We remember it only on the day we meet. So, I have now decided to work on a calendar of tasks.

3. Collective Meeting: Meeting and discussing various issues is pertinent in order to engage children intellectually. This is another point I need to work on. I need to fix a time on every Sunday to discuss details of each process. This will help us all in making sense of the process and improving our work.

4. Task Orientation: As already mentioned, I need to specify a task for each Sunday, which I need to keep reminding children in the beginning and end of our Sunday activities. Secondly, we all need to work on one task at a time as a group. This will help us focus and on that particular process and will help us think together as a group.

Right now, these are some of the things on my mind. I need to work not these details during the week so that I am ready for the coming Sunday.
If you have any suggestions, then please leave a comment.

Learning From One Another

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Yesterday, I read Amartya Sen’s article titled ‘Learning from One Another’, which was published in The Hindu on 15th January 2015. This article is actually an excerpt form his speech given in Infosys Science Prize Ceremony.
martya Sen has beautifully explained how we can enrich our learning experience by learning from others as well as by sharing our learning with each other. His illustration of the history of the term ‘sine’ summed up the role sharing of knowledge can play in the generation of knowledge. Reading about the rich cultural history of the term ‘sine’ was fascinating. You can read this article by clicking the following link. Hope you enjoy reading it.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/learning-from-one-another/article6785725.ece

Book Club Launch- Pustak Vimarsh

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Finally after overcoming so many hurdles and delays, I managed to launch a book club in my department.This club is inspired from Virginia Woolf’s description of a reader. She stresses on the independence a reader needs in order to enjoy the text. She describes a reader as someone who reads to converse with the writer through her creation. A reader learns to appreciate the text. But in order to enjoy this freedom and appreciate the text she also emphasises upon training the mind. Book Club called Pustak Vimarsh is a platform where we all could discuss and share our reading of the text with each other.
We began with the reading of first five chapters of Mahatma Gandhi’s text Hind Swaraj, which is also considered a modern political treatise.
Inaugural session went very well apart from a few hurdles, it was enriching for all of us. We had invited an expert to speak on the specified section of the text and he not only presented his views but also answered a lot of questions that my students asked. Everybody participated and it was good to see students asking questions.
In my next post, I will share my write up on this section of Hind Swaraj.

Education For Peace

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News reports on kinds of violence being afflicted on almost all communities seems to dominate our lives. Merciless attacks by terrorists, unforgivable acts of violence against women evokes emotions more violent emotions amongst us. But then the question is will violence help? We all know that it won’t. A violent suppression of some communities is the main cause of this violence. Had we been given our due attention as children were treated equally men would not have imagined treating us like objects? Had the developed and the powerful been more just and less greedy and exploitative, we could have avoided such destruction. But this discussion is pointless because past cannot be changed. We can work for a better future and since I am a teacher I will try to explore the role of education in bringing peace in this world. The following section is derived from Richard Sennett’s framework as given in his book ‘The Craftsman'(2008).

Can craft centred education help us create a more peaceful world? Craft entered education is experiential in nature. This experience results from manipulation of raw materials through intellectual Imagine ourselves crafting an object. We will begin our work through an exploration of the raw materials and imagining how well we can use them to create the desired object. Playful manipulation of the object will help us understand its nature and properties. Then based on the nature of the material we will try to discipline our body in order to prevent breakage of the material. David Horsborough in his book on his experiences of teaching in Neelbagh has described this in a beautiful way. He says that the material exerts its discipline on the child and informs the child when (s)he is not using it in the right way. In the process, we learn from our mistakes and make a mental note of each mistake. We learn to deal with failures and strive harder to reach our goal. This facilitates continuous reflection. We slow the speed of our thoughts and life to match the speed of process we are engaged in. When all the hard work and patience pays in the end, we look at our crafted object with love and delight. It acquires a special place in our life.

This process helps us see in other crafted object that we come across handwork, creativity and passion of another being. Thus we develop an eye for appreciation of another craftsperson’s work.

Can destruction take a back seat in such minds? Can we see this education help in creating a peaceful world?

Doing Voice Over for Hind Swaraj

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I was invited to do voice over for preparing the audio of Hind Swaraj. This was my first time and I am quite excited.
Hind Swaraj is a political theory written by Gandhi in 1909. It is written in the form of a dialogue. This dialogue is between a reader and the editor. This form is known to Gujarati literature for a long time but the characters that Gandhi chose of reader and editor makes it a modern piece of writing. Hind Swaraj deals with a critique of Western civilisation and suggests an alternative that, according to Gandhi, would best suit the needs of India.

I was invited to lend voice to the reader. In doing so, I began exploring the nuances of this character. This reader is an impatient, opinionated, but thoughtful man. I am a woman, so while reading the text, I said that I need to change the gender in the sentences. The person coordinating it took a long pause and then said he needs to ask his superior.
However, this idea just stayed with me. How will this audio clip be received, if a woman played this role of an impatient, opinionated but thoughtful person? A woman aggressively (in a ‘manly’ manner) questioning Gandhi. Well, Gandhi would not have objected to it as he had a knack for dealing with issues that divides the society. Gender being one of them. He, probably, would have seen it through as an experiment. But, then, what about the contemporary Indian society? Can they deal with such a modern woman?

This is my first voice over and I must say I am quite excited about it. There could not have been a better book than Hind Swaraj for doing a voice over. I hope to pass my audition.