Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Restricting Freedom – Good or Bad?

Student: Sir, time is 10 pm now. We are supposed to be in the hostel by 9.30 PM. Warden may not allow us into the Mens hostel
Me: I can give you a letter. Show it to the warden and the watchmen. Still if they have a doubt ask them to give me a call
This was a conversation I had with three of my Masters students a couple of weeks back. We had to finish a presentation for the next day and by the time students made the draft of it, it was already 9.30 PM. We only had that night to correct it. So I asked them to come to my office so that we can work on it. From the time they came to the time they left they were so tensed that I lost count of the number of times they were looking into their watch. Seeing that the productivity of their work was decreasing due to this I even told them that in the worst case you guys can stay with me in my house. These three students left around midnight and since they had my letter, were allowed to get into the hostel without any problem.
When they left I felt really bad for them. Here are three guys, 22 or 23 years old getting all tensed thinking if the warden will allow them in. I am told that there are a lot of colleges that impose such strict rules curbing the freedom of students. May be my mind is too “Westernized”. I am always of the belief that in the long run such restrictions will backfire on the same people who try to impose them. The kids of this millennium will find novel ways to beat the restriction for sure.
Like to share couple more examples – we had a function in our house one Sunday afternoon from 1.00 PM to 3.00 PM. We invited few students including some girls. My flat is just opposite to the school and all you need to do is to cross the main road from the school. The girls who attended the function told us that they had to sign at 5 different places to get permission to go out from 1.00 PM to 3.00 PM before they could come there. Imagine this – on a holiday to just go out of the campus for 2 hours from 1.00 PM to 3.00 PM you need to take signatures from five different places! For me it is tough to comprehend.
What I saw last weekend was ultimate. There was a professional show in the campus that started at 8.00 PM and ended around morning 1.00 AM in the school ground. When I went to the stadium I saw a barricade over 7-feet tall that divided the stadium into two. Initially I did not understand the reason for that barricade. Later I realized that it was a physical barrier to separate the boys and girls attending the pro-show. Now I did my undergraduate degree in engineering fifteen years back in a pre-internet, pre-cell phone, pre-laptop era and we also used to have such shows that start at night and goes till early morning. The boys and girls use to sit differently but I have never seen such barricades anywhere then.
Now the question – are such restrictions good or bad? My view is that you impose more rules on these teenage kids, at least a minority of them will find novel ways to beat these rules and results may be catastrophic. Instead of having all these restrictions why can’t the students be educated by parents and teachers to use their freedom wisely? Won’t that be good for the kids in the long run? Of course this is my take on this subject. Would like to know the views of others on this subject.
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Blogger Shankz said...

thats a very good observation Brijesh!!I have always felt that way myself. But interesting thoughts flowed while i was watching when students were protesting for dress code in Anna university engineering colleges. The students ask the question why are professors bothered about the dress if the focus is on studies. Well I had the same question to students. y worry about the dress when the focus is on studies. traditionally, education has been given with humility and gratitude towards students and the same time students received with equal humility and gratitude. But the issue is now neither it is being delivered nor it is taken that way. One of them should be mature either the student or the teacher. the other reason why is probably education is no more holistic and is very limited and thats why we end trying to include such rules. Should there be no rules? Only if there are rules a game can happen. But care should be taken rules are tied to the overall objective of the game "education". but rules should not be framed in the name of education :)!!

September 22, 2010 12:10 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Brijesh, These are good observations.

Now, far as thinking it's westernized to want less restrictions, I can see how these are equated, but I think it's also in experiencing a different culture. This would be true even if going to other places within India itself. It's not true that all places are so restrictive. Coimbatore is like a small town (In the Indian sense, not in the American sense of course! ;) So things are different than Chennai, which is different than Delhi, Calcultta, Mumbai, Pune, etc. For instance, 10 years ago when I was in Madras Christian College, I lived in the hostel for 18 months. This was the college hostel for ladies run by MCC....so I was the only American. You know looking back I am very happy for all the rules I had to follow back then. Was it a problem for me then? You bet it was! Why am I happy about it? The rules kept me safe and out of trouble, especially not understanding Indian culture, the rules kept me in after dark (as an American I would not have thought twice about staying out until 7....or 8...) (In fact I was late many a days because for social work degrees we had to go for field work and always came back late, yet the hostel and social work department did not cooperate on this issue) and it got me socializing with the other girls. Could I leave? Yes, on weekends we left to local guardians house. This required one signature. Even if we were leaving the hostel for the day or going off campus we needed our guardians permission through the warden. My local guardian was a born-raised Indian amma. She was very good to me and kept me following the rules! :) But there were times I needed more than one approval to leave campus. This may have been true if I needed to skip (aka bunk) class and go to the immigration office or do some work related to being a foreign student (unlike American univesrsities which do the work for foreign students!!). I do agree sometimes there are too many rules, but in US I feel there are NOT ENOUGH rules. I hated having to live in a co-ed dorm for instance. I felt why do I have to live across the hall from guys? I had to stay the first year because the college here had a manditory rule. But soon as I could get out, I did and live with only girls. Plus many dorms did not (and maybe still do not) have strict rules about who can enter and what time and so forth. This causes a lot of security problems, crimes etc.

But Shankz question too about education or rules is a good one? I feel a good education also does need rules or we won't have the structure to do well. It's a hard balance and depends on the local conditions and culture.

September 22, 2010 12:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brijesh, I think a lot of this has to do with the ever hovering culture of our parents as well as the leftovers from the British Raj. Being policed day in and day out was a part of our lives for more than 200 years, that even now, after 60+ years of independence we still police ourselves. More interesting is the fact that we "want" to be policed by others. So much so that if there is a mistake that we have done, we are quick to blame the policing force saying they didnt do their job. Our people need to understand the real meaning of "Independence" and "Freedom" and that responsibilities that come with it. I know it will not happen overnight, but I certainly believe that the new generation will grow out of this cycle.


September 22, 2010 3:27 PM  
Anonymous Soumyaranjan Dash said...

No. Your mind isn't too "Westernized" and if Im wrong then my mind is also "too Westernized". Becuz I'm more anxious than worried over your post.

September 22, 2010 3:36 PM  
Blogger Raghu V N said...

Freedom has been a problem for a long long time in our history but, a life without restrictions can lead to chaos.....

really nice observations.....

September 22, 2010 5:52 PM  

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