In this fast-paced and transitory world, I’m sure that we are all aware of the picture of a textbook that was doing the rounds of Facebook which accused Bengaluru’s St Joseph’s College, Shanti Nagar, of teaching its students the ‘advantages of dowry‘. It allegedly forms a part of a chapter called Dowry Menace which is followed by the ‘disadvantages’ of the issue. You might be questioning as to why this topic is being dragged here considering the fact that it is old news?

St. Joseph College dowry
St. Joseph College dowry

Everyone actively participated in raising their opinions through the comments in pictures, videos, articles, blogs and news stories but the issue is done and dusted within a day’s time. While all of us understand the time constraint and the changing nature of news, it’s essential to draw the line to recognize the importance of accentuating certain issues and facilitating prolonged discussion to bring about a change. This issue casts lights on the necessity of teaching mutual respect and gender equality in schools and colleges.

It’s unfortunate that we get taught about equality of genders in the very classrooms where discrimination based on gender is still very much a thing.

Why and how do so many people think of one gender as inferior to another? Though we belong to a country where patriarchy has been practised for centuries together, the truth is, we are not born patriarchal but rather socialised into becoming so.

The process that imbues patriarchy into our minds and subsequently in our attitudes begins early in life. It begins right from the news that we are going to be born, the baby shower party themes are a mixture of pink and blue, the to-be parents await your arrival in excitement to know which colour the room of the baby needs to be painted and so forth. We are told that pink is the colour of girls and blue for boys. Remember those days in school where the answer to “what is your favourite colour?”, used to be the monotonous pink for girls and blue for boys?

Unfortunately, the family is the first exposure that we get to the world and it’s an unsettling fact that it is the fundamental pillar for perpetuating patriarchy and gender stereotypes.

Along with family we have various institutions which preach and follow the idea of patriarchy and the only institution that could challenge these notions is our educational institutions but are they doing so?

Schools and colleges are places where we learn the basics of everything but unfortunately, we are not taught the basics of coexistence. We are not taught values which promote equality among sexes, we are not taught the difference between sex and gender, and we are not taught to analyse, criticize and question stereotypes. We are in fact taught to be passive and accept things as it is.

How many times are we allowed to put up bold questions challenging norms in front of the class or how many times have we been silenced by our teachers not to ask certain questions in class? How many of us have been called separately by our teachers to question our uniforms, the length of our skirts and the need for applying Kajal and mascara?  Why are we briefed about menstruation separately? Why is it a big deal if boys and girls spoke to each other? Still, why is a boy ridiculed if he cried in class? Why is he asked by teachers not to cry like a girl?

The number of questions that can be put up is innumerable and the answer to all this is that we need better educational spaces where we are taught strong values and morals which are correct in the real sense and not what the society has been following.

The existence of stereotypes makes it very difficult for innovation and reason to find space in schools.

The overbearing importance given to things which need to be eradicated from society creates baggage for students. They unconsciously carry it forward in their lives. Teaching Equality and liberty in its true sense could be a powerful tool that lets children shed stereotypes. A world free of prejudice and generalisation would be amenable to progress in the truest sense. Sessions on principles of mutual respect and equality must be made a regular affair in schools.

This issue of the textbook came into limelight because of the unchallenged power of education in influencing thoughts. We are shaped by what we learn. So, it’s extremely crucial to learn the right things.

Education is the only solution to almost all the problems in the society. Education does not just mean 10×10= 100. Rather education includes our behaviour, our thinking, our morals, our values, our ideas and our way of life. It’s important that educational institutions step up in this front as they are the creators of future generations and leaders.

Also Read: Maddie Dai’s Cartoon Unveils the Miserable State of Women at Work

Reshma Ganeshbabu is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed in this column are author’s own.

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