Friday, February 26, 2010

Childhood massacred: How can we stop this tragedy?

I was recently in India. It was a 15-day trip spread across five cities. Hectic for sure, but it gave me the opportunity to talk to people about the latest trends, culture, society etc. and make my own observations about different parts of the country. The cities were unique in many ways, but the pressures of childhood were equally heart-wrenching everywhere.

As I chatted with cousins and their kids, friends and their children, I sensed a pattern: Childhood is about hauling books and running from one class to the other. Seriously, these kids already have longer hours than working professionals. There is school and school-related homework. Then there is a trend to sign up kids for tuition classes. Plus, every parent within their own abilities wants to give their children the best, which means extra curricular activities (in abundance) are a big part of six-year olds’ lives. So, before you hit your pre-teens, you probably play a sport, a musical instrument, and excel at one of the Indian classical dances along with excruciating amounts of schoolwork. And I am talking about the minimum here. There are kids who go beyond and enroll in specialized creative classes (Art, flower-making etc.) and Asian learning centers (to enhance their Math skills).

What broke my heart: When I asked a very dear friend’s daughter, in Bombay, about her free time/playtime, she said, “Masi, I play on the weekends.” Those innocent words, at least for me, wore a tragic garb. How can a child not play everyday? Isn’t that incumbent upon them for their healthy growth? What kinds of pressures are we dealing with here where a five-year old brings home assignments that ask them to “Fill up the blank,” or “Do addition/subtraction?”

One of my childhood friends is a teacher in Bombay. In fact, she is the headmistress of her elementary school. She told me that suicide cases in India have shot through the roof. And it’s mostly kids in the fifth and sixth grade. It breaks my heart to think that children with milk teeth have begun to believe that death is their only option. How do they even know about death?

When I was young, there was a lot of pressure about grades and homework, but somewhere my generation was permitted to enjoy our childhood. Make mistakes. Get bruises on our knees. Expend our energy. It scares me that children these days are expected to be these picture perfect porcelain dolls who excel at everything. I mean, isn’t that what adulthood is about?

Unfortunately, parents can’t do much because of the pressure from both the school and the society. They are caught in the middle. If every child in your universe is juggling multiple things, you don’t want to deprive your child. But can no one see how it will all end? Do you really want a ten-year old to think, act, and behave like a thirty-year old?


More until next time,


Copyright © 02. 26.2010


“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught” - Oscar Wilde


Pradeep Srivastava said...

I liked your quote on education! It reminds me of another quote, as follows:

"Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything one learned in school." -- Albert Einstein

Pradeep Srivastava

K said...

Very well said, Sweta. And so very true!

Hena said...

Oscar Wilde is spot on with his thought.

I very strongly feel that parents can take charge and avoid such pressure on children...and if they can't they shouldn't bother having one!!

Anonymous said...

I have to be honest, I was initially averse to reading this blog based on the title. I was hoping it was not about the thousands of child molesters out there, and was allayed to discover that it was not!

I enjoyed this piece. Unfortunately, it also applies to children in the U.S. I have heard many parents of school-age children refer to themselves as their children's "driver". Their primary job is driving their kids from school to piano lessons to soccer practice etc.

I also think the same can be said about adult life. Our parents had a lot more time to stop and smell the roses . When you have a middle aged person working late, then rushing to the gym, then rushing to dinner and all along texting or talking on the phone; the child's life unforunately is becoming an epitome of the multi-tasking world we live in.

Why, even relaxation or yoga needs to be first scheduled on our blackberry! :)

asvarma said...

Sweta your observation seems universal. Iam presently visiting U.S.A. I find the same rat race even more than India. Also the parents are equally burdened.
in smaller towns if India distances are so manageable that students to participate in sports etc.
Presently Indian Govt is well into sorting this issue. I wish U.S.A also does something.

s said...

I like the posts! Thanks for sharing!

My two cents said...

Hello all,

Thanks for taking out the time to read my blog. I agree; this problem (Too little time, too much to do) is universal! I read an article in the NYT recently that talks about the pressures of pre-school admissions in Manhattan. It's done for a child to see a therapist before they can take a serious exam in their life?! I know friends who have lost sleep over a 3-year old's admission. The problem is in the system and the expectations of the society. I feel bad for all these kids who are missing out on a wonderful thing called "childhood!" We have our entire lives to be responsible, but we get to be kids just once...

Just my two cents...

Anonymous said...

You got great points there, that's why I always love checking out your blog.

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