My blogging is inextricably connected with Lord Macaulay. Indeed, the root of all this is my belief that even if India was made, the task of making Indians is still unfinished; an education that combine cultural confidence, economic emancipation and political imagination fit for nation-building is yet to be found. But, more directly, I caught onto blogging as I came across the well-known meme about Macaulay conspiring to destroy a prosperous India with English language, wrote a casual and rather amateurish post debunking it and then got drawn into a debate that continued for more than a decade. Truth be told, that engagement was central to how my interests changed from the technical nuances of delivering education to the cultural history of it and why I came to commit myself to history of ideas as my field of study.
But, then, it's not just a personal fixation; with the Hindu nationalists in ascendance in India, it has become a nation one. He is the bogeyman of English education, who wanted to create honorary Englishmen out of Indians, and as the new radicals contend, the Indian 'Left-Liberals' have become just that. He, as a cultural nihilist, has been elevated to the category of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, Sultan Allaudin Khilji and various other temple-destroying Muslim monarchs that ruled India. But, then, he is something more, equally hated by the Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan (members of Al Qaeda invoked Macaulay's name when they shot Malala Yousafzai for advocating that girls' education). Macaulay lives on as the after-colonies search their soul to find a way to cultural security and economic sustenance.
But, equally, it's time for me to bury Macaulay. As I engaged with the history of Indian universities, it was quite obvious that Macaulay's actual influence in Indian education was quite marginal. He was visible - he spoke with rhetorical flourish and generated immediate impact with Lord Bentick pushing forth with policy changes in the aftermath. A sober look would reveal two things: One, Macaulay was poorly informed and knew very little about what he was speaking about, and two, his views did not really matter and, despite Bentinck's headline grabbing action, nothing much changed. India never became Ireland, which was the model Macaulay and his collaborators may have had in their mind, nor the Petrine Russia, the model in the Liberal circles. Lord Auckland, Bentinck's successor, discarded most of Bentinck's policy in any case. The 'honorary Englishman' project was never a reality, as the empire became more and more racist with every successive generation. As Indians agitated for better jobs and the imperial administrators sought loyalty and compliance (particularly in the post-Mutiny years), the English-educated Bengali Babus, who were perhaps Macaulay's primary focus, were no longer to be assimilated. By the time Lord Curzon came along and sought to upend the Indian education policy all over again, Macaulay's legacy was truly dead and buried.
Part of the reason for this is that Macaulay misread the priorities of Indian education completely wrongly. The nineteenth century English bureaucrats wasn't after making an Ireland out of India. Their idealism fell far short of the evangelical fervour of the earlier generations and they were not about to bring European science to India, as Rammohun Roy and other Indian liberals hoped. The object of education policy was intricately connected with the mundane priorities of running the empire cheaply with locally appointed clerks, supervisors and lawyers and the brutal commercial priority of creating in India a market for English goods. The policy, before Macaulay got enthusiastic, was already spoken for: It was to be achieved through vernacular education at the school level, on top of which an English-style higher education would be 'engrafted'. Macaulay either did not know (which is unlikely) or did not understand this at all, and at any rate, he made no reference to this in his intervention. For him, all education in India was either Hindu or Muslim, either in Sanskrit or in Arabic, and it was against those imaginary spectres he laid out his case. He was about fifty years out of date.
Of course, Macaulay lived on as a bogeyman. But before we even consider what Hindu Nationalists say, it is worth looking at Lord Curzon's discomfort. Lord Curzon's efforts to rescue the Indian education from Macaulayism, by which he meant the narrow bookish education that went on at the Indian colleges, took Macaulay seriously enough. But the reason it was bookish was not because Macaulay mattered, but because he did not. The Macaulay ideal of making Englishmen out of Indians led to the choice of texts meant for English middle-class boys - Burke, Bentham and Mill among them - but post-Mutiny racism and pragmatic considerations of keeping order ensured that reading of such texts remain literal and as superfluous as possible. The rhetoric of Burke, rather than his ideas, was the subject of Indian education. Curzon's chivalrous crusade against the narrowness of Indian education eventually floundered on the rocks of bureaucratic realism, just as Macaulay's ideas did.
The reason why Macaulay is a totemic figure in the debate about Indian education is because how we write the history of education. Whether it's written as a global liberal narrative or a colonial nationalist one, the underlying assumption is that education remains at a separate cultural sphere, somewhat unconnected from the economic and political lives, moved along by great ideas. But the way education since the nineteenth century, in its state-sponsored bureaucratic avatar, evolved, the only human agency that is noticeable in its evolution is that of the bureaucrat. The ideals of education, which we spill so much ink upon, matter a lot less than the arithmetic of it. The most important questions in education were not the ones of character and destination, but those of class sizes and outcome. We love to see Macaulay, for good or for bad, as this idealistic statesman laying out a vision of benevolent empire, but the very fact that he was standing there to speak about a subject he knew little about was a matter of politics and bureaucratic necessity. No wonder he was the Law member of the Cabinet and was about to unleash the English-style penal code in India; that he would make a case of English education to produce enough lawyers who can read these laws and appear in the courts was very much foretold.
Therefore, I argue, that Macaulay matters but not the way we think he does. We should not be thinking in terms of Hindu, Islamic or Christian education when thinking about him; the great destruction of Indian education system that followed was not about an issue of Sanskrit or Arabic versus English. It was the moment of capitalist transformation of India, a bureaucratic state takeover of culture and education. To escape Macaulay, which India has to if it has to find its place in the world, was not to throw away English books and get back to reading Sanskrit texts; rather, it is about finding these structures behind Macaulay and taking the bureaucratic edifice down. Once we do that, we would be able to temper the determinist economic priorities that shape all Indian education today and find a way of reasserting Indian higher education in a manner consistent with Indian cultural life.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.