Lying to the young is wrong – notes

August 24, 2021

I confess that Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko, the fine ‘Soviet era’ poet has been somewhat of an influence on me, at a variety of levels.

Not merely because, he was not at all a regular ‘Socialism Macht Frei’ kind of chest-thumping revolutionary verse vomiter. (Though I seem to recollect that I have read his poems in at least one anthology of Soviet poems(!), made available via dirt-cheap USSR propaganda books, albeit with high production values)

But am digressing. Why is lying to the young wrong? Aren’t lies part of our textbooks and ‘common wisdom?’ And why should I laboriously quote YY? Y?

I will tell you why. With simple examples.

Caveat: I no more pretend to be an active teacher and all.

But, when I used to be one, my fellow teachers (mostly at the middle/high school level, sometimes at the UG level or even some fellow-trainers of various skills at Corporate entities that I used to work for) have many a time asked me,

~~”Why do you want to talk about controversial things, things that are not the subject matter for polite conversations, ideas that are iffy and against-the-accepted-grain, events that are best ignored, topics & ideas that are quickly swept under the carpet?”

…and the like.

Some of them have even told me that, the youth that I talk to, do not really care about the past or details of past events that have lead us to the current state of affairs. That, the youth are only interested in the future etc.

To all these, my polite reply has always been that, whatever we learn is only History (and details) of that thing – whether it is literature or mathematics (when we study Calculus, a topic that is dear to me, we are studying what were developed centuries ago as tools for thought, articulation & design) or computer programming or botany; that, most of whatever we are trying to learn now have already been trail-blazed by other people. And that, even if we want to trail blaze and invent something new, even that has to be built upon the historical knowledge & context that we have of many things.

That, it is not my point merely that, we have to learn our histories, because otherwise, ‘we shall be condemned to repeat them.’ We have to know the histories, to the extent possible, based on evidence – and for that, we need to have to have/develop our own critical tools and the subsequent understanding of ideas/things in their perspective & contexts; and of course we need to have the ‘openness’ to weigh our theories with the emergent ideas/tools and new body of evidences + do course corrections and modifications; which is all about rigor and intellectual/scholarly honesty.

Histories & details of things that were developed in the past are not merely about projecting the future, but they are also for enabling us to grapple with the present. Hence, incorrect moorings result in catastrophic issues even now, leave alone what our half-baked basics would lead to in future.

For example, the fact is that there has been no ‘Aryan Invasion of India’ in the past. Another example closer home: Our/Tamil Sangam literature period’s ‘ancientness’ is mostly bunkum – but OTOH is supported & scaffolded by a bunch of lies or by teleologies at best. (another popular myth would be about ‘Euclid’ & his(!) books; there are many, many like this! Another funny superstition, but accepted as ‘truth’ is about the so-called ‘Dravidian race.’)

For all these takes, there is a significant body of evidence – but they are ignored and/or not part of the oft-repeated or if I may say so, ‘mainstream’ narratives. Of course, it is not about pushing some contrapuntal ‘narrative’ without any basis – but about a serious & non-sentimental attempt at analyzing & understanding our pasts.

But, many of our self-styled teachers, even that minuscule % of them who actually know what they are talking about, do not want to stir the nests of hornets. This is understandable from the perspective of evolutionary psychology and self-preservation – but it reeks of the very worst kind of sophistry and flies in the face of the very definition of ‘teaching.’

When a teacher so-called stops learning and merely keeps parroting the conventional nonsense – instead of examining the ‘handed-down myths,’ then steadfastly adhering to the truth and propagating them, it is time to garrote him/her. Pardon the random pun-rhyme.

Still. What is the problem with sticking to the established conventions and narratives? Why can’t our youth figure out later for themselves as to what is the truth and what are urban legends – if they were so inclined & interested?

Fair enough.

However. My answer would be: Lying to the young is wrong; period.

(1952, Translated by Robin Milner-Gulland and Peter Levi)

Lying to the young is wrong.
Proving to them that lies are true is wrong.
Telling them
that God’s in his heaven
and all’s well with the world
is wrong.
They know what you mean.
They are people too.
Tell them the difficulties
can’t be counted,

and let them see
not only
what will be
but see
with clarity
these present times.
Say obstacles exist they must encounter,
sorrow comes,
hardship happens.
The hell with it.

Who never knew
the price of happiness
will not be happy.
Forgive no error
you recognize,
it will repeat itself,
a hundredfold
and afterward
our pupils
will not forgive in us
what we forgave.

We should not lie to our young, period. It is not done.

Also because YY said so.

Also, also – it is one of the reasons why, this blog continues on its stellar path of ‘political incorrectness.’ As I personally know, some wayward youth actually & indeed read the blog entries fairly regularly. Peace be upon them.


5 Responses to “Lying to the young is wrong – notes”

  1. Lying is a strong word. But there is such a thing ‘rationing the truth’ based on how ready you think the recipient is (not just for adults). Admittedly, in this approach, there is a healthy dose of condescension and attempt to nudge towards a desired direction which one may earnestly consider appropriate (i.e. not some devious machination).

    How do balance our urge to bring to bear our own biases of what deem ‘age appropriate’.

    ‘Sea is blue because that is how it is’ and pushing ‘Raman effectங்க்றது…’ kinda explanations to later. But that is again how we may think, the child is infinitely curious and may absorb it. Difficult to judge.

    One is wary of overload putting the child off the topic itself. So it is a perpetual calculation!

    Needless to say, we make these calls with adults too. When dealing with the accreted convictions, which have kinda bled into the adult’s sense of identity itself, confrontationally dropping truth-bombs can be quite counterproductive. In many situations you not may care about the recepient adult one way or the other. But in some cases you may like/respect/care about the person. So a ‘cultivation’ can’t be completely forsworn insofar as புரைதீர்ந்த நன்மை பயக்குமெனின்.

    • Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously”

      –2 Corinthians 9:6

      I do not believe in this homily. But merely believe in sharing what one thinks one knows a decent bit about – as long as there is openness, for a given value of openness.

      But, one cannot forcefeed; one can only sow seeds at best, nishkaama karma and all that; of course easy to talk about them – though it helps if one has been in the teaching business for a few decades fulltime/parttime – or so one thinks. Therefore there are no illusions of wide-eyed-wonder or I-will-change-the-world one-at-a-time or setting-myself-up-for-failure and therefore can-cry-later-with-righteous-indignation etc – ymmv.

      Ultimately, it is based on the agency of the recipient (who cannot therefore be a random person, especially merely an IT joker or a Tamil-litteratuer-is-the-epitome-of-moral-compasswallah) that some meaning is made. Ma’am Montessori would agree with me wrt sowing seeds in impressionable, receptive minds – which they would later process one way or the other.

      Balance, including some in the bank helps of course.

  2. KSC Says:

    Aryan Supremacist Bramin Chauvinist

    • Sir, you are wasting your time.

      I may not like you or Churchill, but I know that you adore him, from some past conversations. So.

      He apparently said in some context: “you will never reach your destination if you stop & pelt stones at every dog that barks at you” or something like that.

      No. I am not calling you a dog. On the contrary, I am calling myself a dog and you, your exalted Churchill.

      Please stop pelting stones, because your destination Mr Churchill, wherever that is in your stupid NewJersey shit c/o USofA heaven, is desperately waiting for you. Your pal AK47 is also perhaps there. Good luck.

      Take care. Don’t bother about this aryan brahmin supremacist chauvinist dog. Thanks.

      (I have NEVER blocked anyone on social media, please help me maintain my record)

மேற்கண்ட பதிவு (அல்லது பின்னூட்டங்கள்) குறித்து (விருப்பமிருந்தால்) உரையாடலாமே...

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