Media has been going berserk on the Padmavati film row, with arguments and shouting matches by those who support the film and those who don’t! And in this frenzy came the news about our girl from Haryana winning the Miss World crown and bringing it back to India after 17 years by replying, ‘mother’, to the end of the pageant question- ‘Which profession should be the highest paid and why?’ And her reply again has those that think it was an apt reply and those that don’t.
Both the news are splashed everywhere, so much so that it is difficult to ignore them and kids, especially youngsters are definitely influenced by both the news. This is where we as educators need to step in and help them analyze, deliberate and decide otherwise they will end up taking sides without learning the most essential skills of logical thinking so required in understanding conflict. If we really want to change our education system then its time to start discussing contemporary issues with students. Discussing not arguing or judging!
Our children and youth have a question regarding the Padmavati film row- ‘Who is right?’ Many educators and mothers applauded the reply given by Ms. Chillar to clinch the crown, and our students have a question, ‘She did not answer the question, so will we also be applauded if we don’t answer questions in the right context?’
The Padmavati film row is the right opportunity to teach our children and youth the following-
1. There is never a complete right and wrong in such conflicts, the important part is resolving the conflict to the benefit of both parties and without any harm to a third party.
Discussions are raging about proving each side wrong or each side right but we must realize that in this situation like many such conflicts there is no innocent party or the right and wrong party as both parties have broken rules and have erred. The choice now is either to continue to argue that this party is less guilty or more violent than the other or to ensure that both parties are brought face to face to resolve the conflict. Youth need our help to understand how media also has two sides, the ‘reporting’ and the ‘rehashing’, it is the rehashing that we need to be careful about and train our children to understand that it happens for TRP and once they understand the difference they will be able to make logical choices instead of depending on the ‘brain washing’ of the rehashing!
2. Creative liberty or liberty of speech is our right but we also have to respect the right of beliefs and sentiments.
We are a proud democratic country and we have the right to speak our mind, our thoughts and practice creativity. But with every right, comes a responsibility and it is this combination that we need to make our children and youth aware about. What they speak and how they speak can hurt someone’s beliefs and sentiments, are they aware of the same? Or are they clueless about the same? Or are they aware but choose to ignore the same? This requires intelligence, sensitivity and empathy, all signs of a good leader. So help students to analyze their decisions, thoughts, and speech on these guidelines before they decide to speak, print or go public.
3. Tackling upset people by becoming more upset with them does not diffuse the situation. What helps is knowledge of conflict resolution.
Our children need to be given the understanding that Violence can never be condoned and any kind of violence is deplorable. But violence cannot be defused by sarcasm, mocking or shouting. Violence happens when the thinking brain has stopped thinking and is now on flight or fight mode. The more you shout, threaten or mock such a brain it will resort to more violence as it is on ‘shut down mode’. The only way to calm violence is to bring in conflict resolution. This needs to be practiced at the micro level by teachers in schools and parents at home by not resorting to violence when tackling an angry child or teenager or by shouting and mocking their behavior. This will only ignite and incite them to do more bad behavior. If children see adults handling a volatile situation in a clam manner and succeeding in diffusing the same then they will grow up learning conflict resolution skills that will go a long way in ensuring that they become law abiding citizens that contribute to a peaceful society and world. Our children will face violence in the form of bullies and bullies cannot be done away with more bullying! Conflict resolution is a 21st century life skill that we need to ingrain and pass on to our youth.
The Miss World win is the perfect opportunity to help young impressionable minds understand the following:
1. Ms. Chillar is a young budding medical student, so she is a perfect example of beauty and brains. In today’s world it is important to understand the meaning of beauty is not just in being born with great looks but making yourself beautiful with exercise, a good food plan and grooming. All that is possible for everyone. And the earlier we make them aware of the same is better. Healthy food should not be confused with dieting and exercise should not become exercise binging! Grooming is all about health and hygiene.
2. So what is a good figure? Will be a common topic of discussion in young boys and girls, well, its time to help them understand that a good figure is one that makes you feel comfortable and healthy. Going on life threatening diets or severe gym plans is only a temporary and dangerous solution.
3. Even in a beauty pageant the clincher is always the question and answer round, so you may win all the beauty and fashion rounds but it is your presence of mind, confidence and smartness that ultimately gets you the crown or keeps it at arms length from you. This helps children understand that nothing in life is dependent on just good looks!
But a teenager asked me the most important queries on the question Ms. Chillar was asked and the reply she gave, the query, ‘Was her reply correct?’, to which I said well she did not answer the question but replied to it in a different context. Because after the entire question posed was, ‘Which profession should be paid the highest salary and why?’ and the meaning of the word profession is - a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification. So yes her reply, ‘Mother’ is not the apt reply to the question but she smartly gave it a different context and thus won the heart of the jury.
And now the teenager asked me a second question- ‘So should not schools also allow us to answer questions in a different context? Why do they insist on having a right answer…only one answer?’
And this is what I leave to all educators and parents to think about, especially those that are applauding Ms. Chillar’s reply, why cant we give our students the same freedom when it comes to replying to questions that can have more than one context?
Its time we used contemporary everyday affairs to help us teach our students and children so that they are better equipped to face the world and its trails and tribulations on their own with confidence, zeal, determination and logic.
Dr.Swati Popat Vats