Original Articles

Manufacturing Zombies – by Waseem Altaf

ZombiesWriting textbooks for students who are in a formative stage is serious business. Errors and omissions on part of the writers due to lethargy, ignorance, or self-complacency are pardonable and can be corrected. However when textbooks are written with the express aim of misguiding the pupils and indoctrinating adherence to status quo, support for the regime in power, glorification of war, self-righteousness, hatred for other religious and ethnic groups, it becomes a criminal act where an entire generation is spoiled at the altar of vested interests of the powerful few. Not only that but the ability to ask questions, which lies at the core of the learning process is throttled by discouraging students from challenging dogmas and conventional views. This strain of malicious intent is particularly visible in social sciences where disinformation is deliberately disseminated.
The entire process of writing textbooks is closely monitored by the State, where government employees write books, which are approved by the Ministry of Education and then published by the textbook boards which again are part of the State; hence there is no room for any “deviation” from the “official version”. During Zia’s 11 years of infamy, the name of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was omitted from the textbooks, while the same texts were all praise for Zia, extolling him as a pious man, chosen by God, who made Pakistan “the fortress of Islam”. No textbooks condemn military rule rather there is criticism of the democratic system and the political leadership. Nothing is contained in the text which garners civic virtue and education in democracy. Then there is substantial material on the conduct of wars with India when compared to content relevant to the constitution, issues of governance, political economy, the society and culture. Hence violence and wars as a means to resolve international issues is appreciated, the significance of national security and the pivotal role of the armed forces are imparted and “they are the sole saviors” is stuffed in the minds of the students. Wars of 65 and 71 are presented as victories whereas they were actually lost. Hatred for Hindus, their culture and religion is presented with slanted descriptions. India and the Congress are made synonymous with Hinduism, whereas it is mentioned nowhere that there are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan and seven Presidents of the Indian National Congress were Muslims. Facts are also twisted when the Indian revolt becomes war of independence rather jihad undertaken by the Muslims alone. However no mention is made of the Indian Muslims who fought against the Turk Muslims during the First World War. The role of Aligarh is overemphasized in everything progressive benefiting the Indian Muslims and the UP culture is called the birthplace of Pakistani culture. And if Pakistani culture is a baby of the UP culture then why is the local culture of areas forming Pakistan, looked down upon by those migrating from UP. What was the role of former East Pakistanis in seeking independence for Pakistan and did they not have a rich and vibrant culture. The textbooks are silent on these issues.
As you cannot challenge what is written in the textbook the system discourages critical thinking. On the other hand it revolves around gaining maximum marks by the students. Hence the teacher and the taught are primarily focused on adopting strategies which ensure high grades. Rote memorization is one common tool. Our Students get so used to it that even while appearing for the CSS exam you find them mugging. The situation is so grim that even at the university level; teachers who try to impart knowledge and invoke independent reasoning are disliked by most of the students while those you tell them which questions to prepare for the exams along with the answers (page to page) are the most revered ones. Agitations have been reported when the paper was “out of guess”. In South Punjab, university teachers considered going on strike when they were asked by the Vice Chancellor to conduct research. “Notes” are the most prized item and the common denominator which binds all stakeholders in the system of education.
In the absence of cognitive development at the abstract level, dogmas and clichés are what we are left with to offer. When we fail to critically appreciate a phenomena due to lack of an adequate reasoning ability we replace it with high sounding words, slogans, and boastful pretentions, yet totally devoid of any substance. All this is couched in high emotionality. Emotions further incapacitate us to think critically. Hence we transform into a living being with little thinking and high emotions. Just forget about the illiterate; just see how a large part of our intelligentsia reacted to the Raymond Davis Affair, how we invented different theories on 9/11; sometimes blaming the Jews and sometimes even the American establishment. Anybody who hears about Aafia Siddiqui or Mukhtaran Mai gets emotional yet how many of us really know what actually happened to them. Should we recognize Israel as an independent state? No not at all, most would instantly respond. But what is the harm in accepting a reality, when we recognize India, an “enemy country” why can’t we do the same in case of Israel. Here, nobody has the answer, yet lot of sloganeering and emotionality.
So an emotionally charged individual devoid of critical thinking is the product our educational system is bestowing upon this nation. Just look at our academia, our men of letters, our politicians, our judges, our media persons the generals and the mullah, all weary of rational thinking, not only charged with emotions but also displaying arrogance and self-righteousness. Intolerance is the natural consequence which today is so pervasive in our society.
School is the nursery of the nation and as long as we do not replace the contents of our textbooks by setting aside our vested interests, by being honest and truthful and portraying the facts and not concocted stories, we will not be able to produce useful members of the civic society who are creative, innovative and productive, with a scientific approach towards their discipline and towards life. However if we fail, the alternative is too horrifying to contemplate in a society which presently lacks reasoning, is too emotional and is overflowing with intolerance.

About the author

Taj

Ali Abbas Taj is the Editor of Let Us Build Pakistan.
@aliabbastaj on Twitter

1 Comment

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  • The article raises the most fundamental and vital questions.

    The Mecca- born Maulana Abul kalam Azad , who held the

    Education portfolio in India post-Partition, said:

    `..it is a birthright of every individual to receive at

    least the basic education without which he cannot fully

    discharge his duties as a citizen.’

    In Pakistan the State invested its all into fashioning

    and maintaining a Shariah-based polity.

    The national poet of India, Tagore, amongst myriad other

    achievements, expended thought and effort into a model

    of indigenous, GURU-SASYA oriented system of education

    realised in the universally acclaimed SHANTINIKETAN.

    Pakistan’s national poet, Iqbal, a great poet and the

    recipient of the most excellent education of the period,

    left behind no such legacy. His poetry addresses the

    youth assuming them to be soldiers of the Ummah and

    serves to `disconnect’, rather than `ground’, these

    future inheritors of an almost entirely fantastic

    `Golden Age of Islam.’

    So long as a people deny their indigenous culture, their

    millenia of heritage; so long as they revile their own

    `pagan’ ancestry, so long as Islamic Imperialism and

    Arab hegemony remain their ideals of excellence and

    perfection, they will remain slaves of systemic

    contradictions.

    Until and unless Mullahism is neutralized, it will remain

    impossible to have an education system worthy of the

    name.