Habib University Conference:
Habib University, Pakistan's leading liberal arts institution of higher learning, is leading the way forward with "Postcolonial Higher Education Conference (PHEC)", an annual conference held each year at the university's Karachi campus since 2014. The conference attracts scholars from around the world.
This year’s PHEC's theme was “Inheritance of Injustice” to highlight the results of historical injustices seen today in many facets across the world, from economic and ecological to geo-political, according to a report in Newsline Magazine. The conference featured top global academics from South Asia, Africa, the US and the UK.
The keynote at this year's conference was delivered by Dr. Mwangi wa Githinji professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Dr. Githinji discussed how “inherited economic, social, language and ecological structures have transmitted colonial injustice into the present.”
He suggested that “development still is understood in a deficit model based on dualities with the aim to move countries to be more like the ‘modern’ and ‘industrialized’ world” and called for education systems to also break out of their post-colonial inheritance to indigenizing systems in which “language is a library of ideas and telling a story allows us to create our own histories.”
Answering questions at the conference Professor Githinji said “liberal arts and sciences education allows us to become knowledge creators rather than just consumers. Part of this process requires a rethinking of our history, even before colonialization. Telling of a story is the creation of a memory.”
South African scholar Dr. Suren Pillay of the University of the Western Cape who also attended the conference said that the “intellectuals must struggle to decolonize knowledge, by not taking progress and civilization at face value, but by telling more multiple and messy stories that co-constitute the story of the modern state.”
Education to Colonize Minds:
Dr. Edward Said (1935-2003), Palestine-born Columbia University professor and the author of "Orientalism", described it as the ethnocentric study of non-Europeans by Europeans. Dr. Said wrote that the Orientalists see the people of Asia, Africa and the Middle East as “gullible” and “devoid of energy and initiative.” European colonization led to the decline and destruction of the prosperity of every nation they ruled. India is a prime example of it. India was the world's largest economy producing over a quarter of the world's GDP when the British arrived. At the end of the British Raj, India's contribution was reduced to less than 2% of the world GDP.
In his "Prison Notebooks", Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist theorist and politician, says that a class can exercise its power not merely by the use of force but by an institutionalized system of moral and intellectual leadership that promotes certain ideas and beliefs favorable to it. For Gramsci "cultural hegemony" is maintained through the consent of the dominated class which assures the intellectual and material supremacy of the dominant class.
In "Masks of Conquest", author Gauri Viswanathan says that the British curriculum was introduced in India to "mask" the economic exploitation of the colonized. Its main purpose was to colonize the minds of the natives to sustain colonial rule.
Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o in his book "Decolonizing the Mind" talks about the "culture of apemanship and parrotry" among the natives trained by their colonial masters to maintain control of their former colonies in Africa. He argues that "the freedom for western finance capital and for the vast transnational monopolies under its umbrella to continue stealing from the countries and people of Latin America, Africa, Asia and Polynesia is today protected by conventional and nuclear weapons".
Cambridge Curriculum in Pakistan:
The colonial discourse of the superiority of English language and western education continues with a system of elite schools that uses Cambridge curriculum in Pakistan.
Over 270,000 Pakistani students from elite schools participated in Cambridge O-level and A-level International (CIE) exams in 2016, an increase of seven per cent over the prior year.
Cambridge IGCSE exams is also growing in popularity in Pakistan, with enrollment increasing by 16% from 10,364 in 2014-15 to 12,019 in 2015-16. Globally there has been 10% growth in entries across all Cambridge qualifications in 2016, including 11% growth in entries for Cambridge International A Levels and 8 per cent for Cambridge IGCSE, according to Express Tribune newspaper.
The United Kingdom remains the top source of international education for Pakistanis. 46,640 students, the largest number of Pakistani students receiving international education anywhere, are doing so at Pakistani universities in joint degree programs established with British universities, according to UK Council for International Student Affairs.
Teach Critical Thinking:
Pakistani educators and policy makers need to see the western colonial influences and their detrimental effects on the minds of youngsters. They need to promote liberal arts education and to do serious research to create knowledge. They need to improve learning by helping students learn to think for themselves critically. Such reforms will require students to ask more questions and to find answers for themselves through their own research rather than taking the words of their textbook authors and teachers as the ultimate truth.
There is increasing recognition in Pakistan and other nations colonized in the past by the West of the need to "decolonize knowledge" and to deal with the entrenched "injustices inherited" from the colonial masters. Part of this post-colonial conversation is to stop being uncritical consumers of knowledge and narratives produced by the West and to encourage creation of local knowledge in the former colonies. This is a positive welcome trend toward real decolonization in Asia and Africa that I hope gathers serious momentum with more liberal arts centers of learning like the Karachi-based Habib University in the near future.
Here's an interesting discussion of the legacy of the British Raj in India as seen by writer-diplomat Shashi Tharoor:
Pakistan Day: Freeing the Colonized Minds
Alam vs Hoodbhoy
Inquiry Based Learning
Dr. Ata ur Rehman Defends Higher Education Reform
Pakistan's Rising College Enrollment Rates
Pakistan Beat BRICs in Highly Cited Research Papers
Launch of "Eating Grass: Pakistan's Nuclear Program"
Upwardly Mobile Pakistan
Impact of Industrial Revolution
Hindutva: Legacy of British Raj
The true definition of development is what we see here in the US, China, Russia, and Western part of Europe.
Here, liberal arts majors typically end up as a filing clerks, George W Bush and Donald Trump excluded.
Shams: " The true definition of development is what we see here in the US, China, Russia, and Western part of Europe. "
The fact that most 4 year engineering/pre-med colleges in the United States require a substantial number of general education credits is testament to the importance of liberal arts education in areas such as language and history.
Understanding history is important for people to know who they are and where they from. It helps them celebrate their heritage and avoid the past mistakes to guide them to a better future.
Liberal arts education helps students to analyze and think critically and communicate ideas effectively.
Ideas are the foundation of a civilized society....ideas such as democracy, justice, rule-of-law and peaceful coexistence that are essential for peace and security, development and growth.
I would have loved to have attended that conference. I have spent just over 26 years of my professional life living and working in “developing countries” that were once colonies of the British, The Spanish, the Portuguese, and the French.
I have occasionally taught Biology 101 to first year university students. It’s a mandatory course with very few students having any intention of becoming biologists. As an attempt to stimulate some interest in my lectures, I start the first class with the origin of food. Most young people are unaware that potatoes came from the Andes, maize from Mesoamerica, black-eyed peas from Africa, chili peppers and tomatoes from Central America, mangoes from South Asia, bananas from Papua New Guinea, and coffee from the Sufi monks of Yemen.
If our national diets have changed so drastically in a mere five centuries, then I wonder if cultures have also flowed in two directions: did the Vietnamese teach the French how to cook, and did Ghana give the English their sense of humor?
Steve: " If our national diets have changed so drastically in a mere five centuries, then I wonder if cultures have also flowed in two directions: did the Vietnamese teach the French how to cook, and did Ghana give the English their sense of humor?"
You rightly point out some of the benefits of interaction between cultures as a result of normal global movement of people across regions and continents.
Colonialism is the worst form of such interaction in which one side, the colonial master, has all the power to extract benefits and deprive the other party, the colonized, of their most basic rights as human beings.
Western philosophy is racist
Academic philosophy in ‘the West’ ignores and disdains the thought traditions of China, India and Africa. This must change
ainstream philosophy in the so-called West is narrow-minded, unimaginative, and even xenophobic. I know I am levelling a serious charge. But how else can we explain the fact that the rich philosophical traditions of China, India, Africa, and the Indigenous peoples of the Americas are completely ignored by almost all philosophy departments in both Europe and the English-speaking world?
Western philosophy used to be more open-minded and cosmopolitan. The first major translation into a European language of the Analects, the saying of Confucius (551-479 BCE), was done by Jesuits, who had extensive exposure to the Aristotelian tradition as part of their rigorous training. They titled their translation Confucius Sinarum Philosophus, or Confucius, the Chinese Philosopher (1687).
One of the major Western philosophers who read with fascination Jesuit accounts of Chinese philosophy was Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716). He was stunned by the apparent correspondence between binary arithmetic (which he invented, and which became the mathematical basis for all computers) and the I Ching, or Book of Changes, the Chinese classic that symbolically represents the structure of the Universe via sets of broken and unbroken lines, essentially 0s and 1s. (In the 20th century, the psychoanalyst Carl Jung was so impressed with the I Ching that he wrote a philosophical foreword to a translation of it.) Leibniz also said that, while the West has the advantage of having received Christian revelation, and is superior to China in the natural sciences, ‘certainly they surpass us (though it is almost shameful to confess this) in practical philosophy, that is, in the precepts of ethics and politics adapted to the present life and the use of mortals’.
The German philosopher Christian Wolff echoed Leibniz in the title of his public lecture Oratio de Sinarum Philosophia Practica, or Discourse on the Practical Philosophy of the Chinese (1721). Wolff argued that Confucius showed that it was possible to have a system of morality without basing it on either divine revelation or natural religion. Because it proposed that ethics can be completely separated from belief in God, the lecture caused a scandal among conservative Christians, who had Wolff relieved of his duties and exiled from Prussia. However, his lecture made him a hero of the German Enlightenment, and he immediately obtained a prestigious position elsewhere. In 1730, he delivered a second public lecture, De Rege Philosophante et Philosopho Regnante, or On the Philosopher King and the Ruling Philosopher, which praised the Chinese for consulting ‘philosophers’ such as Confucius and his later follower Mengzi (fourth century BCE) about important matters of state.
Chinese philosophy was also taken very seriously in France. One of the leading reformers at the court of Louis XV was François Quesnay (1694-1774). He praised Chinese governmental institutions and philosophy so lavishly in his work Despotisme de la China (1767) that he became known as ‘the Confucius of Europe’. Quesnay was one of the originators of the concept of laissez-faire economics, and he saw a model for this in the sage-king Shun, who was known for governing by wúwéi (non-interference in natural processes). The connection between the ideology of laissez-faire economics and wúwéi continues to the present day. In his State of the Union address in 1988, the US president Ronald Reagan quoted a line describing wúwéi from the Daodejing, which he interpreted as a warning against government regulation of business. (Well, I didn’t say that every Chinese philosophical idea was a good idea.)
Don’t Panic, Liberal Arts Majors. The Tech World Wants You.
Surely one day the ability to interface directly with the nanomachinery connected to our brains will render computer science as we know it obsolete. When experts start arguing for its continued relevance, undergraduates choosing a major will begin to realize that the obscure art of manually punching arcane symbols into keyboards is no longer a safe bet. At the present moment, however, it is only liberal arts majors who have to wonder whether all of the articles and books promoting the marketability of their chosen discipline should make them more or less uneasy about the future. Two additions to this growing field have appeared just in time to try to soothe the post-graduation panic that some within the class of 2017 may be experiencing: George Anders’s “You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Education” and Randall Stross’s “A Practical Education: Why Liberal Arts Majors Make Great Employees.”
According to both Anders and Stross, the ever-expanding tech sector is now producing career opportunities in fields — project management, recruitment, human relations, branding, data analysis, market research, design, fund-raising and sourcing, to name some — that specifically require the skills taught in the humanities. To thrive in these areas, one must be able to communicate effectively, read subtle social and emotional cues, make persuasive arguments, adapt quickly to fluid environments, interpret new forms of information while translating them into a compelling narrative and anticipate obstacles and opportunities before they arise. Programs like English or history represent better preparation, the two authors argue, for the demands of the newly emerging “rapport sector” than vocationally oriented disciplines like engineering or finance. Though it does not automatically land one in a particular career, training in the humanities, when pitched correctly, will ultimately lead to gainful and fulfilling employment. Indeed, by the time they reach what Stross terms the “peak earning ages,” 56-60, liberal arts majors earn on average $2,000 more per year than those with pre-professional degrees (if advanced degrees in both categories are included).
While “You Can Do Anything” and “A Practical Education” supply useful talking points in support of the financial viability of studying the liberal arts, they may arouse more fear than hope. Both feature myriad anecdotes of job searches, all with happy endings, but the journey there invariably proves daunting, circuitous and chancy. Moreover, the reality that apparently favors liberal arts majors is precisely what makes the current job market so forbidding: extreme precariousness. Trained to be flexible and adaptable, these students are well equipped, according to Anders, to navigate an unstable job market, where companies, fields and sometimes whole industries rise and fall at a nauseating clip, where automation is rendering once coveted skills redundant and where provisional short-term jobs, freelance assignments, part-time gigs, unpaid internships and self-employment are replacing long-term, full-time salaried positions that include rights and benefits protected by unions. While Anders, a contributing writer at Forbes magazine, clearly wants the best for recent liberal arts graduates, his pep talk often consists of rebranding the treacherous market conditions of the 21st century as part of a thrilling new frontier. Instability can promote “quirky-job-hopping” and greater “autonomy.” Recent liberal arts graduates who find these conditions less than inviting, Anders says, simply need to discover the proper spirit of adventure — the same spirit that led them to their chosen field of study. But somehow it seems unlikely that his analogy to white-water rafting will get them excited to send out yet another batch of cover letters and résumés.
It wasn’t English
Zubeida MustafaDecember 08, 2017
The fact is that we are obsessed with English to an irrational extent. A fortnight earlier, at a language conference at Sindh University, Hyderabad, it was reported in this paper that “scholars had urged the youth to learn English to survive and progress in a competitive, fast-paced and challenging world”.
One would not argue with the suggestion that English facilitates the youth to get ahead in a globalised world. But we must recognise that we also have people who can contribute to society and the economy without being fluent in it. I know many young men whose expertise in computer programming and internet technology is excellent though their competence in English is perfunctory — just enough to comprehend technical literature on the subject (which I can’t).
Should they be penalised for their incompetence in English? Yet English has been made the ‘gatekeeper’ in our education system — to use the term used by Maleeha Sattar, a lecturer at Iqra University, Islamabad — when we cannot even teach the language properly to all our students.
As a result, English is not only destroying our indigenous languages which stand in danger of becoming extinct, it is also undermining our education system and intensifying the class divide in our society.
In the course of her MPhil research, Maleeha Sattar found that by making English a compulsory subject that must be cleared in school-leaving examinations across the country, the authorities marginalise a large number of students. Mainly from the underprivileged classes, they fail the compulsory English exam. According to her data obtained from the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Rawalpindi, for the last five years, nearly a third of students on average failed compulsory English every year. They cannot proceed further in their education which affects their future prospects.
A speaker at the Hyderabad conference, Dr Asantha Attanayake, a professor of English at Colombo University, identified another problem that English poses. The unrealistic expectations set by the ‘brown sahibs’ for students in terms of accent, elocutionary standards and usage can push many behind.
But Sri Lanka has made adjustments to prevent students from being disadvantaged on account of English. Asantha told me that it is mandatory for all students to appear for the English paper in their General Certificate Examination (Advanced Level). But they are not required to pass it to qualify as GCE (A/L) and can join diploma/certificate programmes. However, they must pass their English paper for admission to a university. Sri Lanka is also more sympathetic to the idea of young children starting their education in their home language which might be Sinhalese or Tamil. Some schools introduce English at the secondary level and that too “incrementally” (ie only for a few subjects).
The point to be noted is that in Pakistan many talented young people are losing out because they never got the opportunity to learn good English, that has been made the be all and end all of success in life. As for our perfect-English-speaking diplomats, one can ask them where have our foreign policy ‘successes’ taken Pakistan?
Decolonisation of higher education: Dismantling epistemic violence and Eurocentrism in South Africa
Since the end of the oppressive and racist apartheid system in 1994, epistemologies and knowledge systems at most South African universities have not considerably changed; they remain rooted in colonial, apartheid and Western worldviews and epistemological traditions. The curriculum remains largely Eurocentric and continues to reinforce white and Western dominance and privilege. This article traces the roots of Eurocentrism and epistemic violence at universities. The author argues that South Africa must tackle and dismantle the epistemic violence and hegemony of Eurocentrism, completely rethink, reframe and reconstruct the curriculum and place South Africa, Southern Africa and Africa at the centre of teaching, learning and research. However, this will not be easy as opposition to change is entrenched in the university structures. The movement to radically transform and decolonise higher education must find ways to hold institutions accountable and maintain the non-violent and intellectual struggle until epistemic violence and Eurocentrism are dismantled.
South African students and a small number of progressive academics began a campaign in 2015 to decolonise the curriculum at universities ‘by ending the domination of Western epistemological traditions, histories and figures’ (Molefe 2016:32). In particular, the students have called for the end of domination by ‘white, male, Western, capitalist, heterosexual, European worldviews’ in higher education and incorporation of other South African, African and global ‘perspectives, experiences [and] epistemologies’ as the central tenets of the curriculum, teaching, learning and research in the country (Shay 2016).
Students have questioned not only the lack of transformation in the higher education sector but also the settlement that ended apartheid more than two decades ago. Jacobs (2016) calls the settlement between the apartheid regime and the African National Congress ‘the series of political, social and economic deals in which the racial inequalities of apartheid and wealth disparities largely remain intact and which benefits whites in general’. While the 1994 settlement has brought political change, it has not done much to tackle poverty and inequality, which is an all-too-common lived experience of the black majority. Thus, the student activists speak about disrupting ‘whiteness’ in society, the economy and at universities. The whiteness they are trying to disrupt has been imposed since colonial times as a ‘symbol of purity’ and has defined ‘what it means to be civilised, modern and human’ (Sardar 2008:xiii). This whiteness is still engaged in daily open and/or subtle racism and marginalisation of black people.
Nwadeyi (2016) argues that ‘colonialism, apartheid and other vehicles for entrenching white supremacy did not only affect political rights or economic freedoms’. They have affected every aspect of life and their effects and legacies are still entrenched in South Africa. Writing about Frantz Fanon’s works in a foreword to the 2008 edition of Black Skins, White Masks, Sardar (2008:xviii) admits that much has changed in the world since Fanon wrote this and other books. However, ‘the underlying structures of oppression and injustice remain the same’. This is particularly true in post-apartheid South Africa. Whereas political freedom was achieved in 1994, many structural imbalances, inequalities and injustices remain stumbling blocks for the emancipation of black South Africans. Institutions of higher learning are one of these stumbling blocks. As Sardar (2008) points out:
In Pakistan, English fiction is gathering pace in its search for approval and recognition
The number of writers and books is increasingly exponentially.
Authors of Pakistani origin writing in English are on fire abroad. And in Pakistan, they are igniting a frisson of excitement and minor pyrotechnics among their readership. It is a moment to celebrate. If this reviewer could create awards, say, the Herald’s Best Novels Awards 2017, these would go to Osama Siddique, for his superb, succinct yet vast book Snuffing Out the Moon, and to Sami Shah for Boy of Fire and Earth. With these exceptional novels, the two writers have changed the texture and tone of Pakistani English fiction.
Irrefutable evidence that possession, and being possessed, is the current state of Pakistani English literature can be found in The Djinn Falls in Love, a captivating collection of short stories edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin. Included in this collection are spellbinding and riveting stories by contemporary writers of Pakistani origin such as Sami Shah and Usman T Malik. Transformative? Yes.
Most of the authors getting attention are those who emerged on the international scene and are on their third or fourth novel. Mohsin Hamid with Exit West and Kamila Shamsie with Home Fire made it to the longlist for the Man Booker Prize in 2017. Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, too, was shortlisted for the Booker, in 2007.
Pakistani novelists located in Pakistan and abroad – at first mostly women; now increasingly women and men in equal numbers – have been writing in English for 70 years.
Getting noticed and unnoticed in unequal measure and owning this tongue of the Empire, they have been telling stories that chip away at boundaries and categories within ourselves and between “us” and “them”, the colonised and the coloniser, the post-Empire and the new empires.
The numbers are increasing exponentially. This alone is exhilarating. Over 100 writers have over 150 novels and many anthologies among them. But they have not necessarily written 150 different and good stories which resonate with an audience beyond a small elite group. And this may be because we cannot exorcise our colonial past or rise beyond our vantage points of birth.
they have a tendency to be the sole spokesperson for Pakistan, speaking to a foreign power in the way it wants to be addressed and, in the process, strangulating and muffling all other voices. The urgency to be the native informant. Why is this so? The answer is complicated. It may boil down to geographical boundaries and political blueprints imposed on us by our colonial masters and the abused nature of our still-colonised society in a country that, to foreign interests, seems nothing more than a potash mine, a petroleum field or a port – the great plantation and its house slaves yearning not to be free.
Colonisation tends to keep on giving long after the colonisers have physically left. Literary careers are made in the nostalgia for it. The writers who are nostalgic about it are labelled as native informants mostly by those who are bitter about their success. These native informants, the accusations go, tend to continue having the out-of-body experience of never being able to be themselves. They can only see themselves through eyes that are not their own — always imagining and narrating reality in a way that might be pleasing to the colonial abuser. They pick up subjects that are pleasing to the abuser. They create characters that fit the characterisations created by the abuser. They stick to the dominant power’s narrative.
The novels that get praise abroad, and subsequently in Pakistan, promote narratives written in the tradition of taking cues from elsewhere and seeing Pakistan from a foreigner’s eyes. Even the websites for the authors published abroad do not mention reviews and interviews published in Pakistani magazines or newspapers.
Education In Pakistan And The Need For Dynamic Organic Curriculum
Education is the wholistic development of an individual. Intellectual, moral and emotional knowledge are crucial to achieve the end wherein a pupil becomes a socially responsible, compassionate and functional member of a society. Education is more than what any school can provide to a child, and the learning does not, cannot and should not stop once a child steps out school boundaries.
In most parts of the world, parents are encouraged to become every bit a part of a child’s educational journey and become key stakeholders in turning children into the finest specimens of humanity. But unfortunately in Pakistan, a peculiar and worrying trend is emerging; keeping curriculum a secret from the parents/families.
School teachers are handed out curriculum guidelines as set by various international examination boards, however, parents are increasingly not being allowed to review the syllabus under the pretext that sharing the curriculum feeds into the parental competition, causes unnecessary stress to the students as they are enrolled in extra tuition to get ahead and reduces the effectiveness of the teachers at school.
Not only are all these excuses merely trying to treat the symptoms, they also take away the ability of providing a more all-round learning experience as children cannot be engaged at home for reinforcement of any concepts that are under discussion at the school. The curriculum, resources, reference books, activities are now seen as the competitive advantage one school might have over another, leading to a very unhealthy trend and a race that neither serves the interests of students nor parents.
Monotony Rules The Roost
Besides the increasingly safeguarding and concealment of these ‘strategic’ resources, the curriculum guidelines laid out are itself confusing and have unrealistic expectations of school managements. Someone who has never met the teachers or a class of students, can hardly gauge the calibre of either; but still gets to decide how long each topic should take and how soon a class – of 2nd graders for example – should master the art of multiplying. At the same time, the guidelines conclude that the concept of division is beyond the cognitive capacity of a 7 year old.
The curriculum followed by most schools do not take into account the varying capabilities and learning curves of individual children. There is no regard for differing interests and inclinations. Students remain spectators that have no control over the flow of the game. Though the “One Size Fits All” approach serves administrative objectives of running a school, it in no way caters to individualized needs, requirements and progress of students.
Solution: Dynamic Organic Curriculum
The solution to this problem of our stagnant and didactic curriculum approach is two-pronged. First, the power to create, curate and adapt the curriculum needs to be shifted to the people who are closest to students and have a deep understanding of their learning styles, capabilities and cognitive boundaries. These include teachers, principals, and families [whoever is in a position to contribute owing to their own expertise and passion], and last but not the least, students themselves.
The other part of the solution is ensuring that the curriculum itself is flexible and can be personalised to the needs of each student. Individually. The one-size-fits all approach to education is now losing ground. We need to give way to students and allow them to author their own learning, at their own pace and according to their own interests. Apart from the core skills of reading, writing and arithmetic, the children need to be empowered with the ability to learn how they want to, and where they want to and when they want to.
Despicable #American #Media Coverage of #PakistanElections2018. US mainstream media has a voracious appetite for caricaturing, simplifying, and neatly categorizing non-Western people and life, especially #Muslims.
https://www.globalvillagespace.com/the-despicable-american-media-coverage-of-pakistan-elections/ via @GVS_News
There is a massive difference between a white American Anglo-Saxon Protestant’s galvanizing of white nationalism by inciting hate against minorities and the appeal to popular sovereignty by a political figure in a post-colonial society like Pakistan buried under the rubbles of neo-imperial power.
Take for instance an instructive example from the NY Times. After the elections, the title of an article on its twitter feed read as follows: “Is Imran Khan, a legendary cricket player and international sex symbol, about to become the leader of Pakistan, an Islamic republic with nuclear weapons?” And the editorial title read: “Nuclear-Armed Islamic Republic Gets Unpredictable New Leader.” These headlines and the commentaries that followed them toxically combine Islamophobia, Orientalist stereotyping, and copious expenditure of plain ignorance, verging on the bizarre.
They also smack of classic Orientalism: the insidious stereotyping of the East, the Orient, to establish the civilizational superiority of the West. Notice how the first title juxtaposes the image of the licentious brown body, unable to control its carnal desires, with that of the fanatic brown body, always on the precipice of violence. “A sex symbol with nuclear weapons:” how eerily analogous to 19th century Orientalist depictions of Muslims that sutured images of the sensually overflowing harem with that of the barbaric militant. Exoticization and dehumanization often go hand in hand.
Turning to Imran Khan, the newly elected Pakistani Prime Minister; it is true that in his younger years, he was an iconic and attractive cricketer with a massive global following among members of all genders. Yes, he did date multiple women and was widely admired and sought after, much like many other celebrities. But his dating life three to four decades ago is hardly even peripheral let alone central to his politics today. Yet, almost every Western, and sadly even many Indian commentaries on the Pakistani elections, have begun predictably, in the most hackneyed fashion, with a mention of Imran’s so-called “playboy” image and status during his long over cricketing years.
A far more important, ongoing, and relevant aspect of his non-political biography is his role as a leading philanthropist in Pakistan who established the biggest Cancer Hospital in the country in 1994, the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital named after Khan’s mother who died of cancer, where a remarkable 70% patients have received free treatment for almost twenty-five years. He also established a leading university in rural Punjab, Namal University, where underprivileged students receive Bradford University degrees. These philanthropic achievements, a lot more central to Khan’s popularity among the Pakistani masses than his “sex appeal,” receive passing if any mention in the Western media. And the descriptor “unpredictable leader” for Khan is essentially a code word for a brown leader who is not an American stooge, like most of his predecessors.
Returning to the NY Times title: pause also at the phrase “an Islamic republic with nuclear weapons.” NY Times must remind its readers that we are talking about an “Islamic republic” lest they forget that this conversation is about the “Muslim other;” all other possible features and descriptions of a complicated country like Pakistan stand colonized by and reduced to its “Islamic-ness.” I wonder how often the Times has described Israel as a “Jewish state with nuclear weapons”?
Pulitzer prize-winner Nicholas Kristof accused of '#racist #imperialist logic'. It’s easy to imagine #Trump agreeing with some of his ideas about the inherent vice of certain people from certain countries. #xenophobia #misogyny #Islamophobia @alternet https://www.alternet.org/pulitzer-prize-winning-journalist-nicholas-kristof-accused-racist-and-imperialist-logic-ahead-global#.W_9elTvdRkY.twitter
In Feminist Accountability: Disrupting Violence and Transforming Power (December, NYU Press), Ann Russo, associate professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at DePaul University, offers an intersectional analysis that includes chapters on “Disrupting Whiteness,” “Shifting Paradigms to End Violence,” and “Disentangling US Feminism from US Imperialism.”
In the last section, “Resisting the ‘Savior’ Complex,” Russo recalls how Kristof—in his 2009 book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, written with his wife Sheryl WuDunn—”portray[s] the men from the global south as either inherently brutal and violent, or lazy and irresponsible (both constructions synchronistic with the portrayal of men of color and immigrant men from the global south in the dominant culture of the United States).”
“In many poor countries, the problem is not so much individual thugs and rapists but an entire culture of sexual predation,” Kristof asserts. Kristof and WuDunn describe Ethiopia as “where kidnapping and raping girls is a time-honored tradition” and Congo as the “world capital of rape.”
“No doubt the widespread rape and sexual violence against women in the Congo is horrific,” Russo counters, “but [Kristof and WuDunn] explain it as a cultural problem, rather than a social and political [one].” With this myopic focus, they “obscure the role of the United States in fueling this endemic violence and the ongoing instability of the country and thus avoid any consideration of US accountability. For example, [when they discuss the Congo], Kristof and WuDunn do not tell us that our deep dependence on these mineral resources is, in part, what fuels the ongoing conflicts and violence in the region.”
In his win-a-trip contest announcement, Kristof writes that applicants who “don’t look like” him are “welcome.” That may be so. But a pro forma “welcome” can’t erase the impact of the broad strokes with which he has painted whole swaths of people.
This was a problem in 2009. Now, with Trump in the White House, it’s more important than ever to get rid of the myth of the good white liberal savior for once and for all, and stand in opposition to what Russo describes as Kristof’s “ethnocentrist, racist and imperialist logic.”
Overseas Pakistanis extend support to Habib University for reshaping philanthropy
Habib University Foundation USA and members of the Host Committee held a Gala in Houston, Texas on Friday, in support of Habib University and its vision of setting a new standard for higher education in Pakistan. This was the first time that a fundraising event of this scope was held in the United States for a university in Pakistan.
The gala celebrated the generosity of Habib University’s distinguished community of benefactors or Mohsineen, and their steadfast dedication to supporting the University’s quest for transformational change in Pakistan's higher education landscape.
In his introductory speech, Mr. Wasif Rizvi spoke about Habib University’s goal of bringing about societal transformation and the role of philanthropy in higher education in helping create a solid community. “We need to de-link sustainability of education from student tuition fees,” he said while emphasizing to solve three critical challenges to improving higher education in Pakistan.
Mr. Wasif Rizvi further stated that “one of the reasons that we have been able to have this phenomenal response to developing a community of donors is because it is so rooted in our cultural inheritance.” He said that if the message is sincere and represents a great cause, then there is every reason to be optimistic that the community of philanthropists gathered together in Houston would continue to grow.
During the keynote address, Mr. Mehdi Hassan spoke about the importance of education in building a prosperous community and that it was a collective obligation to ensure that all children get good, college education.
“Habib University is a liberal arts college which offers degrees that will take us out of our comfort zones,” he said, adding that education is the most powerful tool we can use to change the world.
The Enlightenment’s Dark Side
How the Enlightenment created modern race thinking, and why we should confront it.
By JAMELLE BOUIE
The Enlightenment is having a renaissance, of sorts. A handful of centrist and conservative writers have reclaimed the 17th- and 18th-century intellectual movement as a response to nationalism and ethnic prejudice on the right and relativism and “identity politics” on the left. Among them are Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist who sees himself as a bulwark against the forces of “chaos” and “postmodernism”; Steven Pinker, the Harvard cognitive psychologist who argues, in Enlightenment Now, for optimism and human progress against those “who despise the Enlightenment ideals of reason, science, humanism, and progress”; and conservative pundit Jonah Goldberg, who, in Suicide of the West, argues in defense of capitalism and Enlightenment liberalism, twin forces he calls “the Miracle” for creating Western prosperity.
In their telling, the Enlightenment is a straightforward story of progress, with major currents like race and colonialism cast aside, if they are acknowledged at all. Divorced from its cultural and historical context, this “Enlightenment” acts as an ideological talisman, less to do with contesting ideas or understanding history, and more to do with identity. It’s a standard, meant to distinguish its holders for their commitment to “rationalism” and “classical liberalism.”
But even as they venerate the Enlightenment, these writers actually underestimate its influence on the modern world. At its heart, the movement contained a paradox: Ideas of human freedom and individual rights took root in nations that held other human beings in bondage and were then in the process of exterminating native populations. Colonial domination and expropriation marched hand in hand with the spread of “liberty,” and liberalism arose alongside our modern notions of race and racism.
It took the scientific thought of the Enlightenment to create an enduring racial taxonomy and the “color-coded, white-over-black” ideology with which we are familiar.
These weren’t incidental developments or the mere remnants of earlier prejudice. Race as we understand it—a biological taxonomy that turns physical difference into relations of domination—is a product of the Enlightenment. Racism as we understand it now, as a socio-political order based on the permanent hierarchy of particular groups, developed as an attempt to resolve the fundamental contradiction between professing liberty and upholding slavery. Those who claim the Enlightenment’s mantle now should grapple with that legacy and what it means for our understanding of the modern world.
To say that “race” and “racism” are products of the Enlightenment is not to say that humans never held slaves or otherwise classified each other prior to the 18th century. Recent scholarship shows how proto- and early forms of modern race thinking (you could call them racialism) existed in medieval Europe, with near-modern forms taking shape in the 15th and 16th centuries. In Spain, for example, we see the turn from anti-Judaism to anti-Semitism, where Jewish ancestry itself was grounds for suspicion, versus Jewish practice. And as historian George Fredrickson notes in Racism: A Short History, “the prejudice and discrimination directed at the Irish on one side of Europe and certain Slavic peoples on the other foreshadowed the dichotomy between civilization and savagery that would characterize imperial expansion beyond the European continent.” One can find nascent forms of all of these ideas in antiquity—indeed, early modern thinkers drew from all of these sources to build our notion of race.
Manners make top bureaucrats – In the #bureaucracies of #Bangladesh and #Pakistan, the #British Raj lives on. Recruits are taught Victorian table manners, although Pakistan no longer marks candidates down for a slip of the teaspoon. #Colonialism #English https://www.economist.com/asia/2020/06/20/in-the-bureaucracies-of-bangladesh-and-pakistan-the-raj-lives-on
A clink of the spoon against the side of the teacup: one point deducted. One too many slices of carrot on the fork: another two points lost. When Sarim was training to become a civil servant in Pakistan, he was graded on his table manners. Everyone in his class was so cautious during the test that they would barely eat, he chuckles.
Etiquette lessons are still mandatory for those aspiring to become senior government officials in Bangladesh and Pakistan, although Pakistan no longer marks candidates down for a slip of the teaspoon. During six months living and studying at the Bangladesh Public Administration Training Centre (bpatc), future civil servants must eat with knives and forks, says Mehbub, a successful graduate. A watchful instructor is quick to chastise anyone who reverts to eating directly from the right hand, as is customary for most South Asians.
#WhiteSupremacists: "White people are the best thing that ever happened to the world... How dare historically oppressed minorities in this country (#UnitedStates) recall the transgressions of their oppressors?" #BlackLivesMattters #MuslimLivesMatter https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/05/opinion/trump-monuments.html?smid=tw-share
As Donald Trump gave his race-baiting speeches over the Fourth of July weekend, hoping to rile his base and jump-start his flagging campaign for re-election, I was forced to recall the ranting of a Columbia University sophomore that caught the nation’s attention in 2018.
In the video, a student named Julian von Abele exclaims, “We built the modern world!” When someone asks who, he responds, “Europeans.”
Von Abele goes on:
“We invented science and industry, and you want to tell us to stop because oh my God, we’re so baaad. We invented the modern world. We saved billions of people from starvation. We built modern civilization. White people are the best thing that ever happened to the world. We are so amazing! I love myself! And I love white people!”
He concludes: “I don’t hate other people. I just love white men.”
Von Abele later apologized for “going over the top,” saying, “I emphasize that my reaction was not one of hate” and arguing that his remarks were taken “out of context.” But the sentiments like the one this young man expressed — that white men must be venerated, regardless of their sins, in spite of their sins, because they used maps, Bibles and guns to change the world, and thereby lifted it and saved it — aren’t limited to one college student’s regrettable video. They are at the root of patriarchal white supremacist ideology.
To people who believe in this, white men are the heroes in the history of the world. They conquered those who could be conquered. They enslaved those who could be enslaved. And their religion and philosophy, and sometimes even their pseudoscience, provided the rationale for their actions.
It was hard not to hear the voice of von Abele when Trump stood at the base of Mount Rushmore and said, “Seventeen seventy-six represented the culmination of thousands of years of Western civilization and the triumph not only of spirit, but of wisdom, philosophy and reason.” He continued later, “Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children.”
Refer your friends to The Times.
They’ll enjoy our special rate of $1 a week.
To be clear, the “our” in that passage is white people, specifically white men. Trump is telling white men that they are their ancestors, and that they’re now being attacked for that which they should be thanked.
The ingratitude of it all.
How dare historically oppressed minorities in this country recall the transgressions of their oppressors? How dare they demand that the whole truth be told? How dare they withhold their adoration of the abominable?
At another point, Trump said of recent protests:
“This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution. In so doing, they would destroy the very civilization that rescued billions from poverty, disease, violence and hunger, and that lifted humanity to new heights of achievement, discovery and progress.
In fact, many of the protesters are simply pointing out the hypocrisy of these men, including many of the founders, who fought for freedom and liberty from the British while simultaneously enslaving Africans and slaughtering the Indigenous.
But, Trump, like white supremacy itself, rejects the inclusion of this context. As Trump put it:
VS Naipaul: Colonialism in fact, fiction, and the flesh
Naipaul personified what European colonialism, racist to the very core of its logic, had done to his and to our world.
VS Naipaul has died. VS Naipaul was a cruel man. The cruelty of colonialism was written all over him - body and soul.
VS Naipaul was a scarred man. He was the darkest dungeons of colonialism incarnate: self-punishing, self-loathing, world-loathing, full of nastiness and fury. Derek Walcott famously said of Naipaul that he commanded a beautiful prose "scarred by scrofula". That scrofula was colonialism.
Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul had abbreviated his history to palatable capitalised initials the British could pronounce. He was born in rural Trinidad in 1932, where the British had ruled since 1797, adding Tobago to it in 1814. By 1889 the two colonies were combined and Indian labourers - of whom Naipaul was a descendant - were brought in to toil on sugar plantations. He was born to this colonial history and all its postcolonial consequences.
By 1950 Naipaul was at Oxford on a government scholarship, just as the supreme racist Sir Winston Churchill was to start his second term as prime minister. Can you fathom an 18-year old Indian boy from Trinidad at Oxford in Churchill's England? You might as well be a Muslim Mexican bellboy at Trump Tower.
In a famous passage the late Edward Said wrote of Naipaul: "The most attractive and immoral move, however, has been Naipaul's, who has allowed himself quite consciously to be turned into a witness for the Western prosecution." This alas was far worse than mere careerism. Naipaul was, at his best and his worst, a witness for the Western prosecution. He did not fake it. He was the make of it.
Naipaul personified what European colonialism, racist to the very core of its logic, had done to his and to our world. He basked in what the rest of us loathe and defy. He made of his obsequious submission to colonialism a towering writing career. He was Aime Cesaire, Frantz Fanon, James Baldwin, CLR James and Edward Said gone bad. In them we see defiance of the cruel colonial fate. In him we see someone bathing naked in that history. In them we see the beauty of revolt, in him the ugliness of impersonating colonial cruelty.
Naipaul saw the world through the pernicious vision British colonialism had invested and impersonated in him. He became a ventriloquist for the nastiest cliches European colonialism had devised to rule the world with arrogance and confidence. He proved them right. He wrote, as CLR James rightly said, "what the whites want to say but dare not". This of course was before Donald Trump's America and Boris Johnson's England - where the racist whites are fully out of their sheets and hoods carrying their torches, burning their crosses, and looking for their letterboxes in the streets of Charlottesville and London.
In both his brilliance and in his banality, in his mastery of the English prose and cruelty of the vision he saw through it, VS Naipaul was a witness, as Edward Said rightly wrote. But under what Said saw as "witness for the Western prosecution" dwelled a much nastier truth. Naipaul was the walking embodiment of European colonialism - in fact, fiction, and flesh. He was a product of that world - in his fiction he mapped its global spectrum, and in his person, he thrived and made a long lucrative career proving all its bigoted banalities right.
We may never see the likes of VS Naipaul again. May we never see the likes of VS Naipaul again.
self-punishing, self-loathing, world-loathing
In a famous passage the late Edward Said wrote of Naipaul: "The most attractive and immoral move, however, has been Naipaul's, who has allowed himself quite consciously to be turned into a witness for the Western prosecution." This alas was far worse than mere careerism. Naipaul was, at his best and his worst, a witness for the Western prosecution. He did not fake it. He was the make of it.
ventriloquist for the nastiest cliches European colonialism had devised to rule the world with arrogance and confidence
He proved them right. He wrote, as CLR James rightly said, "what the whites want to say but dare not". This of course was before Donald Trump's America and Boris Johnson's England - where the racist whites are fully out of their sheets and hoods carrying their torches, burning their crosses, and looking for their letterboxes in the streets of Charlottesville and London.
He indeed wrote the English prose masterfully, but of the slavery of a mind suspicious of triumphant resistance. James Baldwin also wrote English prose beautifully, as did Edward Said, but reading them ennobles our souls, reading Naipaul is an exercise in self-flagellation.
Naipaul was an Indian Uncle Tom catapulted to the Trinidad corner of British colonialism - exuding the racist stereotypes and prejudices his British masters had taught him to believe about himself and his people.
Yes he was a racist bigot - the finest specimen of racism and bigotry definitive to the British colonialism that crafted his prose, praised his poise and knighted him at one and the same time.
He was a misogynist for that was what the British liberal imperialism had taught him he was. He acted the role to perfection. He crafted a dark soul in himself to prove his racist masters right. When he wrote of our criminalities his masters loved it, "you see he is one of them but he writes our language so well", and when he acted like a brute his masters sniggered and said, "you see still the Indian from Trinidad". For them he was win-win, for us, lose-lose.
Naipaul loathed Trinidad and he detested England - he wanted to hide where came from and destroy the place where he could not call his. He belonged to nothing and to nowhere. He sought refuge at his writing desk. In his first three books - The Mystic Masseur (1957), The Suffrage of Elvira (1958) and Miguel Street (1959) he retrieved what was left of his Caribbean childhood. In A House for Mr Biswas (1961) he sought to project his relations with his own father in what his admirers consider his masterpiece. In his published correspondences with his father, Between Father and Son: Family Letters (1999), he crafted and killed his parentage in one literary move.
Throughout his travels - in Africa he saw darkness, in India banality and destitution, in Muslim lands fanaticism and stupidity. The world, wherever he went, was the extension of his Trinidad, the darkened shadows of his own brutally colonised soul.
I read his Among the Believers (1981) cover to cover when I was writing my book on Iranian resolution - shaking with disgust at his steady course of stupidity, ignorance, and flagrant racism. He knew next to nothing about Iran or any other Muslim country he visited. In all of them he was a vicious Alice in a whacky wonderland of his own making. How dare he, I remember thinking, writing with such wanton ignorance about nations and their brutalised destines, their noble struggles, their small but lasting triumphs!
Literature after the British Empire: V.S. Naipaul’s story
When we think of colonialism, we often envision images of sailing ships, bloody wars, and trading networks. Yet British settlers brought more than weapons, chains, and markets to foreign lands. They also brought their own cultural beliefs. When Britain formed colonies, it taught its language, its religion, and its literature to the peoples it colonized. These imposed education systems raise many questions. What influence did learning about British culture or reading British literature have on the students of the colonies? How does this education relate to the physical process of colonization? How were education systems in former colonies reformed after they gained independence?
The story of one Oxford alumnus who won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Literature, V.S. Naipaul, provides a few insights. Of Indian heritage, Naipaul grew up in the (then) British colony Trinidad and Tobago in the mid-1900s. He earned a government scholarship and attended Oxford to read English Literature before pursuing a career as a writer. Cultural tensions haunt his works.
In his Nobel lecture, Naipaul reflects on his cultural identity. He describes growing up feeling disconnected from Indian traditions and the Hindi language. In his colonial schooling, he recalls learning abstract facts about foreign lands and developing an identity filled with “areas of darkness”. He remembers having very few cultural models during his early writing career, for most of the authors he had studied in high school and at Oxford were European.
Naipaul’s experience is similar to those of many students growing up in colonies. In his influential essay, “Decolonising the Mind,” Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o describes how Britain developed as the cultural center of its empire through imposing English language and literature in the colonies’ education system. In Kenyan schools during the twentieth century, for instance, schools beat and ridiculed children for speaking Gĩkũyũ instead of English. English, as he notes, “became the measure of intelligence and ability in the arts, the science, and all the other branches of learning.”
This language and culture issue is a major topic of exploration in the works of authors from colonized societies in the 20th century, many of whom wrote in English. These works are termed Postcolonial Literature, which is an encompassing term referring to literature from nations shaped in any number of ways by colonialism.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o summarizes this issue succinctly: “The domination of a people’s language by the languages of the colonising nations was crucial to the domination of the mental universe of the colonized.” For the author, the solution is simple: write in one’s own native language. For others, such as the Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, the solution is to adapt English for their own culture’s nuances.
For Naipaul, there appeared to be no solution. After his studies at Oxford, he later travelled to his homeland India, and around the Caribbean region where he grew up, to gain a clearer sense of his historical roots. He also spent time researching these countries' histories. These experiences inspired him to delve into racial and social complexities in his creative writing, illuminating areas of darkness and giving him insight into his heritage: aspects that his colonial education had severed him from. When reflecting on his writing career, Naipaul said that “the aim has always been to fill out my world picture, and the purpose comes from my childhood: to make me more at ease with myself.” His characters, however, never seem to feel culturally at ease. Yet, the author also cautioned against comparing an author’s biographical details with his literary creativity.
Literature after the British Empire: V.S. Naipaul’s story
His novel Mimic Men (1967) explores a colonial politician’s life: it compiles snapshots of his education in London, his earlier childhood in the Caribbean, and his failed political career. A key theme in Naipaul’s work is the inauthenticity of his Caribbean characters, who are cut-off from their heritage. They lack cultural identities and mimic the condition of being human, for they are neither a part of their lost native cultures nor a part of European society. They constantly strive for the impossible aim of being political equals with their former colonizers, developing a loathing for other colonized people and a deep rage arising from powerlessness.
Another of Naipaul’s novels that addresses the colonized’s attempt to construct an authentic identity independent of British culture is his later work, A Bend in the River (1979). This tale follows the disillusionment of a businessman of Indian heritage living in an African nation. Many of his characters in this story similarly mimic the tastes and habits of their colonizers, including Indar, who heads to London for his education and idealizes British culture. Yet corruption lies at the heart of many colonized characters and of the new nation’s government. Though the independent nation attempts to distinguish itself from Europe, it remains a shadow. Naipaul’s characters appear never to escape colonial influences.
In “Decolonising the mind,” Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o describes this sense of hopelessness and disillusionment as an inevitable consequence of writing in English and valuing British culture at the expense of one’s own. Yet the link between English literature and England’s colonial legacy continues to spark debate. Some, like Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, claim that literature is both a reflection of and a shaping force for a society’s cultural and political landscape. Others argue that literature and politics are distinct fields.
The Bodleian Library, Oxford
As the leading university in England during the country’s colonial period from the 17th to 20th centuries, Oxford was a hotspot for literary discussions and future writers. This prominent educational institution helped to define a collection of important English fiction called the “canon”. The literary canon represented the best literature of English culture, which was taught in the colonies. The institution’s prestige also drew and continues to draw ambitious students from (former) colonies, like Naipaul.
Today at Oxford, the field of Postcolonial Literature is a growing area of research that is drawing increasingly more attention. This rise in attention is in line with the ongoing process of global decolonization. Initiatives like the “Decolonising the English Faculty Open Letter” at the University of Cambridge in 2017 continue to advocate for a more nuanced appreciation of how language and literature shape politics.
A new national curriculum sparks a backlash in Pakistan
Teachers and parents worry that English-language skills are being replaced by religious content
In the country’s elite schools, the children of the wealthy study in English for international exams and set their sights on the world’s best universities. At the other end of the spectrum, 23m children are not in school at all, with girls much less likely than boys to be enrolled. Government schools, where available, have a reputation for rote learning. Private schools of varying quality fill the gap. Many poor families send their children to madrasas, which tend to skip subjects like science and maths. Some are vehicles for extremist ideologies. Imran Khan, the prime minister, calls this divide “educational apartheid” and has vowed to get rid of it.
Such an aim is admirable, but the tool of choice has come in for criticism from academics, educators and parents. Earlier this year the government began rolling out a single national curriculum (snc) for all schools, including madrasas. This set of minimum standards is meant to improve the quality of teaching and boost the prospects of pupils. But its ambitions are wider still. Among the objectives listed by the education ministry is to increase “social cohesion and national integration”.
The new curriculum has so far been rolled out only in primary schools, but already some of its dictates are causing a backlash. The snc has increased the number of subjects, such as general knowledge, which must use textbooks in Urdu or other local languages rather than English. Mr Khan, himself an old boy of Aitchison College, the country’s most prestigious school, makes his case in punchy post-colonial terms. “When you acquire English-medium education, you adopt the entire culture,” he argues, adding that “you become [a] slave to that particular culture.”
Yet the resistance to the SNC’s imposition of local-language learning is not just an elite phenomenon. There have been reports of schools unwilling to implement it. And there is huge demand for English from parents who see it as a way for their children to stand out in the job market, according to teachers. Mariam Chughtai, the director of the national council drawing up the curriculum, says the aim is not to drop English but to elevate local languages. “When we think ‘multilingual’, we think French, German and English. But when you say bilingual in Urdu and English, the elites look down upon it,” she says. Still, “no one is denying the importance of English. It’s here to stay.”
A bigger complaint is that conservatives are using the curriculum to increase religious teaching in schools. Rather than turning madrasas into schools, it will turn schools into madrasas, charge critics. Indeed, the education ministry’s list of “key considerations” in drawing up the curriculum puts the teachings of the Koran at the very top. Non-Muslims need not take classes on Islam, but religious content is seeping into other subjects, such as Urdu-language lessons that include passages on Muslim caliphs. The government argues that there is nothing wrong with teaching religion in a religious country.
The third criticism may be the most pertinent. Pakistan’s abysmal learning outcomes are not so much the result of content as of access, says Jasir Shahbaz, an educationalist in Lahore. A new curriculum will do little to fix that. “The issue is not so much what the kids are studying, so much as how many kids are actually studying, or are actually understanding what they are studying,” he says.
The battles are likely to intensify as older pupils start the new curriculum next year. Ms Chughtai says it will take time for results to show. But the furore, she says, is because the changes affect even the elite: “Any time you try to bring a major policy change, for the small minority of people for whom even the broken system was working, they are going to get scared.”
The Churchill Cult, by Jingo
Lionized in the age of Brexit and Boris Johnson as the epitome of bulldog spirit, Britain’s wartime leader was often reviled in his own time as a blundering reactionary—and rightly so.
Over the last forty years, the English cult of Winston Churchill has reached near-absurdist levels of adulation in England, provoking a backlash from anticolonial critics of British imperialism. It received a further boost in March this year when President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the UK Parliament over Zoom and paraphrased one of Churchill’s more famous World War II utterances (from his “fight them on the beaches” broadcast), linking it to the Russian assault on the Ukrainian leader’s country.
Russian president Vladimir Putin was assigned the role of Hitler. Zelensky took the part of Churchill. Members of Parliament from all four parties drooled with pleasure. NATO-land may have conferred a temporary sainthood on Zelensky, but we should not overlook how misplaced his analogy is. The spinal cord of the Third Reich was, after all, crushed at Stalingrad and Kursk by the determination and courage of the Red Army (in which many Ukrainians fought, in far greater numbers than those who deserted to Hitler). The strength of the US war industry did the rest.
As a result, there was no fighting on English beaches or anywhere else in the UK. The Luftwaffe bombed Britain, but Hitler’s feared invasion never materialized, as his ambitions foundered on the Eastern Front. Not to be too mean-spirited, let the House of Commons and the British media networks swoon over Zelensky and his impersonation of Churchill, though I would hardly be surprised to learn that the gambit was recommended by the British Foreign Office in the first place. But I wonder if Zelensky is aware that a tsarist general much favored by Churchill and armed by him, Anton Denikin, who fought viciously against the Bolsheviks in the civil war that followed the Russian Revolution, is hero-worshipped by Putin today.
And what of the hero-worship of Churchill? In the immediate postwar period, Britons decisively voted him out of power. The Churchill cult, an essentially English phenomenon, would not take off for nearly forty years. It was first propagated in 1982, almost two decades after his death in 1965, by Margaret Thatcher, who, with moral support from President Reagan and General Pinochet, won the ten-day Falklands war against Argentina. Churchill had been much invoked by all sides in Parliament before the war. The Argentinian dictator, General Leopoldo Galtieri, was compared to Hitler and those who opposed the war were referred to as Chamberlainesque “appeasers.”
#Modi offers #Hindi medical degree in #India’s war on #English language. He wants to free Indians of the “colonial mindset” left by the #British Raj. Just this week, Modi spoke of the “slavish mentality” surrounding English. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/22/modi-employs-new-tool-in-indias-war-against-the-english-language-hindi-medical-degrees?CMP=share_btn_tw
Ever since it came to power, the BJP has have taken intermittent pot shots at English, branding it a ‘colonial relic’ surrounded by a ‘slavish mentality’
In October, government officials in BJP-ruled Maharashtra were banned from saying “hello” when greeting members of the public. Instead, they have to say “vande mataram” or “I bow to thee, oh motherland”. Abide with Me has been kicked out of India’s annual Republic Day celebrations and replaced with a Hindi patriotic song, while the English names of some army regiments are to be changed.
In 2020 the government said practitioners of ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine, should be allowed to perform surgery, to the horror of the medical establishment.
Now, once again, doctors are aghast after a decision by the Madhya Pradesh state government to offer a medical degree in Hindi. Until now, medicine has been taught throughout India in English.
For the past nine months, an army of 97 translators have been ransacking Hindi lexicons to find words for terms such as biopsy, neuroblastoma, and haemorrhoids.
Now that the Hindi textbooks for anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry are ready, first year students in 13 government medical colleges in Madhya Pradesh will be taught in Hindi from November, though the option of learning in English remains.
The aim of the new Hindi medical degree, said Modi, was to allow Indians from poorer families who are not fluent in English to pursue their dream of becoming doctors.
“We aim to ensure that the children of poor parents become doctors and engineers even if they are not educated in English …” Modi said on Wednesday in Gujarat while speaking about India’s New Education Policy, announced in 2020.
This push for Hindi has been enshrined in this policy which, among other things, emphasises the teaching of technical and medical courses in Indian languages. The rationale is that students can better develop their cognitive and analytical skills and be more rooted in their culture if they are taught in their mother tongue.
Some Indians, especially those who have been made to feel inferior for not speaking English fluently, would agree with Modi when he says that English should be treated as a medium of communication, not a “criterion of intellectual ability”.
The problem for orthopaedic surgeon Dr Rajan Sharma, former head of the Indian Medical Council, is the ideological motivation behind the decision. He believes politics should not be allowed to intrude into medicine.
Sharma is a Hindi speaker but, as he admits, he has no idea how to say “heart attack” in Hindi and he doubts if there are many chemists who could read a prescription in Hindi. He is proud of the contribution made by Indian doctors to healthcare globally, thanks to their training in English.
“It is regressive, backward-looking, pathetic, deplorable,” he said. “Where are the Hindi speaking teachers to teach medicine? I am not even going to talk about how good the translations are going to be because that implies one accepts the policy which I don’t. The policy will be a failure.”
Science commentator Dinesh C. Sharma, writing in The Tribune newspaper, said he hoped the course material would not be compromised by the translations.
“These graduates will be dealing with human lives. And textbooks are only one part of medical courses. There are hundreds of reference books, manuals and medical protocols, which are mostly in English and are vital for the training and functioning of a doctor,” said Sharma.
Others have suggested a better idea would be to offer bridging courses in English to help rural students to cope more easily.
This year over four million Pakistani kids will turn 18. Of these, less than 25pc will graduate from the intermediate stream and about 30,000 will graduate from the O- and A-level stream. Over 3m kids, or 75pc, will not have finished 12 years of schooling. (Half of all kids in Pakistan are out of school.) These 30,000 kids from A-levels will dominate our top universities, many will study abroad and go on to become leaders. That’s less than 1pc of all 18-year-olds. These are the only Pakistanis for whom Pakistan works. But it gets worse.
by Miftah Ismail
IN a Tedx talk I gave last year, I argued that Pakistan shouldn’t be called the Islamic Republic but rather the One Per Cent Republic. Opportunities, power and wealth here are limited to the top one per cent of the people. The rest are not provided opportunities to succeed.
Pakistan’s economy thus only relies on whatever a small elite can achieve. It remains underdeveloped as it ignores the talent of most in the country.
Suppose we had decided to select our cricket team only from players born in the second week of November. That would always have produced a weak team as it would only be selecting from 2pc of the population. Our teams wouldn’t have benefited from the talents of many of the greats we have had over the years. This is the same unfair and irrational way we choose our top people. And just as our team would have kept losing, so we as a nation keep losing.
There are around 400,000 schools in Pakistan. Yet in some years half of our Supreme Court judges and members of the federal cabinet come from just one school: Aitchison College in Lahore. Karachi Grammar School provides an inordinate number of our top professionals and richest businessmen. If we add the three American schools, Cadet College Hasanabdal and a few expensive private schools, maybe graduating 10,000 kids in total, we can be sure that these few kids will be at the top of most fields in Pakistan in the future, just as their fathers are at the very top today.
Five decades ago, Dr Mahbub ul Haq identified 22 families who controlled two-thirds of listed manufacturing and four-fifths of banking assets in Pakistan, showing an inordinate concentration of wealth. Today too we can identify as many families who control a high proportion of national wealth.
Concentration of wealth is not unique to Pakistan: this happens globally, especially in the developing world. Trouble is that five decades after Dr Haq’s identification, it’s many of the same families who control the wealth.
A successful economy keeps giving rise to new entrepreneurs, representing newly emerging industries and technologies, becoming its richest people. But not here in Pakistan where wealth, power and opportunities are strictly limited to an unchanging elite.
Look at the top businessmen in America like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, etc, none of whom owe their position to family wealth. The richest people of the earlier eras — the Carnegies, Rockefellers — don’t still dominate commerce. Among recent former US presidents, Ronald Reagan’s father was a salesman, Bill Clinton’s father was an alcoholic and Barack Obama was raised by a single mother. Here almost every successful Pakistani owes his success to his father’s position.
In Pakistan, doctors’ children go on to become doctors, lawyers’ children become lawyers, ulema’s children become ulema, etc. Even singers have gharanas. There are business, political, army and bureaucrat families where several generations have produced seths, politicians, generals and high-ranking officers. In such a society, a driver’s son is constrained to become a driver, a jamadaar’s son is destined to become a jamadaar, and a maid’s daughter ends up becoming a maid.
The ‘One Per Cent Republic’
Miftah Ismail Published November 10, 2022
Top corporate and other professionals only come from the urban English-educated elites, especially from the two schools I mentioned above. The only influential professions where non-elites can enter —bureaucracy and the military — are also set up such that once their people enter the highest echelons, their lifestyle, like their elite peers from other fields, becomes similar to the colonial-era gora sahibs, materially removed from the lives of the brown masses composed of batmen, naib qasids and maids.
Political power too is concentrated not in parties but in personalities. Except for one religio-political party, there isn’t a party where the head is ever replaced. Politics is based on personalities down to the local level, where politicians come from families of ‘electables’, where fathers and grandfathers were previously elected.
Is it any wonder why Pakistanis don’t win Nobel Prizes? We properly educate less than 1pc of our kids. Of course, we have smart, talented people. But most of our brilliant kids never finish school and end up working as maids and dhobis and not as physicists and economists they could’ve been. Pakistan is a graveyard for the talent and aspirations of our people.
According to Unicef, 40pc of Pakistani children under the age of five are stunted (indicating persistent undernutrition); another 18pc are wasted (indicating recent severe weight loss due to undernutrition) and 28pc are underweight. This means 86pc of our kids go to sleep hungry most nights and have the highest likelihood in South Asia of dying before their fifth birthday. This is our reality.
Pakistan works superbly for members of social and golf clubs. But it doesn’t work if you’re a hungry child, landless hari, a madressah student, a daily-wager father or an ayah raising other people’s children. Pakistan doesn’t work well for most of our middle-class families. This is why disaffection prevails and centrifugal forces find traction.
The real predictor of success is a person’s father’s status. Intelligence, ability and work ethic are not relevant. Of course, some manage to become part of the elite: but those are the exceptions that prove the rule.
Pakistan’s elite compact allows wealth and power to perpetuate over generations and keeps everyone else out. This is what’s keeping Pakistanis poor and why it’s necessary to unravel the elite compact. We need a new social contract to unite and progress as a nation.
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