Medium: The way to build healthy society



The judiciary is expected to uphold the law in accordance with the Constitution, but I am not sure that a profound issue like the medium of instruction can be resolved in a court of law.

The Constitution guarantees the right of a citizen to choose the language in which he wishes his children to be taught. But the court’s ruling, if it finally goes in their favour, cannot be taken as a victory for those appealing in favour of English.

It will not have solved the more important issues that are at stake. The question here, as I see it, is one that concerns our understanding the objectives of education. What do we want our children to be, and the question becomes all the more critical as our children are to be citizens in a democratic, secular country.

It is important not to lose sight of the fact that our children will themselves be fathers and mothers one day and we should be equally concerned about the quality of parents they would make. In others words, we should know we are not bringing up or educating our children in a vacuum. This question includes our concern for civilisation and culture — individual as also collective.

A collective vision needed
I am one of those who strongly believes that medium of instruction in Karnataka should be, between the standards one and four, Kannada, with English taught as one of the compulsory subjects. This cannot be made into a law. It should be made possible by the collective vision of a people.
But the question is why the mother tongue? why is it, I have always wondered, in the first place called mother tongue? It cannot be for want of some other expression. It has significance and deep meanings from the time the baby is in the woman’s womb. It is pure instinct. The instinct which says the child is growing already in a context and the language spoken at home keeps getting into the system of the child. Hence, we grow with the language learnt in the wombs of our mothers and it is breathed into us as naturally as air into our lungs. That is the law, we call it our mother tongue.
As we begin to grow it is only through our mother tongues that we can find, or at least struggle to find expressions for our feelings and emotions and thousand other kinds of responses to the world outside. It is only when we are able to find expressions can our experiences become clear to us and our personalities begin slowly to reveal to ourselves, although it is not at all certain that we succeed wholly or satisfactorily to find words for the deep-most stirrings in our hearts and minds.

And in this attempt to find words we would also be extending our horizons of understanding along with that of our own selves but also of the world. Our tolerance for and learning to live with fellow human beings all depend on how well we are able to comprehend and express and thus clarify for ourselves our deepseated fears and prejudices and inhibitions inherited or secretly cultivated.

Foreign language
This is not possible in a language I acquire, however competent I may become in the use of it. English would ever remain an acquired language, language of intellect, barring, of course, very rare and brilliant exceptions. Mother tongue is there in our system, in our blood veins and nerve centres and language we learn would ever remain outside of us.
Can it be, I have wondered, that we are drawn to and fascinated by the acquired language because we have a very deeply rooted unconscious urge to be running away from ourselves, and avoid facing our feelings and instincts and experiences?
It is true that English opens windows to the world outside and that is absolutely welcome and necessary, but ignoring or bypassing mother tongue would shut out the doors and windows into our deep and subterranean selves, which would mean in the long run fatal. Loss of language, which in other words, is running away from our natural selves would lead to violence, violence in thought and words and in our relations with fellow beings, which is far worse than literal physical violence that terrorists cause.
And indubitably it is when our children are in tender ages of six and ten that we should nourish and let what is naturally already instilled in the wombs burgeon in to a colourful and fruitful mother tongue — language of self-expression and creativity.

Thus, court’s verdict is not what we should look forward to, but our own sense of what it is to bring up children and thus also, in a manner of speaking, build a healthy society.

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