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Why we need to de-institutionalise the idea of knowledge?

By Ashit Kumar Srivastava

Take in no light word but human beings are obsessed, nay passionate, with the idea of affiliations something to which there is no denying of.  Ever since childhood, when consciousness touches upon the threshold of our rationality, we start looking for forums to affiliate ourselves with various groups, institutions and finally ideologies. And why to blame anyone for this, the idea of being able to affiliate oneself with an ideology, group or something else helps us in solving our existential crisis. It is the sense of belonging that satisfies our existential question and soothes our insecurities.

But where this idea of affiliations does originate from, is there a stimulating neuron in our brain, which invariably wants to be seen by others in a particular way or is there a higher cosmological origin to it. In order to understand the logic of this, we first need to accept one fact that we as human beings un-intentionally end up attributing particular traits to particular affiliations; something like ‘Oh my childhood dream was to study in that institution’.     

And that’s the whole problem. We tend to move beyond the idea of crude knowledge to the institution delivering the knowledge, forgetting the basic purpose which the knowledge or education were serving in our lives. And that’s the problem in this pseudo-post-modernist era. We tend to institutionalize every discipline of human understandings. The idea that a particular educational institution is the best and it is only that institution that can deliver the best knowledge is an ultimate myth contrived under our never dying love for affiliation. “Oh, you know what I belong to that IIT or to that NLU” this is the basic problem. This kind of behavior gives birth to the mad rush to which we as Indian are acquainted with. The 10+2 exams are no less than an ordeal which ultimately defies one’s I.Q for life, albeit the talent he or she is still unfolding upon. What happened to us, what happened to the idea of sitting under a tree and learning about the universe, questioning every belief, why we had to freeze our knowledge under the rat-race of institutions; institutions which require money to be run, institutions which require political conformity to get the fund, institutions which never challenge their own dogmatic basis. I do not think Rabindranath Tagore would have been much pleased with the state in which our educational system is in today.  

Another problem with institutionalizing the educational forums is that we tend to freeze the knowledge to a particular space and time. We believe that this is our knowledge (the ultimate truth) and we should teach this knowledge again and again without questioning its authenticity while still knowing that 95% of the Universe is still unexplored but yet boasting on the little affiliation which we have got. And this illusion doesn’t end here, we have moved a step beyond this now, and we have incentivized this limited knowledge of ours in forms of annual packages, henceforth aggravating this rat-race to another level.  What does it mean for our society? This creates a peer-pressure at such intensity that the young minds of our country have no other option but to fall in conformity with this thinking of society. These are like death-traps with only a few terminals and therefore millions of students prepare for just handful of institutions unknowingly falling prey to the insatiable hunger of the Leviathan, who is not satisfied with the hard work they put in but rather calls for sacrifice and sacrifice indeed is being offered to this artificial ghost, a black-hole of our own creating. (The Average death Rate of Students in Kota has been at 50 Students/Annum but something we as a society are ready to pay for an annual package of 50 Lacs/Annum).

This is a high time that we started questioning the basic premises on which we have created our utopian society, with a population boom at an un-traceable rate and limited forums of educations, we are creating a death-trap for our future generation. It is time that we deconstruct our educational institutions; ask some revealing questions as to what purpose are they serving in our life if they cannot satisfy the true purpose of knowledge.           

Instead of taking education or knowledge to the educational institutions, we should have brought institutions to education and asked ourselves what role does a particular institution plays in our knowledge.

Ashit Kumar Srivastava is Assistant Professor of Law at National Law University-Odisha.

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