Michael Apple, was not mistaken when he argued that modern school education and institutions are employed to carry out hidden agenda by state and those who are at the helm of affairs. A number of sociologists have time and again pinpointed the role of formal education in promoting ruling class ideology, reproduction of culture and carrying out hidden agendas.
Karl Marx, a German Philosopher, political scientist, economist, sociologist rather an all rounder while observing and examining the role of religion in promoting ruling class ideology and acting as a shield to exploitations equated religion with opium. Marx in his time found that religion ‘create illusory fantasies for the poor’ by making false promises of salvation and what not. In our times things are not the same and so simple; with modernization and mass schooling things have become very complicated. There is change in outlook and attitude of the people. Researches show that in the era of technology, modernization and education people are secular in their lookout and secularism is dominant ideology. This gives an impression that Marx premises that “religion is the opium of the people” falls short of syllogism. However, we should not forget the context of Marx’s premises and ignore the fact that education has become a new religion of people with educational institutions as modern churches and bureaucrats (IAS’s etc) as modern priests.
Almost every day we come across such number of cases and examples. The recent one is from Kashmir which is a fragile zone. A few days back media especially national media was abuzz with the news that a poor Kashmiri made it to Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). The NDTV flashed a news headline, “With Help, This 19- year-old Could Be the First IITian from Kashmir’s Shahund”. The news was really cracking especially for the people of Sonawari; given the fact the Sonawari is one of the educationally poor performing areas of the country. Sonawari was badly affected by more than two decades long conflict. It was during nineties that most of the schools were burnt by militants and those left were occupied by “security forces”. The worst was followed in Ikhwain regime when whole Sonawari was virtually turned into hell; no one was secure everyone was concerned of his/her life and education was hardly any priority. Moreover, Sonawari is economically and educationally backward and researches across the globe have time and again affirmed that poor educational and economic background of parents has inverse relation with the education of children. This also was found by this author in the same areas in 2014 in his PhD work.
The Shakeel’s “selection” was not only a good news for me but has special interest for this author for being his area of specialization and area of research. Initially, I was very suspicious and doubtful of the news even the source of information was NDTV. However, once I found the news on the face wall of Director of Scholl Education, Kashmir Dr. Shah Faesal, not my all doubts and suspicion disappeared I developed an interest to meet the boy. When I read on the facebook wall of Dr. Faesal that Shakeel, is from “downtrodden family, living in one room tin shed at Shahgund-one of the most backward villages of Kashmir, he has made it happen. Very few of us have that distinction”, I could not resist myself and dialed the number of Shakeel, (the Cell Number was displayed by NDTV with an appeal for financial support) after a long wait (as the number was busy) I could convey my greeting to the “poor” boy for making it to “IIT”.
As I mentioned earlier that, sociology of education is my area of interest and study, this did not let me to stop here. I explored my contacts and resources to get more and more information about the boy and his “success”. I also planned to pay visit to his home to convey my greetings to his mother and get first hand information. However, on the one hand I was shocked to learn that Shakeel, does not belong to a poor family rather is a grandson of a landlord who has high political affiliations and connections. He ( Shakeel’s Grand Pa) is presently enjoying the government security. The shock was deep because the source of news and information was one of the highest “learned” and “respected” person of the state. It was really hard for me to believe that Shakeel, has just secured 115 or 127 points and there are students who have secured 190 points and he is even not eligible for Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) advanced, which meant that he will not get IIT. His place in NIT’s is doubtful to many. I understand why NDTV gave hype and sensation to the news – simply to presented Army as heroes and well wishers of hapless Kashmiris, however, I am still unable to understand why a highly “learned” and “talented” officer promoted it? How a topper of Indian Administrative ((IAS) topper could not understand difference between JEE mains and Advanced? Why he took decision in haste?
Though one the one hand I was shocked by learning the reality but on the other I have found another case study which affirmed that ‘social’ and ‘cultural capital’ has direct correlation with academic success and promotion. Not only this I understood that education has become religion of modern world, with educational institutions (schools, colleges, universities and tuition or coaching centers) as modern Churches and bureaucrats (IAS’s etc) and modern popes and priests. I don’t intent to ignore the success of Shakeel, which needs to be appreciated and applauded but the point is how things have becoming complicated in our times and how researches are still relevant which highlight the role of ‘cultural and social capital’ in the academic success of an individual. It is worth to mention that he (shakeel) has not only social and cultural capital from paternal line but from maternal line too.
The episode is not an accident but reveals the place of education in modern times. It is not only a media propaganda and drama, projecting idols, hatching conspiracies, reproducing culture, and carrying of hidden agenda but to propagate and promote the new religion (education as a religion) of the world- the religion which will act as opium of the masses and sigh of the oppressed lot.
I would like to quote famous lines of Ghalib to present the state of our times:
Bazeecha-e- itfal Hai Duniya Mere Aage
Hota hai shab-o-roz tamasha meray aage
The world is a children’s playground in present context
Night and Day, this theatre is enacted with new games and shows
*Dr. Fayaz Ahmad Bhat, is a student of Sociology, social activist and currently teaches Sociology at Government Degree College, Sumbal Sonawari, Jammu and Kashmir, India. He is an alumnus of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.Dr Fayaz is working on new concepts and terms like mal-education, Hidden steering, self syndrome, Multi grade holding, Islamic lag, , Educational Shephered, Disappearance of daughters and Triple burden