Contributed by Muhammad Zain Mobeen
For the last decade or so, I have noticed a very strange phenomenon among the youth of this country. It has become a rare occurrence to find someone who is willing to pursue their passions to the very end. Rather we find today that many of these young minds are blindly adhering to what our society has already deemed as ‘respectable’ and ‘profitable’. It seems that we are on the verge of becoming a population that has abandoned free thought and instead chosen to tread the dark path of conformity.
For instance, I have come across many people who aspire to become doctors, but for all the wrong reasons. Usually, the responses range from ‘practicing medicine being a very lucrative career’ to ‘it is a family tradition.’ It is extremely difficult to find someone who wishes to become a doctor for the purpose of serving mankind and doing their part in eradicating diseases. After all, medicine did not progress because generations of students were subdued into studying it; rather it progressed because throughout history there were individuals who were curious as to how the body worked and how its limitations could be overcome. Our innate sense of inquiry is what has allowed us to unravel some of nature’s greatest mysteries, from the structure of DNA to the centers of very far off galaxies.
Civilizations thrive and prosper as long as there is an environment which facilitates the asking of questions and the freedom to explore whatever area of knowledge one might find intriguing. However, unfortunately, today we find in Pakistan the exact opposite. Instead of innovative ideas and scientific mysteries, most of the time in the classroom is spent in indoctrinating children into a system where questioning is forbidden and understanding is not given its due importance. It is a paradigm where reproducing facts word by word is at the heart of ‘academic success.’
It is, of course, no surprise that most of the students coming out of this system will inevitably come to detest science, math or any other subject for that matter. How will these young ones come to appreciate the beauty of scientific reasoning when the impression of science that has been imprinted on their minds is that of grueling equations and cumbersome drawings that are meant to be memorized. Instead, today we have a generation that dares not to dream because it has been desensitized to the vastness and complexity of the world around them. Rather they act as a medium for the growth of a mentality that will ultimately deprive the nation of its collective intellectual prowess.
When a generation has been deprived of its reflective capabilities, then it becomes susceptible to all sorts of ideologies that are based on anything but reason. Today in our culture we observe a number of phenomena that highlight Pakistan’s descent into intellectual darkness. Despite a large number of television channels, it is remarkable that there is not a single channel that broadcasts anything remotely related to science and its role in the modern world. Education has become synonymous with clearing exams and raising one’s social status in the eyes of others who know no better than anyone else.
What troubles me the most is that we are raising a generation void of dreams. There are hardly any children nowadays that aspire to be great scientists, artists or historians. These are professions that have been labeled as impractical, unconventional and of course financially unstable, because according to our traditional wisdom if there is one thing that can be used to gauge one’s ‘success’ and satisfaction, it is definitely the size of one’s home and bank balance. Clearly, this way of thinking has gotten us nowhere.
Our society is still plagued by unrest, ignorance, illiteracy and a plethora of issues that range from social to educational that are not going away anytime soon and never will until we come to realize the error of our way. It is a pity that our predecessors were unable to set a less self-centered and materialistic example but it is still not too late. We are a nation of almost 200 million people, which means that we have among us millions of youngsters who can go on to make extraordinary accomplishments if they are brought up in an environment where they can learn to think for themselves. If we can somehow manage to do this then I have no doubt that the children of Pakistan too will one day embark on a journey to lead the world into a new age of progress and prosperity.
Disclaimer: The Eqbal Ahmad Centre for Public Education (EACPE) encourages critical and independent thinking and believes in a free expression of one’s opinion. However, the views expressed in contributed articles are solely those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the EACPE.