From darkness comes darkness

Published in The Express Tribune

By Chris Cork

March 10th, 2016; The wonderful, and not so wonderful, world of education in Pakistan has never ceased to both amaze and appall me. The work of The Citizens Foundation (TCF) and the groundbreaking efforts of DeafReach are positively inspiring. Likewise the tiny St Sarah School deep in the darkest part of Karachi that I have supported for years. Of particular interest wherever I go are text books and here things can get very dark indeed. The TCF gets full marks for effort and produce their own material within the national curriculum, the smaller schools I visit mostly seem to maintain a reasonable standard — and then there is ‘Sociology of Pakistan, Intermediate II, revised edition’, by Abdul Hameed Taga and Abdul Aziz Taga.

This curiosity is published by Abdul Hamid Taga and Sons of Al-Fazl Market, Urdu Bazaar, Lahore. I have no idea how many schools use this book as a teaching aid but however many it is they need to stop. I studied sociology in the course of gaining my degree in social work and have maintained a keen academic interest in it for most of my working life.

We learn from Messrs Taga and Taga that the cause of poverty is the laziness of the poor, their unwillingness to do hard work, their drug-addiction and their anti-social habits. ‘They think themselves to be respectable by not working in labour but wearing a dress clean and tidy’ — a verbatim quote. Any of you hailing from Balochistan need to look away now — ‘uncivilized people who remain busy in fighting and killing’ — a perception that is unlikely to foster inter-provincial harmony and has little or nothing to do with sociology.

Looking for advice on finding a life-partner? Turn to page 40 and it’s all there handily summarised. ‘There are certain conditions found at research by sociologists in which an adjusted family is traced.’ Another verbatim quote — now read on. ‘Wife to take the orders of her husband as the final verdict for her obedience.’ Hmm… don’t recall covering that. ‘Husband is the focal point for the wife in all matters of life.’ Ah… glad you explained that for me.

Moving on to page 226 we examine the impact of innovation and invention on wider society. Not always a good idea say the Brothers Yaga. ‘Inventions and innovation sometimes, also create disorganization in society. These bring changes in society which is sometimes harmful for the existence of society.’ Also verbatim. Now on this one I can find a glimmer of reciprocity — not all inventions have been to the benefit of wider society, nuclear weaponry being an arguable case. But the point is that the seed is being sown in young minds that ‘new’ is to be regarded with suspicion, and that innovation is not to be encouraged.

The rest of this ignoble and deeply misleading tome is littered with the most outrageous inaccuracies, and references to religion that it would be impossible for this or probably any other newspaper in Pakistan to publish for fear of their offices being burned to the ground. There is little by way of connection to mainstream sociology as understood in the wider world, and the book propagates a paradigm that is sectarian and does nothing to promote unity, faith or discipline either in the teachers who use it or in the students that are on the receiving end.

To be scrupulously fair it is best to say that the book was (probably) written and published without malign intent, and those that brought it into the world in all likelihood believed honestly and earnestly that the world was being done a considerable favour by their efforts. To any teaching professional of repute — and there are many that are not and I have met more than a few over the years — this would be a book that they would never allow near their classroom. But for some teachers this cankerous volume is music to their ears. It is exactly what they believe and equally believe that the children they teach should believe that as well. There will be tens of thousands of teachers who will be happy to impart the gems herein. Small wonder that Pakistan has an education problem, just look at what the kids are being taught!