Millennium Post

Bans are no joking matter

The government is mulling pulling out cartoons and drawings from all school textbooks after the row over the Ambedkar cartoon in the Lok Sabha. There are few things to consider here. The week that the country is celebrating its Parliament turning 60 turned out to be one when all the ugliness that has in recent decades engulfed the hallowed portals of the House came to fore one again showing that our MPs are willing not to listen and learn even less. Secondly, satirical and political cartoons and their wider dissemination are indications of a country’s maturity. If a country does not know to laugh at itself, then there is no country more melancholic than that. Third, harmless but funny cartoons in school textbooks, which have always existed, do not harm impressionable minds but on the contrary teach them how one can see the lighter side of often grim things. It is true that cartoons should not be offensive or hurt the sentiments of the people but this is rarely the case. They should, in particular, not be drawn on sensitive subjects like religion.  

The most crucial part is that by barring cartoons the government seems to be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Globally, pedagogic techniques of teaching are becoming more visual and applied, in tune with changing cultural and educational practices. Students and the young population are suffering from attention deficiency and to address this problem, which now operates on an endemic scale, researchers are evolving innovative techniques by which students’ attention can be retained over the given period of time. And one of the more dependable and usable techniques here are drawings and cartoons. Graphic novels are becoming part of syllabi and a whole lot on civic, scientific and humanities materials are being explored through graphic techniques. The government has not made it clear if it intends to put a break to all such initiatives but if it does to avoid ‘controversy’, then it is going against the motion  of pedagogic practices worldwide. That will be a huge disservice to the young learners and students. The government must do a lot of thinking before it could summarily ban cartoons and graphic techniques and that too at the behest of a few ill-informed MPs and politicians. Surely political cartoons and pedagogic techniques are not the same thing.
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