Tag Archives: Education in Pakistan

Sex and Religion

For some strange reason, the subjects of sex and religion pop up in classroom discussions a lot these days. Mostly, it seems like every discussion turns into talk about religion and the way it is seen and the way it really is etc. These conversations lead to no solid conclusion but it seems to be some kind of a trend. This is my observation and it sometimes interests me and worries me all at once.

What worries me most is their underlying smug belief that they have this perfect religion that is supreme and above all others. Perhaps, I read too much into their expressions. Perhaps, this is what most people are. I insist that we must not judge somebody for what they are and I try not to do so myself but I worry sometimes. It frightens me too. Am I afraid of religion? I don’t think so. Am I afraid of what I’ve been told is narrow-mindedness? Perhaps. But then what is narrow-mindedness, really? Am I narrow-minded in my fear?

Maybe we all draw the line somewhere. Maybe that is how we survive in our minds. The absolute conviction they have might frighten me but maybe they need it to understand themselves. When it will bother them, they will find something else to believe in just as strongly. Maybe they will believe in themselves. Maybe they will believe in something I can’t even think of. To each her/his own.

Sometimes we talk about perception of the body. These are also very interesting discussions (and less frightening). I have a class mostly of young women (and two young men) who are very opinionated about everything. Gender perception is also considered and they talk about it whenever they’re not talking about religion.

I have been thinking about the sexualization of girls in the context of the body. I think this is a subject that needs to be discussed. Recently, I realized that many people use the term “hot” to describe a woman’s appearance. In a comment on facebook, my cousin innocently remarked “Apa (sister), you are looking hot in this picture.” My mother also commented on the same picture asking me what hot really means. That actually made me think about it. It does have a sexual connotation but it is used so commonly that nobody ever thinks about it much.

So what is hot, really? I think it means to be sexually attractive. Why is that so easy to say here in Pakistan where in some circles, women actually believe a vagina is best ignored. It makes no sense. This took me to the idea of sexualization (make sexual, endow with sex, attribute sex to) and it seemed like something to think about.

So I googled it and found some material. A commentary on the CNN World Edition led me to the American Psychological Association’s website which particularily interested me. According to the APA’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls’ report:

There are several components to sexualization, and these set it apart from healthy sexuality. Sexualization occurs when

  1. a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
  2. a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
  3. a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
  4. sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.

All four conditions need not be present; any one is an indication of sexualization. The fourth condition (the inappropriate imposition of sexuality) is especially relevant to children. Anyone (girls, boys, men, women) can be sexualized. But when children are imbued with adult sexuality, it is often imposed upon them rather than chosen by them. Self-motivated sexual exploration, on the other hand, is not sexualization by our definition, nor is age-appropriate exposure to information about sexuality.

I feel the relevance of this study in what I’m trying to understand. “Hot” used for women in this context makes sense to me. The question that arises is that why can’t women just be “pretty” or “beautiful” anymore? I’m not assuming that those words did not objectify women (or children or men) but they sound harmless enough when compared to people being sexual objects.

In study after study, findings have indicated that women more often than men are portrayed in a sexual manner (e.g., dressed in revealing clothing, with bodily postures or facial expressions that imply sexual readiness) and are objectified (e.g., used as a decorative object, or as body parts rather than a whole person). In addition, a narrow (and unrealistic) standard of physical beauty is heavily emphasized. These are the models of femininity presented for young girls to study and emulate.

This brings me back to female bodies. I am ignoring art-history here and just considering pop-culture (which I believe is a phenomenon not unrelated to art-history but that is another story altogether). We speak a funny language. We express lust so casually. Oh, we say, she is SO HOT – without batting an eyelash. And then we get on with our lives without giving much thought to what we have really said. Or implied.

I don’t mean to nit-pick here but it’s something to think about. I believe people have the right to do whatever they want as long as they don’t force others to do the same. But then the question of social responsibility arises and everything becomes murky or too intense.

Which brings me back to religion-talk in the classroom. We want to be open-minded and accept every opinion and consider every side. However, sometimes, a line is crossed and strange arguments pop up which leave me flustered. As an educator, it is difficult to negotiate between the various belief structures of my students and the need to help them break away from preconceived notions. It is a daunting task that keeps me on my toes. But it also drains me but that is an acceptable price for what I’m trying to accomplish – guide my students to an understanding of themselves that would help them articulate their words and pictures. I suppose that is the best I can do. If the talk of religion and sex helps them, then so be it. To each her own, really.

Disclaimer: I realize a lot of words I have used in this post are quite cliched. I am just recording my concerns and observations. By no means do I intend to enforce “social” laws based on my own understanding on my students or other people. Also, I am heavily medicated for anxiety and whatever I have written comes from a place far, far away from the rest of me. However, it will help me function normally tomorrow and that’s what counts.

Heart On My Sleeve

Yes - my bleeding heart.

So, I wear my heart on my sleeve. Sometimes, I wear my sleeve on my heart but those times don’t really count. Here I am, at work, done with everything and waiting for the powers that be to put their fancy approvals on my hard work and my stupid soul. Also, with the state of the great and powerful force that governs this pure, pure land, one can never be sure what’s around the corner. Anything can happen.

The HEC has been devolved. Maybe I didn’t love their equivalence department so much because they were rude morons but eventually I got what I deserved. Now I feel bad about the whole thing. They’re still better than the rest. And what the hell does “devolved” mean anyway?

Devolve:

1. Pass on or delegate to another.

2. Grow worse.

Synonyms include: degenerate and deteriorate. Wow, really. Those are the words that define everything that is happening. But maybe I’m just depressed. Maybe something will make sense eventually.

I do realize that I took them for granted.

As for the esteemed organization where I work and bleed and sweat – well, what can I say? There is suddenly a complete confusion in the administration. Nobody seems to know who we’re under anymore. The devolution of most of the ministries has left us suspended in a vortex of confusion and misinformation.

Coming back to my stupid bleeding heart: I trusted them all. I trusted the establishment to be an establishment. Or something. I trusted people – in the sense that they were like me and they actually wanted to work. I trusted the system to atleast provide the basics. I trusted that there would BE a system. I was a fool. I was naive beyond reason. Is this bitterness? Is this regret? I’m not sure. As a young assistant professor, what am I supposed to do? Who and what am I supposed to rely on? As an acting (well, I’m not sure if I am acting or if I am the real deal) department head, what am I supposed to do for my department? For my institution?

The only hope I have is as a teacher. I can let my students hope for something better. But would I be misleading them? This is my bitterness talking. I feel sick to my stomach. The powers that be, the great governance, the pure overlords – well, they can do whatever the fuck they want and all I can do is flail uselessly or stitch up my stupid mouth while my stupid heart breaks over and over again.

Artier than Thou

Eat shit and die.

With that out of the way, I can begin to write about a recent event. A lot has been happening (not forgetting the aunties so far up my ass that I can barely breathe) and most of it is eventful. They aren’t going to pay us much from what I’ve heard. Whenever a budget has to be cut, let it be the education budget. Of course we’re just losers and we waste people’s time and money. Education? It’s hardly a priority. Teachers? Oh man, why do we pay them at all? Let them starve. They don’t do anything constructive anyway. Besides, they’re idiots who went to school. They have degrees. A degree is a degree even if it’s fake so why did they bother anyway?

I’ll find out at the end of this month how much money I’ve been forced to give for the floods. I have nothing against helping the people of my country. But this isn’t right. This isn’t my choice. This is by force. Oh well, what can I do anyway? I’m just a loser who went to school and I try to help other people go to school and we’re all idiots anyway.

Don’t they realize that education is our salvation?

Anyway, now on to arty farts. I went to an opening with amazing work and a dinner with mostly amazing people after. You do realize that there are afterparties to these things. However, there are always a few artier than thou types around. After a measure of inebriation, they tend to get unbearable. I swear I don’t get a single word of what they say. Somebody talked about donuts and the meaning of life and it made absolutely no sense whatsoever. There is something very wrong with these artier than thou types. Perhaps, I should explain. These arty types do not do any real work. They have weird government jobs though. But they haven’t made any art in years. They speak with great conviction about absolutely useless bullshit. This bullshit can range from the ordinary to complete fantasy. They never face the harder aspects of life because idealistically, our minds hang around in outer space and the world below is too crude for their sensitive “arty” existence. Such people often make me vomit in my mouth.

Surprisingly, they zone in on people like me. Just like the aunties, they realize that they can give me a lot of grief. And that satisfies their weird expectations from life somewhat. So they talk shit and I vomit in my mouth over and over. They analyze artwork in a way that makes it completely cryptic and elitist even when it isn’t. They frighten the laymen into submission. They make people hate art and run away screaming (while they’re vomiting in their mouths I bet). Who cares about their high-handed interpretations anyway? Who cares if they think the meaning of life is a donut?

Alas. I whine and whine. I should tell them to shove it and leave. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet. But soon I will have no choice.

Bite that Auntie!

Hello folks. I’m back.

After hiding in various corners for a long, long time, I was rudely pulled back into the world with the end of summer break. I won’t even go into the painful eid festivities. I’ll just stick to auntie bashing. After all, it’s been a while.

Things are chaotic at work. My esteemed colleagues are like flies that get trapped in cars and they just go bonkers and bump into everything without getting anywhere. The aunties have descended upon me in full force. The first day at work was insane. They talked utter shit for hours. I kept fantasizing I was the Terminator shooting them dead. Or just kicking their faces in and laughing maniacally. Of course I got all messed up by the time I got home. So, I decided an attitude adjustment was the best way to survive the first few days of work. Being uber cool, I will survive.

The truth is that they’re dumb bitches. There. I’ve said it. Bite me.

The beginning of the term is hectic. Especially after summer break. Everyone gets used to relaxing a lot so it’s hard to get back to work anyway. I’m sure the aunties relax too. I wonder how they do it but then I really shouldn’t give a shit. Curiosity killed the cat afterall. There really is a lot of work to be done so that the term goes as smoothly as possible. Amidst all this chaos, the aunties appear. Some haven’t bothered to show up which is a relief but the ones who are present are mostly interested in:

  • talking about their lameass kids
  • talking about what they were wearing on eid
  • talking about what others were wearing on eid
  • talking about how much their clothes matched their shoes on eid
  • wondering about who married whom during the summer
  • talking about their lameass kids
  • talking some more about their lameass kids

Do they realize how utterly boring and nonsensical they are? The country is falling apart. People have lost their lives and minds. Planes have crashed. The floods have wiped out everything. But no. None of that please. Lets talk about little booger eating monsters (that they have dutifully produced almost asexually since husbands are only good for money) and matching clothes with shoes. I hate them with a passion. They will produce more like themselves and bore this country to death. Who hires these people? Completely irresponsible idiots, I suppose. Why isn’t anyone watching?

Also, they know nothing except how to turn normal stuff into elaborate intrigues so they don’t have to work. They really don’t want to work. They want to match their clothes and their shoes. They want to talk shit all day long. They want me to stop smoking in MY office because they’re allergic. Look, I know it’s bad for me. I’m old enough to want to quit. But it’s really up to me, isn’t it?

There is one particular lameass auntie who I’d love to beat up to a pulp. She has been so far up my ass that I can taste her loud perfume. All she does is annoy me for no apparent reason. She has come to a point where she physically tries to nudge me into submission. It’s ridiculous and sad. These are the educators of young Pakistan. I don’t know what to say anymore.

mychildren excuses

Exams. They were nightmares when I was a student, and they are nightmares now. Sometimes I wonder if they are even necessary. Especially in art school. But government schools and colleges are strange, painful realms. However, I am glad I am in the middle of this vortex of nonsense. Atleast I can attempt to make sense of it all.

I used to want to run away but I am trying to be patient. For the greater good. Famous last words? I wouldn’t be surprised. Not one bit. But I am digressing (as always). Exam weeks are always hectic. It has been almost three years since I have been grinding my ass for the greater good and that means quite a few exam weeks. Exams involve making papers/exam assignments, invigilation, checking papers, juries/critiques (a whole lot of talking), discussion, mini thesis…very exciting stuff. And then comes the compilation and calculation of results. This ideally could be fun if everyone cooperates and does their job. However, this usually does not happen. Not easily anyway. So it really isn’t fun. Oh no. It’s actually torture.

At the beginning people don’t show up for their invigilation duties. This really does not work for me – it doesn’t work for anybody. Then people never give in their marks on time. Now that means I have to stick around forever, waiting, while other people make excuses about their sick children. And because I don’t have children and I didn’t give in to convention, I must suffer without electricity in a stuffy office – alone.

And then there is a particular lady who begins every sentence with “my children” and that just drives me nuts. Someday, I’ll just have to tell her that I really don’t give a shit but meanwhile, I can rant about it till I’m purple in the face. And I do wish somebody would slap her – real hard. There is a lot more to life about her selfish sense of motherhood. The students are a responsibility too. However, if I do imply such a thing to her, I get a condescending statement about how I wouldn’t know since I have no children. Yeah, I’m disabled. And I should do her job while she gets paid because “mychildren” need their mother. And “mychildren’s” mother likes to get paid while she does nothing at all. She is superior afterall. She completed her biological requirements and gave birth. It makes her special. This brings to mind an earlier post – this procreation business is really getting out of hand and children are becoming a pathetic excuse.

I wonder about these “mychildren” excuses.  And I hear the subtext and I wonder. I have decided to list some of the popular “mychildren” excuses:

  • My children had to be dropped to school (my children had to be dropped to school over and over and that’s why I am four hours late. They just get dropped to school once on other days).
  • My children are sick and near death (my children are near death often you see which is why I am four hours late and they have these near-death experiences a couple of times a week so I couldn’t take my class for 8 weeks which is half a term but that’s ok because atleast I have children while you have none so you’re a loser).
  • My children didn’t let me come to college today (my children are adorable and they make it possible for me to sit at home and earn anyway and you’re a loser because you actually have to work for money).
  • My children ate my marksheet/attendance sheet (my children are perfect even though they eat stationery and isn’t that great because then I don’t have to submit anything on time and who cares about the imperfect children in the world because my children eat anything I give them – bet they’d love to munch on paperclips).

I am running out of patience and things to say to them. Atleast I have the guts to admit to oversleeping when I am late. One fine day, I’ll just explode. That will be an end to my misery.

Note: Why do I care? Because I coordinate the department besides teaching. Life takes you to funny places.

Aunties Unlimited

There are just too many aunties in this world. As I sat through yet another meeting (this one called by yours truly) I had to endure auntie-dom and fight nausea all at the same time. My only consolation is that I am enduring hardship for the future of Pakistan. Well, kind of.

So there we were, discussing important points for the impending exam week and this auntie (one of many present) starts talking about clothes, her oh so precious children, her stupid life… Picture a woman with peeling eyeliner and a caked face painted many shades lighter than her actual skin-tone. Add lipstick on her teeth. And hair that is almost blonde with ends like grass dried in the sun. Also, don’t forget the incessantly whining tone. And the superiority that comes from having procreated a few times. It’s an impressive combo. Like a junk food meal. It can totally make you sick.

Meanwhile, with thoughts about the impending week of doom, I sat through most of that conversation. I’m polite, you know. The thought of breaking her lipstick stained teeth did occur to me but I controlled myself. I have adopted a non-aggressive stance for my own good. Then she proceeded to discuss her brother’s wedding, assuming everyone was interested. And you know what, they probably were. Except my assistant who is an angel from heaven. It did occur to me to add the details of the stimulating conversation about weddings in the meeting minutes and to send that to the higher ups for review. But what if they enjoyed it too? What if they made such discussions a rule? Then I’d have to kill myself. And I don’t really want to.

These women (and their many bulges and caked makeup) are everywhere. They are hired to teach and they spend most of their time talking about their children. Hell, they even bring their children to work. They don’t let anyone smoke and they talk shit all day. Their children are as annoying as they are. They run about causing trouble. They cry endlessly. Nobody stops them. Sometimes they bring little maids who stare at everything and do nothing while babies shit themselves all over the place. And these aunties get paid anyway. They show up late, leave early – if they bother to come at all. And it’s always the same excuse – my kid is sick. Or the dog ate my precious baby. Whatever.

These are the great teachers of the future of the nation. These aunties will create awareness towards a better tomorrow. These apathetic cows will show us the way.

I wrote this at work and could not post it directly because wordpress is mostly blocked – and the internet mostly doesn’t work. So I brought it home and posted it from here. Sad. But not as sad as what happened today. The horrible killings in Lahore makes me very sad. I’ll just have to work harder to create a sense of tolerance around me. The kids who are my responsibility will not support killing. Screw the damn aunties – I’ll keep doing what I do. We need real education – not fancy pieces of paper with seals on them. We need awareness and tolerance and love and kindness.

Hate Speech

Gawd, these mullah types are insufferable.

 In light of recent events (facebook/youtube – hell, even wikipedia ban, being robbed openly in the streets etc.) I took some time off watching Legend of the Seeker (pity about them cancelling it after season 2) and started reading online. I chanced upon the blog of a girl I knew from grade school. I even went through some years of my life thinking she was a friend, before some unfortunate conversations that changed everything for me. Before I write any further, I must warn everyone that this is entirely from personal experience and I do not intend to stereotype or generalize. It’s just that I have almost always experienced a certain type in a certain way, or so to speak. Also, this isn’t really about art in Pakistan but about people who make an art of being absolutely stark raving mad. And it isn’t cool. Nope, it’s mental.

So this girl was like most kids in school with me – absolutely inconsiderate of other people’s feelings. Yours truly was awkward and strange so I was victimized by her from the very beginning. Later, when I was free from the horrible angst of adolescence, I connected with her again and (surprise, surprise) she had gone mullah. Oh yes, she was covered from head to toe with just her eyes and bits of nose hanging out. Ofcourse, I was supportive being the tolerant fool that I usually am in such situations. However, things changed with time. Such people do tend to impose themselves on people like me, foolish enough to be supportive even if I am different from them. You see, tolerance isn’t really their way, in my experience. They usually cannot tolerate me. It just makes me ask more questions and they get annoyed and quote books and sayings and fatwas. In their pious minds, they are always holier than thou (or me, atleast).

Again I cannot claim that all of them are like that. Fortunately, I have kept clear of them. Perhaps, I fear judgement. Perhaps, I don’t really give a shit. I did catch one of them stealing from me in college and that didn’t help. Did I just pull an us and them? Oh well, I am annoyed by what I read. It disturbs me because I don’t see the point. So this girl I knew from school (not the burka clad thief I knew as an undergrad at Indus Valley) writes an annoying blog that I make a point to read now and again. I keep telling myself not to, but then I’d be running away.

Unfortunately, this woman has children. What she does with them is really none of my business. But it creeps me out all the same. This post I read was about education and her thoughts on homeschooling and why she sent her kids to regular schools and some parts are to die for. For example:

For all the relentless flak it gets from international media because of the volatile situation up North, Pakistan has an excellent primary and secondary education system.

Uh. Yeah. What schools would that be? The fancy school where her children go? Like most hypocrites, she sends her children to fancy schools that have teachers who don’t whip the kids regularly. I went to a private school where everyone went for private tuitions after school because our teachers just didn’t teach us enough. And those unfortunates who didn’t go were told by teachers that we’d flunk our O’levels for sure. Anyway, our school systems, private or otherwise aren’t exactly the best in the world.

 I have seen the results of, and read about, the early education systems of other countries, and I think that the performance of our local teenagers in international examinations and foreign university entrance tests speaks for itself – as well as for the laudable local education standards. It is the local higher education system that, more often than not, with the exception of a few colleges and universities, leaves a lot to be desired…

Yes. International examinations. And the local higher education system does leave a lot to be desired but we try – we try so hard.

In addition, let us not forget that most schools in the West have started to witness an alarming, rising incidence of school shootings and on-campus violence. Graphic sex education is sometimes compulsory for all middle school students (or even younger pupils), and absolutely no religious tarbiyah/training is imparted at public school level. Also, the public schools are mostly co-educational, with intermingling of both genders.

Aha! So that’s the real issue here. Sex education leads to school shootings. Knowing how babies are made and knowing you have private parts makes you trigger happy and you shoot all the kids in your class. Wow, I really didn’t know it worked that way. Sex turns you into a murdering freak and co-education helps it along. Religion will save you. Personally, I don’t think I have anything against religion. I just don’t like it shoved in my face and turned into an excuse for everything – good or bad.

This goes on and on. She writes about making her tiny kid opt out of music class. She writes about how great single gender schools are. She writes about how her kid dreams of covering even her eyes some day. It really isn’t any of my business but it does make me wonder. There must be loads of these people out there, claiming to know it all. They must have people who believe them. What a wonderful world.

I have nothing against people who have a belief. Everyone has a right to choose. But when people like this woman (who will stay anonymous) create more monsters by spreading the so called “truth” that they imagine in their own heads, it hurts other people. I am usually suspicious of anyone (burka-clad or not) who claims to know the absolute truth without consideration for people who might believe differently.