This is a story from the time I was in grade six twenty seven years ago.
We had Moral Science (Naitik Shiksha) in the fifth period, and in the sixth Social Studies (Samajik Shiksha). Both subjects started with stories on the creation of the earth. The first said everything on earth was made by God from the flesh and bones of Madhu and Kaitav, two powerful demons. The second had a detailed story of the natural formation of the solar system and planet earth from a huge rotating cloud of gas and dust in the post-Big Bang eon.
Teachers made us learn these stories almost line by line no matter whether they made any sense to us or not. And we did. Whether anyone knew why the same earth was created in two different ways did not matter. Things went on as they were set to, perhaps for ages.
One fine afternoon, sometime during the start of the academic session, Mr. Rai, the Social Studies teacher, entered the room as soon as Mr. Paudel, the Moral Science teacher, had left. Mr. Rai announced, “Today I’ll ask you questions from yesterday’s lesson.” He picked up Harke, who had happened to become a front-bencher that day, and asked, “Tell, how was the earth formed?” Harke might have thought it was the easiest of all the questions he had ever heard from teachers till the sixth grade in his long course of having the ‘promoted’ status in the final exams. So, he readily, happily, proudly blurted out, “God made it, sir.”
“SSLLAAPP!!!!!” This was all we could hear from dear Rai Sir. Harke was already in tears, and was somehow managing to explain, “Paudel sir taught it in Moral Science only 15 minutes ago.” A boy sitting beside him timidly supported him. Mr. Rai was a bit puzzled, but would not give up, “That was moral science and this is social studies, you idiots. I want the answer from what I taught. I taught this lesson yesterday, didn’t I?”
“But I was absent yesterday, Sir.” Harke tried to protect himself. He got another slap for being absent the day before.
None of the children really knew who was wrong. Was it Harke, Mr. Rai, or Mr. Paudel? Was it the subjects that contained these conflicting stories? Was the school administration to blame for scheduling these subjects in consecutive periods? Was it not the people who made such curricula that might as well have led many other students like us to get unexpected thrashings from unthinking teachers?
Would it have made a difference if Mr. Paudel had told us that the Madhu-Kaitav story was meant only for the fifth period? Harke was just a case; any child could have got that slap. But I think every child learnt at least one lesson that afternoon: Moral Science is Moral Science, Social Studies is Social Studies.
[Published in Molung Educational Frontier 1.2 (October 2011)]