I grew up on the inside of an educational institution. A school is my home. This means I was raised in a joint family-like situation with hundreds of members. However, unlike most families, this ‘family’ had people belonging to different religions, socioeconomic strata, regions, linguistic backgrounds, political beliefs, and membership came with a fee (of course!).
When I left home, it was only to live in another educational institution, to then going into the field of Humanities. Humanities only gave me more perspective regarding educational institutions and the institution of education. I have been a student, teacher and part of the management, at different educational institutions. As a student, I found myself regularly questioning the ways of our teachers and the management, and openly discussing the same with fellow students. As a teacher, I found myself engaging in not-so-open discourse, with colleagues over the management’s actions, and with students over the political climate. Yet, never as part of the management has there been any opportunity to openly express any remotely political opinion.
The Political is Now the Personal
In fact, the expression of any personal opinions whatsoever comes after extremely intense anxiety-inducing consideration, and never without a great cost. The political, if I may say conversely, is now very much personal. I have, over time, realised how easy it is for an outsider (non-member, student or employee), in this context, to often misinterpret the management’s actions and intentions.
There is a huge difference between an individual and an institution, and it is not merely the number of individuals involved. Individuals are free to have opinions and behave in any manner they wish, unlike institutions, that must behave according to the responsibilities they hold towards each of its members. Besides the risk an institution would face to property and reputation when taking a stance on political issues, there is a greater risk to the safety of its members.
Educational institutions are duty bound to educate. Most are not owned by any political party/member.
They aim to produce educated, empowered and conscientious future citizens, but the safety of those citizens will always come first. They are not just responsible for the future of the students, but also for the students’ present safety, all while being respectful towards their past experiences that have shaped their beliefs (political).
The support of an institution to its members lies in keeping them safe first, and doing or not doing anything within their power to do so. The institution will accept and safeguard members who are secular or not, politically left or right-leaning, theistic or atheistic, or any other binaries and labels, because once you are inside the campus, you are either there for an education, or to educate.
Educational Institutions Are Secular — Religiously & Politically
Educational institutions are neutral, sacred ground. They are secular, not only towards religions, but also political beliefs. Members of the management, teaching and non-teaching employees, alumni, students and parents, all belong to different faiths and hold varied political beliefs. Keeping in mind this diversity, it is ignorant to expect institutions to take any political stance.
Being political, then, becomes a ‘privilege’.
No member of the management in educational institutions may enforce any of their own political beliefs or opinions on another member. Having to exercise restraint and remain ‘apolitical’ as a group, while being very much political individually, is thus, not as easy as calling shame upon educational institutions for doing what is right. At the end of the day, what is the fight for, if not for the space to be able to do as one wishes? To be able to express opinions or, to not express?
What We Owe to Educational Institutions
So, if you believe educational institutions have the ‘privilege’ of being ‘apolitical’ only to save face, think again. Educational institutions were here long before we came, they are here now, and they will still be standing tall, generation after generation. Such is the need for this institution that has, in fact, moulded a significant share of the educated individuals’ socio-political beliefs. It is in these educational institutions that generations have learned the histories of our world and shaped the future. We owe nothing more to these institutions than simple loyalty to the memory of having been there, by choice, if I may be bold enough to remind us all. There is no one way to resist ideology, but there sure is a time and place for the same. Be safe, be mindful, watch your words and keep fighting the good fight.
(The author is a lecturer of Psychology in Bengaluru. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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