Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Humility

(This is the 7th post in the one-month challenge series.) 

I wrote this post last summer...

This semester I have a neuroscience course taught by a lecturer who is pretty good. Not awesome, but you can see she tries her best to make it interesting (In the last 3 weeks, we have had one creative drawing session for anatomy, a few videos/animations, one news article discussion, one historical background discussion and one... wait for it... neuro movie :) ) So, this isn't a boring course by any standards. And though the instructor isn't the best expert, she is pretty good. (Edit 1: Later on in the course, I realized she was not handling the course THAT well, and started to rush through topics or became vague. But she was still better than most of my teachers anywhere.)

3 classes ago, she made all of us give written feedback about the syllabus. Note that the feedback was about the syllabus, not the course itself. Apparently many students ended up giving her unsolicited teaching advice! 

Now pause for a minute and imagine this happening in India. A lecturer asks you to write about the syllabus and you dare to give advice about his (or her) teaching (very foolishly, I might add). What would you expect? If they knew who wrote the feedback -public insults in the class. And potentially lower grades. If they did not know who wrote it- one lecture wasted on how this whole class is arrogant, does not have any discipline, will never do anything useful in life and so on. (For NITTians of my batch: I can add in Chellappa style -> "Waat.. you have so much head weight ah.. how much kg you have?")

Now to the present. Was she angry? NOT AT ALL. She was specially THANKFUL to those who wrote the advice. And what's more? Some people had written that she was 'not very organized'. (Remember she hadn't even asked their opinion!) Yet she actually APOLOGIZED to us that though it isn't an excuse, it's her first time with this course and she would try to improve.

Would any Indian teacher EVER apologize to the class? Or let alone, accept that there was a problem with himself/herself? Let me rephrase that. Would any Indian adult EVER accept they were wrong- in public- to their subordinates? Do Indian adults ever admit they are not perfect or they do not know something or that they might be wrong?

Ya, ya. I am generalizing too much here. Of course, there are some nice Indians who are humble. But they are mostly the exception, not the norm. Whereas in the US, it is the NORM to admit you don't know. Or to apologize when you are wrong. And to the many Indians who criticize Americans as being too liberal ("having no culture"), I say- it is the norm here (at least in academia) to be humble. Which commands respect from me like nothing else.

I rest my case.

Tomorrow: Internet Rage
Also: I tried writing today's post in less than 500 words (except the "Tomorrow" and "Also" sections.) It took me longer than usual but I guess was worth it. Will try that when I can.

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