Of Education, Leadership, and the AAP Experiment

Of Education, Leadership, and the AAP Experiment

If there is one outright positive adjective I’d like to use for myself, it’d be individualistic. I think as me first, and mostly, that’s all how I can think.

The year gone by got me a lot of chances to reflect on that word: me. And since this is my blog, I’d like to share a few of them with you.

I completed my MBA this year, and like most things in Life, the whole two-year affair was a rather torrid ride. It was certainly better than the frantic nightmare that was my graduation, but on the whole not exceptional. The bulk of my learning, not education I will admit, happened outside of classrooms.

The problem with our classrooms is that they have very little space. While this is literally true in most educational institutes, sadly, I mean it in a more figurative sense. We give very little room to divergent ideas and unconventional thinking, don’t appreciate a viewpoint that is different simply because it is different, and demand that others admit and accept as inviolable truths the biases we hold. We’ve become more about teaching, and less about education. We’re all knowledgeable about just the right way to think something through or solve a problem because, you know, some management guru or white guy who has sold 50 million books advocates it. We’re so assured of our experience of the world, and how it is the only real one, that we will deny you your vision and deride you when you dare to see something from a lens that we haven’t placed on your eyes. If embracing the herd was the surest way to evolutionary superiority, goats would be the primary species on the planet. Check again, they are not!

But there is great strength in the herd, as we’ve witnessed in Delhi recently, and as I too had occasion to learn during my course. When you claim to be one of a group and walk with them when leading them – what Arvind Kejriwal is so fond of doing – you forget that you were chosen not because you were the same but because you were different. If you claim to be a reflection of the herd, and do merely what they want, they will sweep you aside sooner rather than later because you weren’t doing anything better than them.

But you know what hurts most? The fact that in the abuses they hurl directly at you and the snide remarks they lay in ambush, they create a caricature of you as they see fit. Who in this world really knows someone else? Who knows the reasons behind the choices of others? In fact, do people really know their choices themselves? We take a person and grind him down to a few characteristics derived from gossip and sully them with shades of black conjured by us. It is unjust to label a man’s actions without knowing his reasons because you’re talking him away from him. It is something that ought to be criminal.

And which is how I have learnt that this ideal of leadership is false. Those placed on a higher station must renounce their baser desires and act in an exalted manner. At precisely which point of time, the same people who elevated you will clamour and tear you from your pedestal and remind you of your place as one of them. And what clamouring, what tearing can people stoop to!

Someone who leads cannot, or should not, claim to belong to similar spheres as those he must lead. He must not behave as if the troubles of the masses plague him too. He must rise above them because only when we acknowledge someone’s superiority can we truly follow him. As much as Kejriwal and AAP’s political experiments want to reinforce themselves as one of the common man, they must realise that people don’t want the common. They want extraordinary, they want out of the world.

I began this note by talking to you about being individualistic. It is for the sake of this ideal I pray that you learn your own truths. Be yourself so that your fall is your own, and when you rise you rise above everything with a firm belief in yourself. There’s no other salvation to be had, there’s no other good.

I wish you a happy new year!

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