Why This Election Fascinated My Students

Published: May 13, 2014 17:16 IST
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(Ishaan Saxena teaches at The Doon School, Dehradun. The views expressed by him are personal.)

We have just completed the largest democratic exercise undertaken in human history. Kudos to the Election Commission for organizing this mammoth exercise with little hiccups. The political mudslinging continues unabated.

Opinion polls, surveys and debates - despite portraying a distorted picture - have an overwhelming focus on the views of the voting adults. As a teacher, I ponder over the incipient views of students, our future generation.

As an instructor in Economics, I have had the sheer joy of entertaining a wide array of thought-provoking questions. The inescapable relevance of politics and the election to the economic climate in the country allows me to go beyond the scope of the prescribed syllabus and delve deeper into other pertinent issues.

I devote ten minutes in every lecture to discuss the elections. What has startled me in the last few weeks is the enthusiasm that students demonstrate with reference to the elections. Never before have I witnessed such raw energy and fervor among school children. It is unprecedented. It appears to me that the young minds have succumbed to the all-pervasive election fever. My brief interaction with students from other schools also corroborates my view. Children, like political aficionados, are following elections with a hawk's eye.

We have constructive, and at times, acrimonious discussions on the economy. The multiplicity of views allows us to probe critical issues, albeit briefly. We deliberate on matters such as the current account deficit, swelling government debt, fiscal deficit, and rampant corruption among others. As a group we have analyzed the Gujarat Development model and Narendra Modi's development discourse, the veracity of which has been questioned by many.

I meticulously guide their thought process and we explore the evils of nepotism and the unhealthy nexus between businessmen and people in power. There is visible anger in students every time I broach the topic of corruption and inordinate greed.  I am not immune to visceral rage every time I read a story on a venal incumbent so why should they be, I tell myself. The slew of scams in the recent past and an ineffective Prime Minister are some reasons I often ascribe to their justifiable sentiments.

The other day I inquired about their visible keenness in national politics. "Why are you so eagerly following elections, when you can't even vote?" I asked. The profusion of answers bewildered me. "Any policy change is welcome given the years of stultification," a student pointed out. Other students drew my attention to the tarnished reputation of the UPA government and how that has fueled their interest in these elections and they are desperate for change.

"What change do you want?" I gently asked. Answers ranged from curbing corruption, promoting development to ensure job security for them in the future to policies which are conducive to the educational sector.

At times I reflect on the role of the social media in facilitating a broader understanding of the national elections. Has it caused a pivotal shift in national consciousness or is it just that everyone seems to be desperate for a change in government? We will never be able to answer this question unambiguously but we can conclude that circumstances have fostered a more coherent understanding of politics among the student community.

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