I solemnly declare that what you are about to read is a humorous piece of writing. If at any point your hands or your facial muscles twitch and tic, heave a deep breath and forgive; if you, however, laugh or feel good, I will have my mission accomplished. So, I was saying that like all loveable creatures, teachers also have multiple varieties and breeds. In the mould of our nation, our educators are also so diverse and disparate that any attempt at categorising them under the reductive term ‘teacher’ would be an irredeemable folly.
Some of these—not all, for who could dare classify teachers—are present in almost every institution and can be spotted soon after you have spent an hour or so there.
Of these, the Eternally Alienated is the foremost category. These are the teachers who feel that the whole academic establishment is put in place to marginalise them. They are invariably at odds with everyone including the administration, the faculty, the students, the cafe waiter and the gatekeeper. They walk and talk like hopeless prisoners waiting for their ultimate execution. When new recruits come in, these forever resentful fellows have their best days of life since they can no longer tell tales of their pain and sorrow to their seasoned colleagues who have heard the same umpteenth times.
Another category that springs to mind is that of the Young Romantic teacher. Since it is capitalised, the term Romantic here refers to someone who breathes change, reform, and improvement in the status quo; it shouldn’t bring to your mind a crying Shah Rukh Khan in one of his quintessential romance films.
Diversions apart, the young Romantic teacher believes he can transform almost everything except the (sur)reality that Single National Curriculum (SNC) is the sole panacea for all of Pakistan’s educational ailments. He lives out revolution, recites Faiz, Jalib, and Marx wherever possible, and genuinely anticipates an imminent social change. All the other types combine to tell him off and impress upon him that it’s better to crawl through life, earn money, and get married.
The most despicable of all is the Foxy Villain. These are the teachers who scheme and plot against anyone who they view as dangerous. They are the abandoned progeny of Lucifer who indulge in deadly sins like backbiting and badmouthing their co-workers. They act as the self-styled eyes and ears of the dark and secret powers. Worse, they neither tolerate their own well-read and conscious student, nor any woke and conscientious colleague. They want to consolidate the ‘well-oiled’ yet stale order rather than allow their friends and students to come up with an alternate one.
I guess these creatures are out of place because they would make excellent intelligence personnel. But wait, aren’t they being precisely that but in the robes of teachers? Well, I leave it to your imagination and experience to offer an answer.’
The most despicable of all is the Foxy Villain. These are the teachers who scheme and plot against anyone who they view as dangerous. They are the abandoned progeny of Lucifer who indulge in deadly sins like backbiting and badmouthing their co-workers.
The foxy villain is abated in his task by the ones I call as the Cutely Quiet. These are the instructors who think that their words are too precious to be cast before the plebian. They would rather adorn themselves and their offices with lovely articles of décor than raise voice against massive issues of structural tyranny. Besides, they usually avoid arguing with the Young Romantics because the latter ruffle their intellectual positions of comfort and complacency. If you are one of these, know that no matter how much you attempt to run away from the socio-political oppression staring in your face, you cannot deny its existence. After all, teaching is as much looking after others as it is looking after one;s office and oneself.
The Cutely Quiet one is still forgivable when seen in comparison with the All-knowing Demigod. Ask anything of this one and he will have a whole lecture to respond with. He won’t, even for a moment, pause and think, “It is Robotics that the questioner is talking about and I teach Sociology. How can I stay relevant in my answer?” He is too shy to concede, “Sorry, this is not my area; I cannot comment.” This omniscient educator is a hair bit too certain in his views, and too much certainty, sadly, is not a positive intellectual trait. He and his students would be better off if he left slight room for hedging, humility, and doubt.
After that, there enters the scene of the Magically Recruited. This poor bloke wanders here and there in pursuit of a better job but finds none. Suddenly one day his powerful relative buys him (not with money but with innocuous influence. Remember! Not everything can be bought with money) a university job.
When he enters the university, he is thunderstruck because he has to study and respond to his curious students. On the contrary, that was precisely what he always fled from. To find meaning in his suffering, he starts flocking with the more intelligent members of his fraternity. If he happens to be a rich brat, he invites them to dinner parties, introduces them to gymkhanas, and purchases them expensive gifts. In time, he wins their hearts and minds and starts conspiring with them against the other less fortunate ones. Then one fine morning he is inaugurated as head of the department, faculty, or even university and, thus, observers start incorporating such lines as “Power is power” in their films.
Perhaps the grandest of students’ fear, after studies, is induced by the type that can be tagged as the Choleric Disciplinarian. This is the cabal of teachers who would shout in exam halls, frown at the slightest of whimpers in the class, and assess the abilities of this country’s students by the yardsticks of other efficient and established education systems around the world. Yet these gentlemen would themselves ask for slack and leniency of their supervisors when they get enrolled in MPhils and PhDs here. The anger these educators show at their students freezes whatever embryonic ideas the latter have begun nourishing and, hence, learning takes a backseat in its own abode.
In the galaxy of such educators, it is then but natural that our academic engine is whirring and screeching all the time. The academic garden, rather than being nourished by compassion, care, and concern, is in the canines of wrath, duplicity, and petty politics. Its roots are being pulled out and away by issues of undue promotions, intellectual jealousy, and in-house academic coups. Until these, and then some, cancers are thrown out of the academia, universities will continue being run by pea-sized brains. And by the way, as confessed in the beginning, this is still a humorous write-up. To those I have angered, I beg your pardon.