Musings of a Spectator

Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Thursday, November 09, 2006

On Being Young

A friend of mine recently wrote a post that dealt with Professor's Dilemmas. So, I was speaking to Prof. PRK Rao, especially about the Dilemma 2 listed in that post. I asked him if he would agree that current day Professors are not able to capture the attention of the young.

He replied in all his wisdom - I wouldn't say that is the case. Professors certainly have the responsibility to make things interesting for the young and you cannot blame the young if they do not find things interesting. But of course, it is also of important to note who are young.

I tell my students that I am younger than most of them, for the sense of youth is not in the age - that person is young who would say - I am going to do this - come what may - whatever the consequences of doing it - I am fearless and have the courage to face - for I am young. As the young grow older, they lose this fearlessness, and it gets replaced with caution, and they would start calculating the losses and gains for doing things - and look at optimizing. The problem now is - many of the so called young have started becoming the "optimizing" types - rather than show the fresh air of youthful zest.

Two days after this conversation, I open the newspaper to find that a PhD Scholar from IIT Kanpur committed suicide, and that too when he has a Post Doctoral Fellowship and he has completed his thesis which was to be submitted in about a month. He says - He is fed up of life - in his suicide note. I suppose - death is ruling the roost on my recent posts. I shall think of changing the trend.

In one of my future posts - I shall translate Laltu's (Prof. Harjinder Singh's, see this) take on this kind of education institutes. Till then enjoy his writings in Hindi.

Let me end this post by a quote which a friend of mine from Johns Hopkins pointed me to a quote that drives such Universities. I suppose it is worth noting:

"But you go to a great school, not for knowledge so much as for arts and habits; for the habit of attention, for the art of expression, for the art of assuming at a moment's notice a new intellectual posture, for the art of entering quickly into another person's thoughts, for the habit of submitting to censure and refutation, for the art of indicating assent or dissent in graduated terms, for the habit of regarding minute points of accuracy, for the habit of working out what is possible in a given time, for taste, for discrimination, for mental courage and mental soberness." -William Johnson Cory (1861)"