Saturday, November 5, 2016

Gentleman

I saw the word ‘gentleman’ in a text book of my son. It was perhaps his nursery or kindergarten book from many years ago. There was a picture above the word of a man in a suit and tie and a bag in his hand. The purpose of this picture was to teach the meaning of the word ‘gentleman’ and its spelling to the child. We possibly achieved this purpose but in the process we did a great disservice to the child, we committed a crime. We etched a picture in the child’s mind that a gentleman is a person wearing a suit, boots and tie and holding a bag.

With this picture in mind, the child of a farmer, a teacher or a laborer will never consider his father a gentleman since they don’t wear suits. If occasionally a person wears a suit for a function or a marriage then child comments – wow you are looking like a gentleman!

Not only children but adults make the same comment and are even impressed. There is a difference between how we talk to an unknown person in suit versus how we talk to a person in a dhoti-kurta. How did this bias come in our society? Through such books, we inculcated this bias right from childhood.

This might be small thing. We don’t pay attention to such things. However, in our ignorance we pass on a lot of harmful biases to our children.

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