By Aditi Saraswat:
The year began with our discovery that students under the FYUP will be able to pick up less than 50% of the core discipline courses (20 core out of 50 in totality), as opposed to 75% in our case ( I’m a final year student). Also, the students will not write any assignments. Only group based presentations are allowed. We write 16 assignments each year, which are crucial to our development as critical thinkers, analysts and future researchers. And now the University of Delhi would not offer students of History like me, History of the United States and History Of U.S.S.R anymore. Let me begin to tell you how painful this news is to an undergraduate historyÂ student and the nature, dangerous to education at large.
History of U.S was the paper which brought to me a fine understanding of the trajectories of fall and rise of the country which is so often looked at as an economic superpower and a land of extreme decadence. I was ushered in the barns and taverns of colonial America, where political stalwarts and their solid philosophies were taking birth, witnessed the struggles of the country with ideas of free thinking, freedom, race, religion, sin and morality. I got a chance to understand and see for myself, the gradual rise of industry and business in America, the ideas which took the world by storm. The expansions, mergers, stock building, the city bosses, the mafia, the temperance, the flappers of the twenties, the rise of Jazz, the Red Scare, Teddy Roosevelt and Hoover, The Depression and the unionization. Almost every modern structure of governance, organization and protest are the gifts from this land. There were times of fall from glory, there were scandals, and there was tremendous growth, which set the ball rolling for other nations. Above all, I began understanding a ‘phenomenon‘ with deeper sincerity. It was all because of the scrutiny with which we examined the paper. And it remains the paper I have relished the most.
I did not get a chance to study History of USSR but my friends who opted for the paper tell me it is a very enlightening one. For one, one gets to see, in marked contrast to Capitalism in the US, the birth, rise and fall of Socialism, the genesis of peasant revolts and gets to visit the grand ballrooms of the Moscow aristocrats, experience their sensibilities etc.
I remember how in my first year, seniors used to recount the almost legendary anecdotes of Mr Shashi Tharoor (who studied History at St Stephens) topping the University and going on to become the youngest Doctorate recipient at the Tufts School of Diplomacy. He recently confessed of having actively demanded for the paper ( History Of U.S) in his college and found it thoroughly enjoyable. International Relations or further research in these countries were what students who studied these papers could explore.
I cannot begin to elucidate on how many levels such arbitrary impositions of whims by the University is wrong. Already, teachers’ autonomy is being burnt at the altar of power play and display of authority by ‘experts‘ who are not even remotely familiar with the discipline or the aspirations of students pursuing it. The justification which the University has to offer is that room was to be made for the increased number of courses ( the core area courses were exceeding 20). I would like to ask, in what universe of rational thought, is scrapping core area courses for school level foundation courses and subsidiary courses a smart move? Is this way in which the grand promises of employability, flexibility (the rationale behind the FYUP) etc. being fulfilled? As a concerned student, I am scared. This method of clamping educational reforms (more like untested, unsafe experiments) down on the helpless peasantry which is the student body by the high lords of education, eerily reminds me of the feudal era (pardon the historical reference). For once, I am glad to be leaving college early.