Unit 5 Destination Discussion - India

Reading ahead of time:  Please read this article about two very different paths taken by young women from the same indigenous community  (Dongria, in Eastern India). 

Ask members of your Learning Circle to read these excerpts aloud, the first two from the article and the last from chapter one of In Spite of the Gods:

Most Indian livelihoods are still made in the countryside. Besides their livestock and the wild provender found in the hills, the Dongria still farm as many as twenty-five or thirty crops. These grow on different life cycles, at various heights, with complementary flows of nutrients into and out of the soil. Farming according to this pattern protects the food supply from shock weather and blights. The tribe’s resilience is based on an intellectual heritage—one taught not in writing but in oral lore, manual skills, and naturalist knowledge.

“Life here teaches many things that schools will never teach,” Kuni told me. Those things are necessary, if not sufficient, for the future. What her own example suggests for the Dongria is not war with the state, nor retreat into fabled isolation, but a balance of individual empowerment with collective cohesion, overseen by the tribe itself. “Dongria girls need an education, so they can fight for their rights and their land,” she said. “We do need schools, but over here, so they accommodate our knowledge system—what we learn from the Earth and from our community.” Absent that, the transplantation of children seems to her a harbinger of the eventual physical displacement of the Dongrias altogether. “When Vedanta leaves,” Kuni said, “then we will all go to school.”

From p. 57, In Spite of the Gods, quoting an Indian business leader:

“Much of the elite in India still attach great imortance to the village, even though none of the actually lives in one…. In my view they are dangerously wrong. India must urbanize much more rapidly and much better than we have done so far. This is what is happening in China. And t his is what has happened in every developed country on the planet. India cannot buck this trend. And even if it could, why should we want to? There are fundamental problems with the Indian village. The village is unable to give its people jobs and it never will, because reform of agriculture will mean mechanization of farming and fewer jobs. The village is a trap for the lower castes. It is a kind of prison. We cannot modernize the Indian economy — or Indian society — unless we urbanize more rapidly and urbanize better than we have done so far.”

How have the readings informed or challenged your assumptions and opinions about “education” and “knowledge”?

What is the meaning of “development” in light of the contradictions and tensions exposed in the particular community on which the article has focused?

What are the counter arguments to the businessman cited by Edward Luce? Which perspective do you find more compelling?





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