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A Lesser People October 14, 2007

Posted by K in Faction, Uncategorized.
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The matchstick body lay around. Nobody noticed it until I picked it up and claimed it to be mine. Everybody wanted it then. But obviously. I gain visibility only when I stick my neck out and claim a possession. You see, I was born possession-less, and that’s how they want me to remain. I am poor, and so it shall be.

There are rich people. I don’t know if I hate them. But one day, I want to be rich. I don’t care how. I don’t want just my 3 meals a day; great if they come, but they shall remain insufficient. I want more. I demand more.

But how. They say you can do what you want. But my teachers don’t teach at school. Volunteers come to my slum and teach. We have fun, but they go eventually. They have thirty hours to complete here.

So how do I become rich? How do I compete in all your examinations? Without electricity. Without a room of my own, or even a room to share. Without a coaching centre. Without reference books. Without everything that you used to begin preparing for your exam. And then you say it’s unfair to keep reservations. I agree. You see, life has already reserved a berth for you in your journey. I object to that.

 

88% of Scheduled castes and tribes live on less than Rs.20 a day. Twenty rupees.

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Comments»

1. jnarin - October 15, 2007

A friend of mine had a different idea – Once someone in the family has used “Reservation” to get a job/educational purposes, then no one in that family may do so again.

From where I stand, I do understand your point of view, but it is unfair for a chap who scored 40% to get a seat for his Engineering in a far better college than someone who scored 95%, just because those seats were “Reserved” – and both had the same facilities when they were studying.

It’s a highly debatable topic, and I’m not looking at starting a debate here.

2. Sreejith - October 15, 2007

the irksome point is that the remaining 12% (the well off ones) might be the ones who are aware of reservations and take advantage of the benefits. At a macro perspective shouldn’t primary education be the focus rather than a few hundred seats that would do good to only the elite of these unfortunate people?

bah, i forget the point… extremely well written. You learn something new even when you go to teach 🙂

3. sporadicblogger - October 15, 2007

jnarin- I too know people who do that. Just goes to show that not everybody takes advantage of a system.
No debate, just pointing out that a 40% by someone who studies in a govt. school (not the elite Kendriya Vidayalas) is close to, if not equal to, a 95% from someone who has electricity, the leisure to study, and resources to study.

Sreejith-Just because the 12% *might* take advantage, can we damn the 88% ? It is not as if non-SC/STs don’t take advantage of their circumstances- people with low marks get into premier institutions with bribes and connections. Corruption exists at all levels; its just that the corrupt poor don’t have the moolah to be corrupt in the same way as their richer counterparts.

And yes, primary education is what needs to be reworked, and thankfully Arjun Singh seems to have realised it.

I personally know of a fair few people my age, who are very bright, who are only able to go to college(yes, in premier institutes) because of reservation. Once they got in, they are now doing as well as non-reservation candidates.

I’m not voicing support for the recent OBC reservations; I do not know enough about them, but I do get the feeling that it was all politics.
I also know the system of reservation needs to be improved to include poor people, regardless of caste. But I now believe that reservation is required in a country that is as unequal as ours. And many people would agree, I think, were they forced to live on 20 bucks a day for even a week.
Thanks for reading 🙂

4. sporadicblogger - October 15, 2007

jnarin- I forgot you were referring to people who have the same resources, different castes. Refer to what I wrote to Sreejith about corruption 🙂 A non-SC/ST 40% often gets into the elite institution through ‘pull’ o cold,hard cash.

5. anonymouse - October 16, 2007

http://www.deeshaa.org/2006/05/14/imagine-no-reservations/

Atanu has a whole series of posts on reservations.

Oh, and it’s always possible to get by even if you are poor and value your education. Difficult? yes. Impossible? No.

You do have to be willing to change across generations though, bootstrapping upwards.

6. sporadicblogger - October 16, 2007

anonymouse- Nothing is impossible, so that argument does not hold good for anything.
However, it can become extremely difficult for a poor person to pay college fees. Which happens. Resulting in people dropping out.

I don’t understand why it is alright for some people to have to struggle and struggle and struggle for an education (in the true sense of the word) and for others (like me) to sail through. And I’m not referring to the mental/intellectual work required.

7. sporadicblogger - October 16, 2007

I read the article. I think his example of a daily wage earner family is extremely simplistic.

8. annoymouse - October 17, 2007

nice post

the argument that somehow those with the means to educate themselves (and thus being able to score more) have greater merit than those who dont is wrong.

and competition amongst schools is only going to work if you assume that uneducated low skill parents can make the right choice (if they can make a choice at all) about an education system they know nothing about. thats a big leap of faith, and i dont accept it.

9. anonymouse - October 17, 2007

http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc1925.html Point (2). Some things are impossible.

However, it can become extremely difficult for a poor person to pay college fees. Which happens. Resulting in people dropping out.
Which is why we have loans given to poorer students. And scholarships. Or subsidies. Note that absolutely no one has objections to financial aid.

On the other hand, the question is whether we want the people with the capability to do better to wait until everyone else catches up, or do we let the good ones race up while those who cannot run move upwards more slowly, but get the capability to run in the next generation.

Reservations go for the first, I vote for the second.

10. sporadicblogger - October 17, 2007

annoymouse-hello and thanks for dropping by.

Exactly. Some parents will always want to ensure their children get an education, but too many are so disillusioned with the system that they don’t believe their children can ever compete on a level field with other, more fortunate children. They say what will our children do wasting so many years, ultimately they too will end up here.

It’s a very upsetting condition, but we need to work at it. No one system (whether of reservations or that which Atanu De proposes) will work by itself, everybody needs to put in whatever effort they can.

11. sporadicblogger - October 17, 2007

Btw- annoymouse…? anonymouse…? 🙂

12. anonymouse - October 18, 2007

Nope, I am not an annoymouse. Providign facilities based on economic strata will be far more useful, because the alternative is that those who are outside the purview of reservations simply refuse to try. “Why should I study if someone without merit is going to get my place anyway?”

The big motivaton till now was to leave the country, now that is looking less likely and you have reservations everywhere (even if they term it affirmative action).

The only winning move is not to play.

13. annoyedmouse - October 19, 2007

The above argument is wrong and is not thought out at all.

How do you decide someone without facilities to study and thus performs worse has lesser merit than someone who does? What gives you the right to feel superior to a truck driver?

Affirmative action and reservations are vastly different. The former is more a stepping stone to graduate study. The lesser privileged are given a full year to assimilate into a system alien to them. Reservations do nothing of the sort.

Ya I guess the millions of students who sign up for IIT/IIM/Medical entrance exams training institutes are a superb testimony to “Why should I study if someone without merit is going to get my place anyway?”.

The only winning move is not to play? WTF does that mean? You think students will just sit at home because of reservations?

Integration is important and that is completely ignored in all this. How do you expect who stays in Rithala to compete with someone in GK? How many students from the north east continue graduate degrees in DU?

14. anonymouse - October 19, 2007

Ya I guess the millions of students who sign up for IIT/IIM/Medical entrance exams training institutes are a superb testimony to “Why should I study if someone without merit is going to get my place anyway?”.

Here’s a hint: Passing out of the IIT/IIM was pretty much a ticket out of this country (true for the top medical colleges as well). Now take a look at which way the economic tide is turning and see how long that will hold.

The problem with affirmative action is that the number of seats in any education institution is limited, and lesser than the number of applicants. The problem does not arise for the toppers, but for the large number of people in the middle. Why should someone who has worked hard not get admission to a reputed college just because someone else who got less marks lacked access to better facilities? Or had a different skin colour? Or came from a “lower” caste?

Can you fairly stack socio-economic disadvantages vs adacemic merit? How do you explain that scale to the student who does not get admission because someone with lesser money|social status and worse grades was preferred?

How do you decide someone without facilities to study and thus performs worse has lesser merit than someone who does?
How do you decide that someone with facilities to study and a good performer is not better than someone without access to those facilities? How do you decide that those who have access to some facilities but not others are better than those will access to all those facilities?

What gives you the right to feel superior to a truck driver?
The same reason that lets me know I am superior to everyone else :P.

Seriously though, I don’t care about the truck driver. I do care about the guy competing for my seat in college, for my job, for my resources in life.
.
The only winning move is not to play? WTF does that mean?
Why play the game? Quit. Leave the country.

You think students will just sit at home because of reservations?
They don’t need to sit at home. They can just choose to quit the race. To work where there are no reservations, no affirmative action. To leave the country. To not work to the best of their ability, because it doesn’t matter.

Integration is important
And you propose to achieve that by forcing one group of people to make sacrifices to benefit another group?

All right, how about we implement your proposal like this:
If your educational institution has n seats, allow n students to apply there. Then remove the top n and give those seats to the disadvantaged, keeping the bottom half of the n in place. Would that not be a far more interesting experiment?

Shall we play a game?

15. anonymouse - October 19, 2007

Oh, and what next? veryannoyedmouse?

16. pallavi - October 19, 2007

okay , first and foremost – very very powerfully written , i ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT ! seriously . i got goosebumps and this is one post which will stay with me for a long time . an argument made in the most beautiful manner possible , no trace of condescension and anger that all of us by the virtue of exsisting in the circumstances we do -deserve …

well done
i feel proud of you for doing this

17. anonymouse - October 19, 2007

Grrrrr, why has wordpress eaten my post?

Ya I guess the millions of students who sign up for IIT/IIM/Medical entrance exams training institutes are a superb testimony to ¿Why should I study if someone without merit is going to get my place anyway?¿.

Here’s a hint: Passing out of the IIT/IIM was pretty much a ticket out of this country (true for the top medical colleges as well). Now take a look at which way the economic tide is turning and see how long that will hold.

The problem with affirmative action is that the number of seats in any education institution is limited, and lesser than the number of applicants. The problem does not arise for the toppers, but for the large number of people in the middle. Why should someone who has worked hard not get admission to a reputed college just because someone else who got less marks lacked access to better facilities? Or had a different skin colour? Or came from a “lower” caste?

Can you fairly stack socio-economic disadvantages vs adacemic merit? How do you explain that scale to the student who does not get admission because someone with lesser money|social status and worse grades was preferred?

How do you decide someone without facilities to study and thus performs worse has lesser merit than someone who does?
How do you decide that someone with facilities to study and a good performer is not better than someone without access to those facilities? How do you decide that those who have access to some facilities but not others are better than those will access to all those facilities?

What gives you the right to feel superior to a truck driver?
The same reason that lets me know I am superior to everyone else :P.

Seriously though, I don’t care about the truck driver. I do care about the guy competing for my seat in college, for my job, for my resources in life.
.
The only winning move is not to play? WTF does that mean?
Why play the game? Quit. Leave the country.

You think students will just sit at home because of reservations?
They don’t need to sit at home. They can just choose to quit the race. To work where there are no reservations, no affirmative action. To leave the country. To not work to the best of their ability, because it doesn’t matter.

Integration is important
And you propose to achieve that by forcing one group of people to make sacrifices to benefit another group?

All right, how about we implement your proposal like this:
If your educational institution has n seats, allow n students to apply there. Then remove the top n and give those seats to the disadvantaged, keeping the bottom half of the n in place. Would that not be a far more interesting experiment?

Shall we play a game?

18. sporadicblogger - October 19, 2007

anonymouse- wordpress sent your comment to spam because of the length 🙂

19. anonymouse - October 19, 2007

In that case, get rid of comment 17. Plus, annoyedmouse needs to learn about useful quotes.

20. annoyedmouse - October 20, 2007

allright lets see if i can analyze anonymouse’s arguments:

(a) Please take a look at how many students from IIT/IIM/Medical colleges actually went outside after their degree.

(b) Perhaps you need to take a look at how pervasive the caste system is in our country to understand how much of an issue reservations is. You may not agree with me on any issue, but you have to agree that we are very fortunate to not be in the “bottom” as I have to regretfully refer to the vast teeming majority. And there is a certain class of society that has sacrificed for this. So please think about this when you start talking about making sacrifices. You have little idea how much some have to sacrifice to even clear Class Xth.

(c) I think we’re agreed on comparing socio-economic criterion with academic merit. I’m saying you cannot. You agree with me on this, but then go on to contradict yourself later on by returning to the ol argument of why should someone else get my seat etc. Incidentally it is a fallacy to think socio-economic class and academic merit are not linked. My academic merit is a direct derivation of my socio economic standing. This is also the argument made in the post.

(d) All right you say that students should leave the country. Assuming that the world is waiting for us with open arms, that is. Apart from this, in the beginning of your post you claim (and i support that claim) that the economic tide is turning. So this, in my view, will increase the willingness to stay in India. This clearly contradicts your earlier stated conclusion about students going abroad.

(e) Incidentally the toppers are the only types who go abroad to study.

(f) I am not supporting reservations; I am supporting the idea behind it. There is a vast difference in the two assertions.

21. annoyedmouse - October 20, 2007

And yes integration is important.

NOT THROUGH GUARANTEED SEATS.

You need to make ’em work for it. Surely you will agree that there are at least some smart people who never got a chance to get good marks who may end up doing really well? Thats what affirmative action does. It is designed to select the best amongst the under-privileged and pushes them up.

I am sorry to say this but your posts give me a very uncomfortable feeling of class superiority.

22. annoyedmouse - October 20, 2007

AND

affirmative action exists in the US for SOME schools – most of which are private schools who are doing this without any government telling them to do so – in SOME degrees. (There must be some gain in it surely then?)

Not “everywhere” like you claim.

23. amonymouse - October 20, 2007

Class superiority is your privilege, not mine. I can’t afford it. http://homes.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html

I will not play.

24. anonymouse - October 20, 2007

Ugh, typo in the handle above.

25. annoyedmouse - October 21, 2007

okay. i have no idea what you’re trying to say though.

26. www.cellulitediary.info » The matchstick body lay around. Nobody noticed it until I picked … - October 26, 2007

[…] sporadicblogger added an interesting post on The matchstick body lay around. Nobody noticed it until I picked ….Here’s a small excerpt:I don’t care how. I don’t want just my 3 meals a day; great if they come, but they shall remain insufficient. I want more. I demand more. But how. They say you can do what you want. But my teachers don’t teach at school. … […]

27. KnotKeats - November 6, 2007

As an outsider, I had an entirely different response to your story. When I read the first comment and it was about the unfairness of what we sometimes call “quotas” in higher education in the USA, and that most of the rest of the people commenting saw it in that light, I realized I had misunderstood it.

When I read it, I was reminded of my college days. I lived in a nice fraternity house on campus, with a cook and a houseboy, and tea served at 5:00 every day. The worst rooms were doubles – a sleeping room and a study room for two people.

There were people who had no place to live. One of the campus libraries was open 24 hours a day. It was next door to the gym. These people would get a locker at the gym and keep their stuff there. That way they had a locked spot, and bathrooms and showers and a place to change. They slept in the library, which had entire hallways of carrels with the fluorescent lamps turned so it was always dark. Some slept in sleeping bags. Some slept on the floor in their clothes.

What the hell did I ever have to complain about? These people really wanted an education.

Anyway, your story is economical, powerful, and truthful.

28. sporadicblogger - November 10, 2007

Hi Knotkeats, thank you for commenting! Your thoughtful insights are always appreciated!

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