Thursday, June 20, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Is it time to tweak our education system?

Ignorance and superstitions pose a major threat to fighting the coronavirus

Update : 23 Mar 2020, 08:30 PM

More than a hundred years ago, in a countryside in France, a Frenchman said something that would forever immortalize him in the minds of people around the world. It proved to be so influential that it would even apply to a sub-tropical country that didn’t even exist when he gave birth to this phrase.

Seemingly contradictory and giving birth to multiple interpretations, this legendary idiom is known as “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” 

Readers are probably scratching their heads at this point. First of all, didn’t this originate from a video game? And second of all, how does this relate to the current situation.

Let’s look at the questions in detail. For question number one, yes, although this phrase was popularized by a shooter released approximately 11 years ago, this is originally the work of a French critic, journalist, and novelist named Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. Although originally meant as a short, satirical note, this quote in recent times has taken a very real and very scary life of its own.

Now, let’s come to the second question at hand: How is this relevant with the current scenario? Well, some examples will help elucidate my point here.

As we are heading towards an apocalyptic scenario courtesy of Covid-19, our local business “tycoons” are playing it business-as-usual and selling things at a much higher rate through syndication. 

People are preaching about being kind to one another but engaging with the same level of animal cruelty they usually do. Due to economic and social reasons, some are doing this at a much higher rate, both in frequency and in the nature of the cruelty inflicted.

And the final example will be the focus of the rest of the article, which is, when it is important -- more than ever -- to focus on science to battle the virus that has attacked our community, our community is submerging deeper into the ignorance of superstition.

Examples of this would be how people are turning to shamans and leaving for their safety, listening to fraudsters as they talk about “interviewing” Covid-19 and thinking that this is a conspiracy by people of other religions. 

While some of them would be fine now since this is a state of emergency and we can focus on educating people after saving, when they refuse to wash their hands with hand sanitizers just because it has alcohol in it, or attempt to fight the Covid-19, a virus that spreads through mass gatherings, by mass gathering around preachers, that’s when it becomes a problem.

Even though we can solve them through stricter regulations now, the idiocy of these people does pose the question: Why are they still so submerged in stupidity in the age of reason? 

First things first, let’s clarify why this is stupidity and superstition instead of being a facet of the religion itself. Even though drinking alcohol is haram in Islam, for casual consumption, alcohol, which is used in medicine, is even permitted to be consumed. So if someone doesn’t want to do this because of his limited understanding of religion and science as a whole, that is on his stupidity, not on the religion.

The other thing that caught the eyes of many during this tumultuous time is how a preacher is claiming to have interviewed the virus in his dreams. Anyone with a basic understanding of science will know why this is ridiculous.

So the question remains: How can people be so stupid and clueless in such a time of crisis? Why are our people falling victim to these entrapments even with a high literacy rate? 

For many people, superstition provides a sense of control and reduces anxiety. And from the current circumstances, it is understandable why people would be in need of that. But do you know what else provides the same function? Knowledge. Armed with proper knowledge, we can tackle situations more effectively and take steps that will be most useful for us. 

This brings us to how we learn. We mainly learn things from our family, our peers, and our formal education systems. While we can’t talk about our government’s role in shaping the people (maybe in the future, hopefully?) we can talk about their implementation of policies that will bolster the educational system. As kids, our science teachers would say that evolution is false (with all evidence against them) and would make us memorize equations to answer questions. 

The role of science is to make us aware of the inner-workings of the world so we can better use it to our advantage. Without it, we are going to believe frauds when they claim to have conversed with a virus. Another problem is the way we teach religion in our classes. As a society, we seem to revere preachers no matter what they do and what they say. 

This extends to the classroom. The preachers assert their dominance and make us memorize scriptures and turn us into puppets through fear, whereas they should go into the core of the verses and explain what each of them means. As a result of the conventional educational system, we barely know our own religions and what they mean, giving fraudsters power over us. 

As things start to change and things stay the same, it is our duty to take lessons from this outbreak to talk about the things we should do in the future. While this will have long-lasting economic and political impacts, it is our duty to make sure we recognize these hard-to-notice and smaller-than-life issues as well and prepare ourselves. 

Because if things continue as they are, we might not even be alive next time to dream about interviewing viruses.

Nafis Shahriar is a freelance contributor.

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