Learning Truth Telling Beyond Neoliberal Education


In an education system the curriculum and modes of its transaction need to determine the design of the infrastructure – the size and shape of classrooms, the looks of the building, the library, the student-faculty-administration interface, the equipment and so on.

What is the nature of curriculum space and what goes into its making?

We are all familiar with the idea that everything is woven around and into the curriculum – everything here includes not merely all aspects of an institution system but also the larger society; the history, culture, economy, politics and so on. It is one of most contested spaces – what should be included has been debated across the table and has also been a source of conflict and violence between the left, liberal and right persuasions in the fields of politics, economy and culture. Each of these has wanted its agenda to be pushed in.

All contestations are for being ‘included’ – that is against a one-sided view of history and society. There is a diversity of voices, the body of knowledge has grown over the past several decades and the objective conditions have changed rapidly and that process continues. How are these to be accommodated in the curriculum and from whose perspective?

The perspective of the student is most important. From this perspective, contestations are concerned with finding ways to learn from a plurality of visions and knowledge-systems. This is about the dynamism of studentship as opposed to the authoritative figure of the ‘teacher’. This is a shift towards opening the question of what is ‘learnable’ and free knowledge from the monopolist control of the ‘authoritative teacher’ (one who has the authority over the text and the body of knowledge that should be transacted in class) and the ideological ally (from any of the three persuasions mentioned above).

The neoliberal economy has monopolised the curriculum space. It is instrumentalising the space for transacting knowledge and skills required by different sectors of the corporate economy.  This has been undermining the ‘dynamism of studentship’ that has been emerging alongside ‘plural knowledge-systems and perspectives’.

The undermining of ‘studentship’ has only contributed to the making of a neoliberal disaster. That, however, is creating the ground for the emergence of an even stronger idea of dynamic studentship with its concern for the ‘learnable’.

The neoliberal disaster

The neoliberal regime is oblivious to the increasing technological lag. That is, it lags far behind the aspirations of the frontier people (the masses) and thereby the requirements for a just society. The masses want jobs and justice, the neo-liberal economy give more unemployment; the masses want health, the neo-liberal economy creates conditions for more health hazards, the masses want quiet time, the neoliberal economy floods their free time with loud blaring music; the masses want the truth about perpetrators of violence and brutality, the neoliberal economy creates conditions for further conflict and violence… the list can be endless.

The neoliberal mindset misses the point that with each new step to boost the economy it increases the speed of the chain reaction. There is an escalation of the rate at which difference lead to conflict, violence, war and terrorism. Under these conditions, an economy cannot function. Massive amount of energy, finance and institutional processes are devoted to unproductive work of containing violence and terrorism. That, needless to say, does nothing but compound those crises. For instance, the production of arms and ammunition adds no value to life; on the contrary it takes away a large chunk of resources from the economy. It contributes nothing to value of food, shelter, education and health.

The neoliberal, paying no heed to all that, erodes all theoretical spaces. In other words, there is no space and time for discussing questions that emerge from the dilemmas of human predicament, questions that seek to examine the assumptions behind our beliefs and practices. Without such theoretical spaces blunders are bound to occur – for instance, the reduction of the problem of terrorism to an issue that can purportedly have technological solutions. There is little time and space to analyse as to how terrorism could quite plausibly be a product of the neoliberal economy with its emphasis on the market. To understand and deal with the problem requires a radical re-examination of the assumptions of neoliberalism. It is not about annihilating ethnic groups that have got arms. It is about the inability to conduct a fundamental investigation into the premises of the system despite facts and public opinion that point to the failure of neoliberalism at levels of economy, society and polity.

It not uncommon to hear in academic seminars, policy meetings and debates that the theoretical is anti-practical and theoretical discussions slow down the completion of projects. There is a tacit agreement that when a discussion gets into a deadlock on account of theory a decision can be taken on the basis of the practical. Often at meetings one hears “too much of democracy is not going to lead anywhere”. In other words, there is no time for discussion. Time constraints are imposed by financial considerations – ‘the work needs to be one within the time-frame for which the money has been sanctioned’.

There is a conflict between financial time and discussion time. In this conflict the discussion time shrinks and this obviously implies a shrinking of theoretical space.

Such conflict and shrinking has filtered down to other fields of social and political life. Debates on policy are short and snappy, what with political activists being averse to theory. They want action and have no time for reflection. In universities there are fewer students who opt for the social sciences for they do not get one a job. Such pressure has compelled the re-invention of more market-friendly syllabi in the social sciences.

The meaning of theory itself has changed. A good example is ‘theory for computer programs’ taught in schools and institutes. It refers to a list of terms and procedures to run the program and there is no space for asking the why how and what. Here theory itself has become the instrument.

In social sciences, theory is more often than not envisaged as the lens or the frame (legal, conceptual, experiential, religious…) through and within which we see the world. In the first instance, the world appears either smaller (as if viewed through a convex lens) or larger (seen through the concave) than what it is. In the case of theory being the frame, the world is viewed with the terms of reference specified by the task to be accomplished. In both instances, theory is the ally of fragmentation and encourages the exclusion of critical voices of people from diverse experiences and plural cultures.

The neoliberal economy has converted theory into an instrumentality for manufacturing consent.

Army recruitment through text books/Shrinking theoretical spaces

An instance of the mindless neoliberal economic regime is advertisements for recruitment to the Army in school textbooks.

The National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT), on the recommendation of a parliamentary committee, has given a part of the textbook space to the Army. It has granted permission to the Indian Army to advertise in five textbooks – creative writing and translation, computer and communication technology, human ecology and family sciences, Indian Heritage and Crafts and Graphic Design.




This news of March 18, 2009, in the Indian Express underscores the partnership among the army, the NCERT and the state. It is not coincidental that an advertisement from the Army is included in textbooks. This decision emanates from an ideological assumption that is integral to the core of the neoliberal regime. The Army is the foundational sector of the economy, not only is it expected to defend civic space it also is at the apex of the innovation chain from where technology trickles down to civil society and transforms its character.

What brings them together? What do the state, education and the market share? What is common between the military and the NCERT? What implications does this partnership have for the future of creative writing, the rules of translation, the form and content for computer, communication and technology, the guidelines for human ecology and family sciences, Indian heritage and crafts, and graphic design?

The army and the education system are contraries.

The army is grounded in no tolerance for questioning and education is grounded in no restraint on questioning.

How different is this positioning of a recruitment advertisement in textbook from recruitment of child soldiers?

In this advertisement, the state and the NCERT have legitimised a genocidal disposition: “to catch them young” before they begin to disagree and question, and instill in them a sense of ‘pride and honor’ that comes from unquestioning respect for authority and unquestioned faith in the superiors, from killing innocent people and not be tried in the court of justice, for destroying ecology, for escalating the arms race and contributing to the criminalisation of everyday life.

According to anthropologists, the genocidal disposition exaggerates (the vision of concave lens) and underplays (the vision of convex lens) differences and arranges them as binaries.  For instance, modernity is projected as larger than life and the panacea for all problems; the only way to freedom, fraternity and well-being. Its binary opposite, tradition, is ridiculed and made to appear small. The most lethal aspect of these binaries is that they cannot be co-present – it is either one or the other.Some of these genocidal binaries are as follows:

modernity-tradition; civilisation-savagery; us-them; centre-margin; humanity-barbarity; progress-degeneration; advanced-backward; developed-underdeveloped;  adult-childlike; nurturing-dependent; normal-abnormal; subject-object; human-sub-human; reason-passion; culture-nature; male-female; mind-body; objective-subjective; knowledge-ignorance; science- magic; truth-superstition; master-slave; good-evil; moral-sinful; believer-pagans; pure-impure; order-disorder; law-uncontrolled; justice-arbitrariness; active-passive; wealthy-poor; nation-states- non-state processes; strong-weak; dominant-subordinate; conqueror-conquered (1)

Genocide is the most malignant form of militarisation, for it takes pride in brutalising life – mass killings in the name of human rights. It begins with learning to be proud of using weapons. It is not so easy to shoot the bullet that will kill – not until ones kills a person does the sense of pride settles in.

It is also constitutive of the neoliberal economy. The pride of the neoliberal economy is its vast military-industrial complex. There are a large number of studies that show how the neoliberal economy is a military-industrial complex that has its origin in the post-war (World War I and II) reconstruction effort.

Speed has been the core of neoliberal economy. Fredrick Winslow Taylor its hero.

The salient features of the economy today are as follows:

The rate of extracting natural resources is several times faster than the rate at which nature can reproduce them. Thus this economy has destroyed nature’s capacity to regenerate. There is depletion of water, climate change, pollution, destruction of the natural base for people’s livelihood…. It has created a condition of technological obsolescent waste.

Militarisation is necessary to sustain this economy. It refers to training to follow without question, the line of command from the superiors to the juniors. This, it has been argued, is necessary for ensuring security and safe keeping of resources held under monopolies. Further, the conflicts this economy produces from competition for monopoly necessitates military intervention.

Learning Demilitarisation and Restoration of citizenship

Militarisation of education undermines citizenship. The militarised disposition annihilates our sense of studentship and what is learnable. And that, in turn, undermines the core of citizenship.

In this way, critical voices are rendered silent, public spaces become inaccessible to a diversity of people, bi-lingualism declines, and plural ways of knowing are destroyed.

Militarisation uproots diversity of cultures from their nurturing grounds to create space for installations of weaponry, to mine mineral resources, to construct industrial zone and so on. Many cultures are forced to exist in ‘coma’, paralysed by the proximity of military cantonments, several others are customised for ornamental display before foreign dignitaries, and several are tailored by designers’ consumerism. Most important of all, culturally diverse people who resist mining, refuse to be paralysed, decline becoming ornamentations before foreign dignitaries and hold a mirror to the dreadful face of modernity are silenced.

The learnable in critical voices is studentship to disarming the mind of the genocidal of terms, categories and principles. This is critical to demilitarisation of the economy and citizenship.

Experience and the learnable

Experience is learning of that which is learnable and to let go of the rest.

The most original notion of ‘the learnable’, knowable from stories of origin across diverse cultures and from contemporary works in philosophy, has as its impulse the ‘call’ to dispel the darkness of lies, falsehood, untruth and deception, and the ‘yearning’ for ‘light’.

It is a call for immersion, for radical insistence, of identification, for listening, and, in contemporary works of philosophy, bringing forth the light from within the ‘sacred word’. Common to each of these ways is ‘letting go’. Without letting go, the learnable is out of reach. Experience tells us of the “rest that needs to be let gone of”.

There is a yearning for clarity on what ‘to let go of’. That is constitutive of the foundational element of our being in the world. Such yearning becomes a pursuit of the ‘learnable’.  This is constitutive of studentship as a call to being-in-pursuit.

Letting go and the learnable

What can we learn from different cultures concerning genocide and the learnable? Genocide is more than the massacre of people – it destroys the foundational element of being-in-the-world – it leaves no ground for the pursuit of the “learnable”.

From discussions on this subject we know that genocide is totalising. It has been pointed out that this is the final statement of modernity about itself. At its best and worst, modernity offers nothing other than instruments of mass destruction of nature and culture. In generates an ‘unstoppable vicious cycle’ of violence reproducing violence that at rapid speed draws everyone in. It pushes the victim who in turn becomes the perpetrator in the name of justice – an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. The distinction between the perpetrator and the victim gets obliterated and there remains no one who is not part of the vicious cycle and can thus be the judge. This impossibility of justice is a foundational crisis. It is the loss of humanity, of faith and of the ground for the pursuit of the learnable.

How have cultures responded to similar occasions in history?

Here are some examples that show the learnable.


The sabad is the sacred word of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs that was compiled for a people who were being mercilessly brutalised. This picture illustrates that brutalisation.




The museum at the Golden Temple in Amritsar has several paintings that show the brutality of the rulers. The gurus, literally the teachers, compiled the Granth Sahib in such times.

The verses in the Granth call upon the gathering (sangat) to contemplate the sabad and learn from it compassion, sharing and offering of the self in the service of the other. It emphasises that a gathering of people that contemplates sabad issatsang: companionship of people who yearn to receive the truth that comes forth from the sabad.

There is no hate speech; there is no prompting for justice in the form of ‘eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth’.

The fifth guru, Arjan Dev, who compiled the Granth, was tortured to death. He was made to sit on a hot plate and hot sand was poured over him. In such moment of pain and suffering he smiled and contemplated the sabad.

The sixth guru, Hargobind, after having fought a bloody war with the Muslims conferred with his sangat and came to the conclusion that a mosque be constructed to bring a final end to the violence and counter-violence between the two communities. To make it Vishwakarma, the Hindu divinity for architecture, came in human form. This heritage stands in Guru Hargobingpur and is looked after by Sikhs, who welcome any Muslim who comes to pray.

The sixth guru picked up the sword, there was war without hate speech. There was no animosity but instead there was the effort dissolve the ‘other’ by making it an integral aspect of the ‘self’ and this came close the notion of the ‘One’ that was core of the sabad.

The ninth guru, Tegbahadur, stood-up against the rulers to create a safe space for the Kashmiri Pundits, who were not being allowed to follow the path of their ‘faith’. He was beheaded.

The tenth guru, Gobind Singh, proud of his father decided to free the text of fickleness of human interpretations. Thus thesabad became the guru. And he said, “Guru appe chela“, literally a teacher is himself a student. In relation to the sacred word these words say studentship is learning to receive the light embedded in the sabad. This ‘learnable’ came forth in the light of his life experience of several wars, the beheading of his father for defending the rights of Kashmiri pundits.

This ‘let go of’ teacher and dissolved the authority of the teacher over the text into the text. That cleared the ground for the diversity of people to come to the text and be ‘received by it’ and ‘receive it in turn’. The learning to receive is the ‘learnable’ – to receive the ‘other’ and become ‘One’ with it.

To ‘let go’ in this instance of the authority of the teacher over the text, is a radical insistence and at the same time an immersion and an identification with the One. This is an aspect of dynamic studentship – to be one’s own teacher -that is learning on one’s own.

Ekalavya- Learning to receive

This is a story from Mahabharata.

Dronacharya the guru for archery refused to teach Eklavya, the son of Hiranyadhanu, the king of Nishaad, because he was not a Kshatriya.

Eklavya went to the forest and made with his hands a figure of Drona out of mud.

He called him his guru. Daily he would pay respect to this image of his guru and practise archery.

One day Eklavya sealed the mouth of a dog with his seven arrows. The dog could not open his mouth and ran back to where Dronacharya and Arjun had camped.

Everyone was surprised by this amazing skill in archery.

While searching for this archer, they found Eklavya practicing, who confirmed he had sealed the dog’s mouth.

Dronacharya was curious to know who the boy was and where did he learn archery.

Eklavya told Dronacharya his name and of his father Nishaadraaj Hiranyadhanu (an army chief in Jaraasandh’s army).

Eklavya reminded Drona how he had declined to teach him. He showed Dronacharya his (Dronacharya’s) statue.

Eklavya told him how he learnt archery in the presence of this image. Dronacharya was surprised.

Dronacharya loved Arjun and he wanted him to be the best archer. He thus asked Eklavya to give his right hand thumb by way of guru dakshina (a tribute given to the teacher).

Eklavya without any hesitation picked up a knife and cut his right thumb and offered it to his ‘guru’.

There are at least three important events in this story.

First, the teacher’s (Dronachraya’s) refusal to teach Eklavya.

Second, Eklavya’s self learning: making the mud image of his teacher, learning in the ‘presence of the image’, and becoming a master.

Third, Dronacharya demanding his tribute and Eklavya giving it without a word of protest.

Dronachraya’s refusal to accept Eklavya as his student is an assertion of the teacher’s authority over the subject. It is also an example of a mode of non-inclusive learning process.

Eklavya’s making the mud image of his teacher is an assertion that ‘the person’ in flesh and blood is not necessary for learning. In fact, the image opens up the possibility for self-learning. Later, when Dronayacharya appears in person he only proves Eklavya’s point. The person of the teacher is not only unnecessary it is, in fact, harmful. The person of the teacher can be overbearing, it takes away from the student the most crucial condition for learning: the freedom to experiment and explore (the thumb in this case).

Eklavya includes himself in the learning process. The making of the image undermines the teacher’s claim to authority on the subject.

The ‘image’ of the teacher is, in fact, better than the teacher himself.

Who then is the teacher? Who is it one learns from?

What is the interplay between the image and the person in the making of dynamic studentship?

Eklavya is an example of dynamic studentship.

He is ready to receive and this yearning springs forth from an inner calling to learn. The refusal does not undermine either the yearning or the calling. The giving of the thumb further underlines the preparedness to ‘receive’ teachings unconditionally, as an important element of dynamic studentship. The giving of the thumb is an acknowledgement of the worthiness of learning as well as recognition of the source from whence it comes forth. This is integral to ‘receiving’.

Any reservation or conditionality would make learning incomplete or even impossible. The giving of the thumb undermines the intention with which it was asked, namely to destroy it. It is said that the people of Eklavya’s community continued to use the bow without using the right thumb.

That which is learnable stays, and is not conditional to circumstance.

The dynamic studentship demonstrated by Eklavya opens the question about how did he learn to become better than Arjun? What is it that he learnt that made him better?

The arrow released by Eklavya did not kill the dog but prevented it from barking. The skill here is not just accuracy or precision but the ‘belonging’ of the arrow to the intention of the one who releases.  This is a demonstration of knowledge that belongs to itself, and this is what constitutes the learnable. Unlike the arrow in “time flies like an arrow” this arrow goes no further than to the time and space (embedded in the intention of the one who releases) to which it belongs.

Eklavya did not have to become (Arjun or a Kashtriya) someone other than himself in order to learn.

He began from wherever he was and whatever he knew. How did he proceed thereafter? There is nothing that can be learnt about this from the text.

What can be inferred is that he worked out a relation of learning between himself, the bow and the arrow, and the image of the guru. With the yearning to ‘receive’ and the ‘calling’ to be not deterred from this, as the heart and mind of this learning-relation, the bow and the arrow were receiving Eklavya as much as Eklavya was receiving the bow and the arrow. In other words, they learnt to listen to each other and in time learnt to belong to each other.

Socrates and the Sophist (2)

A sophist on his return from Asia met Socrates on the street. There began a conversation between them:

Sophist: Are you still standing there and still saying the same thing about the same things.

Socrates: Yes that I am. But you are so extremely smart, you say never the same thing about the same thing.

The learnable is between “never saying the same thing about the same thing to saying the same thing about the same thing”. It is the yearning and calling for truth-telling.

The sophist may not be incorrect, for there are so many different facets to the same thing across time and space. What is required is the yearning to learn that which is the same about the same thing across time and space. This is learnable about the ‘thing’. Socrates seems to suggest that it is common sense to wonder why the same thing does have the same things told about it.

Self grounding – Saying same things about same things

We can learn about this from Heidegger’s writings and his life (3).

He attempts to show that the learnable is beyond the factual, the experimental and the measurable. By ‘beyond’ is meant that the ‘learnable’ is not determined by any of these three concerns of science, and at the same time in its absence, the notion of the ‘learnable’ science is no longer ‘discovering research’.

This is perhaps when science becomes the slave of politicians and finance capital.

What does Heidegger have to say about the “learnable”.

That it is mathematical.

“The word ‘mathematical’ stems from the Greek expression ta mathemata, which means what can be learned and thus, at the same time, what can be taught; manthanein means to learn, mathesis the teaching, and thus in two-fold sense. First, it means studying and learning; then it means the doctrine taught.

“Learning is a kind of grasping and appropriating. But not every taking is a learning…to take means in some way to take possession of a thing and have the disposal over it. Now, what kind of taking is learning…? The mathemata are the things insofar as we take  cognizance of things as what we already know them to be in advance – the body as body like, the plant as plant like, the thingness of a thing…it is an extremely particular taking, a taking where he who takes only takes what he basically already has…. The student is merely instructed to take for himself what he already has. If a student merely takes over all that is offered he does not learn. He comes to learn only when he experiences what he takes as something he himself really already has. True learning occurs only where the taking of what one already has is a self-giving and is experienced as such. Teaching, therefore, does not mean anything else than to let others learn, that is, bring one another to learning. Teaching is more difficult than learning; for only he who can truly learn – and only as long as he can do it – can truly teach.”

What is it that we already have and how do we take it as self giving?

“We see three chairs and say that there are three chairs…. We can count three only if we already know three. What we take cognizance of (number three) is not drawn from any of the things….”

The question is what is the relation between experience and science? What does learning from experience mean?

Heidegger seeks to elaborate the point by discussing Newton’s axiom “Every body left to itself uniformly moves in a straight line (p 262).”

This law is at the apex of modern science.

“Where do we find it? There is no such body. There is no experiment which could ever bring such a body to direct perception…This law speaks of a thing that does not exist. It demands a fundamental representation of things which contradicts the ordinary… (p 265).”

What we learn is that the law is freed from the bindings of experience. Heidegger learns this from Galileo’s experiment.

“It becomes a decisive insight of Galileo that all bodies fall equally fast, and that the difference in the time of fall derives only from the resistance of air, not from the different inner natures of the bodies or from their own corresponding relation to their particular place. Galileo supposedly conducted this experiment from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the city where he was professor of mathematics, in order to prove his statement. In his experiment, bodies of different weights did not arrive at the same time after having fallen from the tower, but the difference in time was slight. Inspite of these differences and, therefore, really against the evidence of experience, Galileo held his proposition…. Opposition towards Galileo increased…he had to give up his professorship and leave Pisa.”

Heidegger tells us that Galileo freed knowledge from revelation as well as from experience. He showed the “self-grounding of the form of knowledge as such…. There is new experience and formation of freedom itself, i.e., binding with obligations that are self imposed…an inner drive to establish its own essence as the ground of itself and thus of all knowledge (p 272).”

How did Galileo learn? Heidegger says “…by taking the knowledge itself from out of himself. Galileo says: “I think in my mind of something moveable that is left entirely to itself…. This “to think in the mind is taking knowledge itself from out of himself (p 266-67).”

Heidegger argues that the use of reason enables the ‘I’ to take knowledge from out of one’s self.

Experience and experiment

Each of these instances of learning as self-giving, is an experiment with immersion, radical insistence, identification (as elements of pursuit and as modes of self-giving) that draw out knowledge from the experience(s) of what we already know. This knowledge (that comes forth by means of immersion, radical insistence and identification) is also independent of experience and is its basis.

The Sikh tradition (Guru Arjun Dev, Guru Tegbahadur and Guru Gobind Singh) shows that contemplation is immersion, radical insistence and identification with the sabad that draws out the knowledge (of the sabad) that is self-grounding. It needs nothing outside itself to be validated.

Eklavya similarly shows immersion, radical insistence and identification with image of his guru. In a similar manner, Galileo demonstrates immersion, radical insistence and identification with ‘the mathematical’ when he stands by his principle of falling bodies.

However, what each one has to let go of is different – the Sikh gurus had to let go of their lives; Eklavya had to let go of his thumb and Galileo had to let go of his professorship and later towards the end of his life was forced to recant his views and was forced to live in house arrest. Heidegger, who brings us the insight into the self-giving becoming of beings in this world, supported Hitler and in ways more than one set himself apart from his own ‘I think’.

A mode of drawing out from within is simultaneously ‘the letting go’ of the ‘I’.

The experiment is about when does the letting go become a ‘self giving’ of ‘self-grounded knowledge’.  How ‘that knowledge that is self grounded’ becomes available in a lifetime.

To what extent Galileo and Heidegger gifted to themselves ‘self-grounded knowledge’. To the extent they let go of the ‘I’, and released from its bondage shifted to self-binding freedom that belongs to ‘self-grounded knowledge’ (and not the ‘I’). They were not fully released from the ‘I’ and did not, therefore, belong to the ‘self-grounded knowledge’.

In contrast, the Sikh Gurus and Eklavya were fully released from the ‘I’ and wholly belonged to ‘self-grounded knowledge’. They are exemplars of ‘studentship’. In other words, self-grounded knowledge can be accessed and made available in the lifetime of the student when he belongs to self-grounded knowledge and this is possible when he lets go of the ‘I’.

Towards intellectual self reliance – decommissioning neoliberal education

How can mindlessness of the increasing technological lag – far behind the aspirations of the frontier people – promoted by the neoliberal education be decommissioned?

Earlier in this discussion, the inclusion of people’s voices required a consideration of ‘what is learnable’ because what is being learnt from neoliberal knowledge has been responsible for a series of disasters, one bigger than the other.

In the previous sections the discussions on what is learnable shows that all learning is about ways of bring forth what we already know.

This can help us understand the lag between technology and people’s aspirations.

It would be entirely erroneous to say that there is more need for technology to fill in this lag. For, more technology will only let their voices go unheard and would thus contribute to the lag making it even wider.

The lag draws us out to consider ‘listening’ to the voices of people. What are they all saying – what is learnable is to come from within; learning what we already know; finding ways to bring forth what we already know. This is not just questioning the neoliberal monopoly of knowledge and undermining monopoly over neoliberal knowledge.

Most importantly, it is saying that all learning of what we already know yearns to intellectual self-reliance. All attempts of studentship to belong to self-grounded knowledge are towards intellectual self-reliance.

What we experience in the ordinary day to day life is where learning starts. Learning to listen is the key to bring forth knowledge from within. Not all that can be heard can be retained nor can all of it be ‘letting go’. To be able to differentiate what needs to be let gone of,  immersion, radical insistence, identification will reach out to what does not need to be let gone of.

The diversity of voices and plural knowledge-systems that are being pushed out of the public domain by the neoliberal education system is a recipe for disaster. It is becoming very difficult to know how to get out of this system or how to live with it. This is deception-democracy that is limited to inclusive participation. More often than not inclusiveness has legitimised undemocratic practices.

Participation is not sufficient for democracy. Only if participation enables truth telling can democracy be viable and citizenship be restored. This seems to be a step in the direction of mindfulness of the ‘lag’. It is important to note here that this lag encourages deception and lies.

Truth telling dispels deception. What is knowable in this context can be known by ‘truth telling’. What is learnable is truth telling. Truth telling brings forth what is already known. Truth telling can begin from the experiences of everyday life.

Studentship for Truth telling: what is learnable in truth telling?

How is studentship of truth telling possible?

What curriculum and modes of its transaction need to put in place? This is important for it will determine the contours of the education system. This includes design of the infrastructure – the size and shape of classrooms, the looks of the building, the library, the student-faculty-administration interface, the equipment and so on.

What is the nature of curriculum space and what goes into its making?

Intellectual self-reliance is how truth telling can be learnt. In the absence of intellectual self-reliance truth telling is impossible. What can be the curriculum for this?

Based on the discussion so far the key principles of the curriculum are ‘learning as self-giving’; listening (includes immersion, radical insistence and identification) as ways of bringing forth that which is already known (this is self-grounding of knowledge); and letting go of the “I”.

What can we learn regarding truth telling from our exemplars, discussed earlier?

As regards learning as self-giving we learn from the Sikh gurus that this is possible when the text is free from the authority of the teacher and the “word” is accessible to all. This is possible when a teacher himself lets go of his authority. This allows for the student to be one’s own teacher.

With respect to teacher’s readiness to let go of authority over the text, we learn from the Eklavya tale that not all teachers are ready to do that.  But learning can even then become self-giving. With due deference, the student lets go of the personhood of the teacher. The importance of the ‘image’ of the teacher is crucial to the ‘self-giving’. Image here refers to the teacher within one’s own self. It demonstrates that the role of a teacher is not to offer but to enable recognition of the teacher within.

Without the letting go of the ‘I’, self-giving is not possible. So, self–giving can often strengthen the ‘I’ – ‘It is ‘I’ who learnt by myself”. Until such time that the ‘I’ is let gone of, it is not clear whether the student has learnt the learnable – that self-grounding of knowledge. The letting go one’s own being in the world is the most profound letting go of the ‘I’ (the examples of Sikh gurus). There are other ways of letting go of the ‘I’ – the willingness to let go of the institutional definition of the ‘I’. Galileo giving up his professorship did not disprove the principle he stood by.

The question, however, is does Heidegger’s support for Hitler undo his work as a philosopher and his radical thought? Is support an unwillingness to let go of his ‘I’? Is it also a reflection of the state not willing to let ‘learning as self-giving’ be legitimised within its own institutional structures’.

The curriculum for truth telling is continuously challenging boundaries, not letting them fructify.

Can neoliberal educational institutions be transformed to facilitate truth telling?

Over the past few decades there have been several attempts at truth telling. Each of these has experimented with institutional ways to listen to the truth. What are the implications of these for the education system?

The neoliberal destructions are appropriately described as ecocide and ethnocide. There is now a growing concern over making development processes transparent and accountable.

This is in fact an expression of the yearning for truth telling.

This yearning has now legitimised social audits, environmental audits, public hearings, truth commissions and world social fora. In each of these there is space for truth telling.

There are now in place systems for exercise of human rights, right to information and work along with systems of transitional justice.

There are efforts to establish peace zones across the globe.

Simultaneously there have evolved, in keeping with requirements of truth telling, open learning systems, free university, basic education, experiential learning, concern for resilience and non-reductionist knowledge.

These have been preparing the ground to go beyond the neoliberal education system.

Savyasaachi is Associate Professor in Sociology, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi


(1) Alexander Laban Hinton. 2002. Annihilating Differences -The Anthropology of Genocide, University of California Press, and Berkeley Ch 1.

(2) This conversation has been taken from Martin Heidegger, “Modern Science, Metaphysics and Mathematics” in David Farrell Krell(ed).1978. Matrin Heidegger: Basic writings, London, Routledge &Kegan Paul.

(3) The quotes in this section are from Ibid.

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