I have been scrutinizing my second PUC English text book with criticality and I can conclude with confidence that, it is, in a few respects, below the standards. I’m not trying to say I am an insufferable know-it-all who is supremely cynic, who enjoys scorning at textbooks and finding faults. I am not talking individualistically; it is a collective opinion of most students. Open the textbook and you see only translations—almost every other story is a direct translation from Kannada, Malayalam, or Hindi. I agree, translating languages is a difficult and delicate process, but finally, they end up translating things into unusual sentences like “The owl is a vegetarian creature” ( The Rightful Inheritors of the Earth—pg, 3 first PU text). Don’t we usually use ‘omnivorous’ there?
If you think I am being harshly critical, think about this. Why do we need only translated versions in out textbooks? Isn’t English rich in original stories and authors? We’ve got all types of literature which provides an interesting read. If you want an Indian flavour, you can always include RK Narayan’s writings in your textbook. Most stories are in reported speech—we have interviews to bi-heart. Like where Baba Amte was born, and what he did (and is doing) throughout his life. This makes the textbook really boring. Our state needs to improve the curriculum—I must say my school-text books were far better than what I’m reading now. It’s no joke when I say my brother’s eight standard textbook is far more advanced than the primitive 2nd PU English book that I am destined to read. He has prominent works of famous authors and poets—O Henry, William Shakesphere, RK Narayan, Wordsworth, H.W. Longfellow, Connon Doyle’s works….I can give you many examples to illustrate my point.
A story from my textbook named ‘Unni Katha’:
“ Unni,” said Mutthashi, “Tell me a story,”
Mutthashi had chewed on her betel-nut to her satisfaction after her frugal meal of kanji. Now she waited for Unni. Only Unni’s stories could put her to sleep. Peering through the open door she called out to him. “Come Unni,”. She was impatient for his story. “
This is from my brother’s 8th standard ICSE textbook:
“We can only be partially acquainted with the events which actually influence our lives and our final destiny. There are innumerable other events which do not leave any impression on us. If we were to know all the changes in our fortunes, life would be full of hope and fear, joy and disappointment, to afford us a single hour of true serenity.”
You’ll probably laugh when you realize the poem below has been prescribed for 2nd PU syllabus:
“ We are going to see the rabbit,
We are going to see the rabbit,
Which rabbit, people say?
Which rabbit, ask the children?
The only rabbit,
The only rabbit in England!”
This is another passage from my text book:
“When harvest-time was at it’s height
They could not take us to the farm,
They left us, bundled very tight,
And prayed we wouldn’t come to harm.”My brother will snigger if he hears that we have such poems, because they’re doing Wordsworth, John Keats and Sir Walter Scott. Here’s a poem from Whispers of Immortality which is prescribed for him:
“The sanguine Sunrise with his meteor eyes,
And his burning plumes outspread,
Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,
When the morning star shines dead; or Long Fellow’s work:
“The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed,
A youth who bore, ‘mid snow and ice,
A banner, with the strange device,
Do you agree with my point? I’m not trying to say I look out for posh English of flowery language to claim the eight standard book is superior. Rather, I’m trying to say that there are interesting passages, vivid descriptions, originality, and a correct selection of a wide array of authors and an exposure to different forms of English here---patriarchian sonnets, Shakespearian works (He’ll be doing Julius Caesar next year), metaphoric expressions are the very essence of hard-core English literature. If you are a logical thinker, you’ll be wondering why on earth am I complaining? The easier to read the textbook, the easier it is to get marks, right? Wrong! Imagine, they ask us to underline sentences like “Melkkoran was obsessed with work” and say “It is very symbolic” and we’ll be left with wondering what’s so symbolic about the four word sentence. And of course, they ask the question in the exam—“What was Melkorran obsessed with?” for FOUR marks and expect us to write a page. The answer is in one word “work.” Even if you explain the gentlemen’s profession of cutting trees, I doubt it will take up a page. Sometimes, complicated things are easier to decipher than simple matters. Like when a person asks you why 2+2 is four, you’ll start wondering how you’ll explain that. That’s exactly the problem 2nd PU students are faced with, we don’t know how to give page-long descriptions of simple situations like “He was drinking tea and chatting with a friend.”
Ultimately, I don’t know whom to blame. As long as we get our marks, parents and teachers are happy. But what the students are really doing is mindlessly bi-hearting some names, places events, and names of authors and vomiting it out in paper. It’s not helping us to improve our English in any way, and we’re loosing the little interest we have in the language. We have stories which do not have conclusive endings at all—I think it is high time something is done about this and better stories are included in our curriculum to make reading the textbook an experience to savor.