Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chetan Bhagat Syndrome - The problem

"An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all." ~ Oscar Wilde.

Before I begin talking about an idea, which I'd like to call the Chetan Bhagat Syndrome, I'd like you all to know that I love Chetan Bhagat and this is not meant to demean him or his work but to highlight an idea, an idea I think is seriously hindering the progress of economies world wide.

The Chetan Bhagat Syndrome
Anyone who has read Chetan Bhagat from his first book "five point someone" would find Chetan Bhagat's work now increasingly predictable, bordering on boring slowly distancing itself from creativity. His first book was good, but then Mr. Chetan Bhagat decided to get full time into the work of writing and that's when the problem started. To sustain himself he needs to write, something which he thinks he maybe good at, but the problem is that he is a product of an educational system that kills creativity. Here is how. It is a well established fact that the modern day education system born out of the needs of industrialization put science and management on top of the hierarchy. Factories needed workers, corporations needed managers and the study of science and management was thus driven by big incentives such as a good job, more money and a secure life with a good degree of social status. IITs and IIMs represent such a system. If you want to study arts, dance, literature, you would be advised against it by smart people saying - "You are not going to be a writer or a dancer or a musician". But you can certainly be a manager or a software engineer or a banker. Chetan Bhagat did very well in such a system. Seth Godin explains this system of compliance and writes
A hundred and fifty years ago, adults were incensed about child labor. Low-wage kids were taking jobs away from hard-working adults.
Sure, there was some moral outrage at seven-year olds losing fingers and being abused at work, but the economic rationale was paramount. Factory owners insisted that losing child workers would be catastrophic to their industries and fought hard to keep the kids at work--they said they couldn't afford to hire adults. It wasn't until 1918 that nationwide compulsory education was in place.
Part of the rationale to sell this major transformation to industrialists was that educated kids would actually become more compliant and productive workers. Our current system of teaching kids to sit in straight rows and obey instructions isn't a coincidence--it was an investment in our economic future. The plan: trade short-term child labor wages for longer-term productivity by giving kids a head start in doing what they're told.
So Chetan Bhagat did what he was told and did it well. Undeniably it is an achievement. As time passes by this thing gets internalized. Our creativity (or the lack of it) is due to the excessively hyped system of education that kills creativity. Innovation and research are lagging behind since this country is overly appalled by the Chetan Bhagat Syndrome. Chetan Bhagat syndrome represents monotony, predictability to suit the requirements of present. It represents compliance not defiance. Although the rationale is strong, our fixation to this is resulting in over-dependence on system that rewards compliance, a problem that will hinder progress and growth in the long run.

Recommended Watch: Sir Ken Robinson's talk on Ted: Do school's kill creativity?