As I have posted before, the government textbooks contain many chants and short poems to aid in learning the rhythm of the English language. Here is one from Grade 5:
I want to fly high,
And reach the sky.
I want to go far,
And shine like a star.
I want to be in Nepal,
When the time is nigh.
First of all, I would like to point out that this song appears to be sung by a giant beat-boxing bear, which is awesome. In fact, if we look on the cover of the textbook...
|Holy Cow! That bear has to be like 30 feet tall! Those are full-grown adults down by his left foot!|
Secondly, the message here seems obvious: you can and should leave Nepal for study or for work, but you must come back. In a country with a large remittance economy this is a serious issue, and it surprised me to see something so political in a book for 5th graders (of course, this is coming from a resident of Texas, where textbook content is not exactly free from political contention).
In any case, politics-wise these chants are certainly less loaded than the old textbooks, which praised the King and the Queen and taught children to think of the Royal Family as their parents. And this must certainly be better than the Maoist "Revolutionary Education" which taught their children "A is for Attack, B is for Bullet, ..."* Yep, at least there's generally nothing violent and disturbing about these chants. On the other hand...
On Sunday I had a dream.
On Monday I went to a stream.
On Tuesday there was a great flood.
On Wednesday I saw a pond of blood.
On Thursday I cleaned all of them.
On Friday home I came.
On Saturday I woke up and had a big scream.
Whoa. This seems a bit, um, dark for a 5th grade textbook. And it is in the middle of a lesson on the days of the week. Why the violent imagery? Why is there a kid mopping up a puddle of blood in a lesson about the days of the week? Also, the rhyme scheme kind of breaks down toward the end there, but perhaps this symbolizes a descent into madness.
These are the sorts of cultural discontinuities that can make teaching uncomfortable. I have talked to Nepali teachers about this passage and and I have been unable to convey exactly why this poem seems inappropriate to me. One person told me that there have been efforts to move toward "nonviolent education" in Nepal, which was described as avoiding violent images in teaching, e.g. "If Shyam has four goats and then sacrifices two of them, how many are still alive?" But it is not the violence that bothers me at all. This poem is tamer than Lord of the Flies, which is often taught in American middle schools. It just surprises me that a horror story is used to teach fifth graders the days of the week.
Okay, one more:
I like the mountains,
'Cos there are lots of fountains.
I like the birds,
'Cos they steady my nerves.
I like the plains.
'Cos there are a lot of dames.
I like the plains too, but I can think of at least one reason why I would be reluctant to teach this chant to fifth graders.
*I'm pretty sure I have heard this English version somewhere, but I cannot substantiate it. The Nepali language version is well-known to the point of political parody: "A is for Andolan ('Revolution'), B is for Banda ('Strike'), C is for Chakka Jam ('Roadblock')..."