Guest column | Freedom sprinkled with responsibility, an infallible recipe for success

It’s admissions time again for higher education institutions across the country. As an Academician, I miss the personal touch that a teacher used to establish with aspiring admission seekers, as the process involved laborious career discussions, rigorous verification of documents and finally registration. . Many a times, a student’s entire outlook and career dimension would undergo a drastic change after counseling. Boys and girls, fresh out of school ten years ago, knew less about the courses available and often, on the recommendation of teachers, opted for an innovative or specialized course. This not only established the teacher-teacher rapport, but also generated a sense of reverence towards the teacher.

Over the years, the admissions process has become much more mechanized with online registration and counseling. Students are at a loss when it comes to advice on choosing courses or optional subjects. Parents, often, with their limited know-how and outdated ideas, are of little help. During my teaching career, I have seen many students seek admission to a particular course, not by choice, but under peer pressure or advice, not knowing what they were getting into. The result is obvious: young people have the freedom to choose without being responsible for the choices they make. It reminds me of Ezra Taft Benson’s paradoxical statement: “You are free to choose, but you are not free to alter the consequences of your decisions.

University life, no doubt, offers students a plethora of choices related to course selection, subject selection, class attendance, exam participation, and dressing as they please. However, the authorities while leaving freedom to the students should remind them of their share of responsibility towards the institution as well as society. Only then can we expect to nurture them as individuals with a strong sense of responsibility.

Lack of sense of responsibility is often exhibited by students on admissions days, which my colleagues and I have witnessed on many occasions. When you ask them to sign a document, you will find that they do not carry a pen! Next thing you know, they take the teacher’s pen off the table without asking permission. They sign the document and hand over the pen without even muttering a “thank you”. Some students enter the classroom without books or notebooks as if they have purchased a ticket for the matinee performance and therefore can wander inside the classroom to witness it.

What is most infuriating is the irresponsible use of cell phones by students. Example: You are teaching in class and a loud noise interrupts your cadence. You look outside to find a student walking down the hall talking loudly on his phone. You have two options – leave the class and rush after the nuisance maker or ignore the whole thing and try to pick up the loose threads of your discussion.

By the time the lecture is over and you’re still standing in the classroom finishing your business, you’ll find at least a dozen students already busy on their cell phones like they’re business tycoons who just lost a million dollar contract in the process of attending the class.

India is a country with a maximum of young people and therefore it is mandatory that young people learn to take responsibility for their actions and choices. It is very easy to ask for freedom but very difficult to take responsibility. Remember that “freedom is the price, responsibility the price”.

The author is Associate Professor at SD College, Ambala Cantt