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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014
Spreading confusion
Manas Chakravarty
July 07, 2012
First Published: 23:25 IST(7/7/2012)
Last Updated: 23:31 IST(7/7/2012)

Confusion helps people learn better - ANI, June 21

Have you been dazed and bewildered by the recent attempt to get the IITs to change a perfectly good admission system? Are you baffled by the education ministry's decision to do away with school exams and pass every child till class 8, thus exponentially increasing the number of illiterates? Have you often wondered what on earth the government is up to, allowing the nation's economy to sink like a stone? Do their policy flip-flops confuse you? If so, you can stop worrying. The government is not, as you thought, completely clueless. It's all part of a cunning well-thought-out master plan. Sidney D'Mello, psychologist and computer scientist at the University of Notre Dame in the US, has found in a recent study that "by strategically inducing confusion in a learning session on difficult conceptual topics, people actually learned more effectively."

"We've all along known instinctively that we had to spread confusion if we wanted students to start learning," said a guy in a polka-dotted lungi smoking a bidi who claimed to be an official at the education department. "That is why," added a primary teacher, "while I ordinarily teach that two plus two equals four, sometimes I tell my students that it could, under special circumstances, add up to 1,76,000 crore." "Which, as you know, equals zero," explained the guy in the lungi.

It's not only in education that they've been trying to sow confusion. "Consider the telecom department," said a guy who looked like a depraved government spokesman, "notice how expertly we have managed to kick all decisions from the ministry to the department of telecommunications to the Telecom Regulatory Authority to the Group of Ministers to the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, weaving circles back and forth, leaving folks dumbstruck." "In fact, this government probably has the best record of sowing confusion among the populace," said the spokesman smugly.

But the Opposition was quick to rubbish the idea. "Just look at the utter confusion we have created in Karnataka," said a BJP supporter. Smaller parties admit though that they are flummoxed. "We have been trying our best to confuse the public but have ended up being confused ourselves," said a Trinamool leader.

Others claim we are amateurs at creating confusion. "What we have done in Pakistan," said a Pakistani ace confuser, "is mash up the State and the military and the ISI thoroughly, add a dash of non-State actors to the mix, dunk the lot in religion and simmer with US arms until our people can't tell their elbows from their behinds." But governments in Europe say they are the best. "The eurozone is tailor-made for confusion," said a spokesperson. "Have you any idea of the hopeless muddle that happens when 17 heads of State have to agree for every decision?" she asked. "By the way," she added, "Where am I? Who am I?"

Other professions say they can do better. "It is we who are responsible for the global financial crisis and the enormous confusion it has caused," boasted a free-market economist. The philosopher merely queried, "Don't you think Zizek finds the place for Lacan in Hegel by seeing the Real as the correlate of the self-division and self-doubling within phenomena?" and smirked.

I find all this very comforting. Earlier, I used to think it was my feeble brain that produced the fog of confusion that enveloped me. I now know it's all part of the learning process and go around compassionately confusing others.

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint

Views expressed by the author are personal


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