Values: Taught or Caught?

Central Board of Secondary Education, New Delhi has come out with a value education kit. Now, you may ask, isn’t that good? Well, the only hitch is that along with the kit were the names of 47 must watch movies for students. CBSE felt that watching these movies can help students acquire values. Seriously, whoever thought of this wonderful idea is certainly clueless about education, children and how children can imbibe the right kind of values! Besides it is a grave sense of depravation that makes us bank for value lessons on Bollywood movies which a many a time are far far away from reality!

“Moral education is essential for all children today. I’m pleased that CBSE understands the importance of it and has brought together such a fantastic kit for teachers to be able to guide their students,” said, MM Pallam Raju, Union Minister for Human Resource Development at the launch of the “innovative” Values Education kit by CBSE.


The 47 must watch movies include those like Boot Polish, Chillar Party and The Blue Umbrella; Taare Zameen Par, Parichay; Paan Singh Tomar, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, No One Killed Jessica, Baghban; those that give a heavy dose of patriotic flavor — Haqeeqat, LOC: Kargil, Kranti, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero, Shaheed, The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey, Sardar, The Legend of Bhagat Singh and Upkar. There are also the “classics” — Purab Aur Pachhim, Naya Daur, Manthan, Mother India, Do Bigha Zamin, Jagriti, Do Ankhen Barah Haath, and so on. Among the English movies to have found its place in this illustrious list is “To Sir With Love” and “Cast Away”. Wah, Minister, Wah!!! It is even worse to see who else graced the occasion – the erudite Dr. Shashi Tharoor!

Wonder who will have the time to watch these movies! Or the patience!! Most of them run into 3 hours plus and if we expect our students to sit through these movies and imbibe values from them, then we are sadly mistaken. I don’t even want to look at whether the movies are the right ones – for what is right and what is wrong is extremely subjective. If I want my students to have a certain value, then I must model it. The students’ parents should model it. Leaders around them should model it. Without such real life models, is it logical to expect students to imbibe values by watching movies – and that too Bollywood ones? Why is it that mostly only Hindi films found a place in the list? Are only Hindi films capable of teaching values? Why not movies from other languages?

I would rather take up a different route to highlight values in a classroom. Watching this short movie (22 minutes) called Butterfly Circus followed by a class discussion on what impressed them the most / what would they have done had one of them been Will, the man with no limbs?

Or a simple poem like Advice from a Tree

Dear Friend,
Stand Tall and Proud
Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of a greater source
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The Energy and Birth of Spring
The Growth and Contentment of Summer
The Wisdom to let go of leaves in the Fall
The Rest and Quiet Renewal of Winter

Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night.
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures
Earth, fresh air, light

Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Be flexible
Remember your roots

Enjoy the view!

Ilan Shamir, from Advice from a Tree: Guided Journal, published by Your True Nature, ([Shamir 1999]).

a discussion followed by

Or a simple story like this one: The Japanese Master

A great Japanese master received a university professor who came to enquire about wisdom. The master served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he could no longer restrain himself.

‘It is overfull. No more will go in!’

‘Like this cup,’ the master said, ‘you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you wisdom unless you first empty your cup?’

Or even a great song like “Imagine” which can be an effective tool to talk about war / peace / brotherhood and universal love.

Or better still this wonderful video from The Hindu titled Classroom to drive home and create awareness in the citizens of tomorrow about the unruly behaviour of our elected representatives and driving home the point – not to be like them!

I guess that this movie list was added on without giving much thought into it. Is that why I cannot see the same list and circular in the website anymore?

Finally, I am left grappling with this grave question in my mind: can values be taught or are they caught????