Would it be better to groom the child to pursue the traditional family occupation?

March 07, 2014 | FAQs | No Comments

There is a tendency to romanticize the whole issue of traditional crafts. The view that is often expressed is that traditional crafts have for century’s sustained rural economy with efficiency which modern systems cannot achieve. As a result it is believed that initiating a child to the family profession as early as possible is beneficial to the child who will end up ultimately doing what he is likely to be best at viz. the family profession. Thus not only does the child not have to waste time obtaining irrelevant educational inputs but he can also become a productive citizen and earn a living.

Taken to its logical conclusion this approach implies that it is best for children to continue in their family profession. This is not too different from the traditional social system where certain professions were earmarked for certain communities. Such a system would ultimately result in a situation where a potter’s child would end up as a potter and a weaver’s child a weaver. In fact it is this system that mandated that an agricultural labourer’s child would become an agricultural labourer.

In this approach the choice of deciding their future is completely taken away from the children at a very early stage. The fallacy in this approach is that it ignores the fact that the rural society is replete with examples of individuals belonging to artisan families who have risen to very high levels outside their family profession and who, in all probability, would have been misfits if they had not changed their profession. The true nature of education is that it equips a person to make a calculated choice at the right time. It is this capacity of child to decide his or her own future that we take away when we deny education in the name of providing secure employment.

Even the argument that a child initiated to the family craft at a young age picks up skills faster is not particularly true. In fact there is evidence to show that they do so much better after they achieve a certain proficiency in studies and after they attain an age of around 12-14 years. The whole attitude towards children, in this approach of incorporating them into the family occupation at an early age, is to somehow convert them into some kind of efficient workers.

It is an approach that views childhood as a process of converting a child into a worker and divides the society into two broad categories. One comprising those who can afford to wait for their children to equip themselves before they face the challenges of adulthood, and the other comprising those who need to put their children to work as soon as possible so they do not become a burden on the society. It is an approach often advocated by those who themselves would never think twice before sending their own children to school and who have no intention of reverting to their own family occupation.

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