Changing schools of thought

The recent controversy at a private school revolving around the inclusion of actor Tamannaah Bhatia in a Class 7 textbook has opened up a conversation on the role of celebrities in educational content, the gender biases against women stars and more
Image used for representative purposes only
Image used for representative purposes only(Express Illustrations)

BENGALURU: Textbooks often serve as the first window into the world beyond the classroom, shaping young minds with stories of history, culture, and contemporary figures. But, in recent years, textbooks have also become a point of contestation and censure whether it be history, politics or social moralities.

The uproar at Sindhi High School over the inclusion of actor Tamannaah Bhatia – who, incidentally, was in Bengaluru recently – in a Class 7 textbook has sparked a debate that extends beyond the pages.

Reportedly, while parents raised concerns about her presence, pointing to the nature of her filmography, similar objections have not been raised for male contemporaries like actor Ranveer Singh, who is also part of the chapter.

Titled Life after Partition: Migration, Community and Strife in Sindh, 1947 to 1962, the chapter is intended to provide insights into the history of the Sindhi community.

‘What elicits this kind of censure?’

Not having an issue with a male actor but having an issue with Tamannaah Bhatia is part of a larger bias that exists in our society. It’s not like she has starred in very vulgar films; she has acted in popular films like Baahubali. So what elicits this kind of censure is something we need to think about. Not just one community but Indian society at large is still conservative about our attitudes towards women doing the same things as men. Also, I can’t really stop my daughter from searching for something on the internet. They are anyway going to do it. But having said that, textbook committees should be careful while creating the content and try to not make it political, controversial or hateful. Sometimes these committees are very biased and irresponsible. That needs to change as well.

KM Chaitanya, filmmaker

No room for entertainment

Incorporating any prominent actor into the curriculum should not be entertained. It should have people and topics relevant to the culture and history of the subject. Unless they have done something significant towards the society and community, they should not be in the syllabus. The mere reason that an actor belongs to a particular community should not be enough of a reason.

Cinta Augustin, student

‘Should be careful while including mid-career celebs’

Whatever curriculum the school has subscribed to, they have to make sure we have personalities – regardless of the field – who have significant contributions to the society through their respective fields. If it’s a veteran actor with decades of service, then it makes sense. But textbook committees have to be careful about including personalities who are still in the middle of their careers. Schools should refrain from including their own curriculum and if NCERT hasn’t approved it, then they should offer an explanation.

Mansoor Ali Khan, Member, Board of Management, Delhi Public School, Bangalore & Mysore

‘Don’t understand Tamannaah Bhatia’s contribution’

Neither the school nor parents are well-equipped to cater to Gen-Z today. They are already exposed to many unwanted things online, so where is the scope for teachers and parents to teach about morality? So, textbooks play an important role. The school has erred in including someone whom one cannot call a role model. I don’t understand what Tamannaah [Bhatia] has contributed when it comes to philanthropy or anything else. Compared to that Ranveer Singh still showcases someone who has dared to dream big and make a mark for himself. But then again, why pick people from the entertainment industry? There are so many personalities from business and other fields who could have been included.

B Gayethri Devi, Principal, Little Flower Public School

‘We have filed a complaint’

This objection is with respect to what the actor is adding to when it comes to values of young minds. Tamannaah Bhatia could be a great actor, but their social media content is inappropriate for students. It’s fine if Sindhi School wants to promote the stalwarts of their community, but they also have to ensure they can be appropriate role models. We have filed a complaint to the CBSE because it’s not an NCERT-recommended curriculum.

D Shashi Kumar, GenSec, The Associated Managements of Primary and Secondary Schools in Karnataka

‘CBSE equipped to determine if text is appropriate’

When such controversies come out, we often forget that a celebrity is a factor of fame and does not signify anything else unless we have context. I believe that the CBSE board will be adequately equipped to understand and conclude whether such text is appropriate for children.

Meghana Belawadi, actor

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The New Indian Express