It has become a wont in Manipur to cite the example of those who made it big from the state as the evidence of the vitality of the place. This is especially true in the field of sports and performing arts. These success stories have also often been forwarded as proof that there is no obstacle too big to restrain genius. Given the spirit, impoverished boys and girls who grew up with practically nothing that would suggest they can become champions, playing on their undersized playing fields, un-tutored by professional coaches and nourished on the ordinary staple of rice and curry, have still on many occasion proven they can be world beaters. This sentiment is understandable, however, the man on the street saying this is one thing, but when it is the political leadership who eulogise on this, it would make anyone uneasy. The danger is obvious. It can become an excuse for non-performance by those at the helm precisely by shifting the burden of churning out champion materials to the individual citizen.
This excuse can also be extended, and in fact has been extended to all other fields. Hence, the fact that there are many who have done well despite having been schooled in wall-less, bench-less classrooms of the state’s dilapidated government schools, is pushed as the example that success and failure are more in the hands of individual students. This would amount to seeing the wood for the forest. There are indeed geniuses and these fortunate souls would pick themselves out of even the most untidy mess and find their way to the top. We have seen many such examples in every walk of life from amongst us. The scripts of the path to success of achievers like Mary Kom, N Kunjarani, Laishram Sarita.. would all be practically the same – a rags to riches, anonymity to celebrity story, with a little variation here and there. But the rule of nature is, the percentage of people who are above average in aptitude or intelligence, is only a fraction of those who occupy the middle ground of the average. Again, just as there are geniuses who occupy the space above the average, on the other extreme there are also the lame and slow who are below average.
So while we must be proud of the geniuses born amongst us, and look up to the examples they have set for us to emulate, let us not be blind to the bigger reality that says the average make up the overwhelming majority. For different reasons, the above average and below average must be given special programmes, but the general policies must have to be oriented towards the average. To take the example of a well planned highway, let there be a fast lane for the geniuses and a pedestrian path for the lame and slow, but the rest of the highway must be dedicated to the average. The point is, government policies must first and foremost strive to raise the standard of the average. If this was done, even those with traits of genius in them would have a better and easier platform to launch from as there would be less ground to cover to reach the top, the floor having been raised.
So then, let not the often heard vaunt that the state has produced many geniuses in many fields be any cause to lull senses into any unwarranted complacency. Let us be proud of the geniuses who made it big, but let this not lead to any false and deceptive assessment of the average citizenry. More than in sports, we see this rethinking is essential in primary and secondary education. The government schools in general cater to the average citizenry and so let it be this government’s priority above all to uplift to the standard of the best amongst the private schools in the state.