Why Social Sciences Matter? - A Personal Journey

I have begun to feel the pinch of a mid-life crisis. My daughter is growing up, and my parents are growing old. My students have turned woke, and my seniors seem conservative. My upbringing has been traditional, and my exposure has become global. My life these days, and that of my peers around me, is mostly about coping with contradictions to find a balance. Some days are nerve-wracking, and on others, acceptance seeps into life. That's how I manage to go on!

Emotional Intelligence - An Essential Life Skill

As a listener in the past few years, my students have confided in me about their worries. I have tried to understand their concerns and empathise with them. I have one realisation through my experience that academic brilliance in our system has little to do with emotional intelligence, but the latter is an essential life skill. When I look around, I see most of us struggling in life, grappling with a barrage of emotions involving crashing expectations, loneliness, failure, heartbreak, conflict with friends and family, disagreement at work, etc. While a person may outperform in academic scores, one may not be equipped to handle one's own emotions, leave aside others, or deal with failure if one does not continue to shine or succeed. This is vital to "live" a life!

Dealing with Closure

I pursued science in high school. I did not enrol in a coaching centre. We could not afford it, given our circumstances those days. I also felt studying school books would be enough for entrance tests. I sat for the pre-medical entrance examination and failed to clear it. I was highly disappointed because what people around me said mattered to me. But today, I am happy about my life's turn after the failure. I would have been a terrible doctor, worse than Munnabhai. I am forgetful, I live in a trance, and I am too empathetic to even look at a bleeding toe. It is horrifying for me. If I could return in time, I would pursue arts - literature, theatre, drama or psychology. Looking for closure from deep wounds of self-doubt and embarrassment that entrance exams inflicted on my young soul, I admitted myself to an MA psychology program last year. I love it so much - theories, experiments, examples, and stories, all of it. I love how it answers so many questions about my life and myself.

Theory of Grief

One of the theories that stayed with me is the theory of grief. When grief comes, one must accept it. This is what one may hear people around saying - embrace grief. However, the theory says that grief has five stages - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. One who embraces and accepts grief can do it through these stages. One begins by denying that this cannot happen to me. With time, denial will be overpowered by anger about how it can happen to me. Then comes external or internal bargaining to find reasons to calm down, followed by sadness or depression. Ultimately, there is acceptance. It is tough to jump to acceptance as bouts of grief hit. Grieving is a process!

On Science and Social Science

While science is essential to understanding the laws of nature, rules of existence, reaching the moon, and measuring the sun, social science helps to know how people will react to discoveries and whether they will accept the inventions. The latter allows us to understand ourselves and others around us. It is subjective and does not ensure the same level of predictability. Still, one must invest because we are humans, not machines, aiming at constant productivity. If efficiency were the only goal, we wouldn't feel guilty about our or our children's quality of life. By disregarding social and emotional intelligence, not letting our children be exposed to the social sciences, overemphasising the value of natural sciences, and pointing out that those studying natural sciences are more hard-working and intelligent, we have ended up creating highly efficient but extremely stressed adults running races all the time.

The Essence of NEP

According to the New Education Policy document (pages 4-5), "The purpose of education is to develop good human beings capable of rational thought and action, possessing compassion and empathy, courage and resilience, scientific temper and creative imagination, with sound ethical moorings and values. A good educational institution is one in which every student feels welcomed and cared for, where a safe and stimulating learning environment exists, where a wide range of learning experiences are offered, and where good physical infrastructure and appropriate resources conducive to learning are available to all students."

The very purpose of education, as mentioned in the policy, is to develop well-rounded individuals with rationality and empathy, scientific rigour and ethical values. Institutions should focus on caring, nurturing, and stimulating students with diverse experiences while creating infrastructure and resources. Vikas Divyakirti Sir mentioned on Slow Interview with Neelesh Misra, "डिग्रियां तो तालीम के खर्चे की रसीदें हैं, इल्म वही है, जो किरदार में झलकता है!” This, for me, sums up the purpose of education.

Nowadays, everyone wants to work on artificial intelligence and big data. What about using natural intelligence for other purposes? It may not always be about what the market wants but also what the heart desires. As middle-class families, we have mostly been fearful and have chosen the former; maybe it is time to try the latter!

बस यही कहेंगे, अगर आप अब्बा हैं, तो मान जाइये!

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Assistant Professor, Malaviya National Institute of Technology Jaipur. PhD, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee.