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Parrot’s training – the golden cage

July 1, 2015

Here is the video link of the story.

Parrot’s Training is a short story that challenges the notion that improved technology, more computers and screens, better child friendly techniques and hands on activities and not “Freedom of Self” is the answer to the problems in education system. The story here was adapted by Manish Jain from Shikshantar and then partly modified by me.

The original story was written by Rabindranath Tagore, in which he had warned us of the dangers of Schooling almost 80 years ago.

In ‘The Parrot’s Training’, we are told of a golden cage that is built to imprison a wild and uncivilized parrot so that she could be properly educated. The benevolent King wants to do everything he can to civilize her.

She was inducted into the usual school curriculum. First, the teachers tried teaching her using the usual official textbooks. Days went by but that did not seem to work. Lots of different teachers were called to attend to her. Some became good friends but were not able to really entice her towards learning all the stuff in books. Different means were employed. Someone suggested that the place should be made more interesting for the parrot. Then teachers came together to brainstorm on some creative means to make things more interesting. More activity based things were introduced to teach her the required concepts. A UNICEF project came with all kinds of child-friendly and joyful techniques. The cage was decorated with many colourful pictures and charts. There was a blip in interest, but it died as soon as it came.

The king was very concerned. So he called educators from all over discuss the case. The solution was simple. More investment was required. The World Bank was approached. It gave a loan to the king to build a bigger cage with a nice toilet and better facilities. A software company gave the parrot a laptop with free internet connection. The news with her picture with ipad was all over in the papers. But still, there was no considerable difference in parrot’s attitude towards learning!

Finally the intellectuals came in and debated for days. It was decided that researchers from the Harvard researchers should be invited to conduct studies on the parrot’s brain and multiple intelligences. They came and as a result many papers were published, and many a books were written. The parrot’s case became famous, and she was all over in books. However, her personal condition only worsened. As her distress increased she was given mindfulness training. They also taught her about child rights. Some suggested that she should be allowed to question. So be it. She was allowed to question but within the structure and not question the structure itself. 

Some concerned individual advised the parrot needs sometime alone, to figure out things for herself. Not understanding what he or she truly meant, an hour of silence and meditation  and another for diary writing and introspection was included in the already overly packed timetable.

The only thing parrot was not allowed to do was the little thing she so dearly wanted to do – to leave the cage. Whenever she tried to break out she was put in back. In fact, she was scolded for being ungrateful and impertinent. Time and again she was reprimanded, “We are doing so much for you, spending so much on you and you do not even care.”

Over the years parrot did end up learning a few things but lost the interest in learning itself. She slowly became dependent on the very cage she earlier wanted to break out from. She internalized the fact that the people around her were indeed doing a favour to her; that she and eventually her children too needs support of this wonderful cage.

One day the cage was accidentally left open but she was afraid to venture out. Her dreams were reduced to being a rat in the rat-race. She was busy Slowly her spirit withered away. In the end, a lot of people made a lot of money on the parrot’s education, everyone benefited except the parrot.

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