January , February , March 2020
Registrations closing soon!

In July 2019, Romila Thapar opened the first chapter of The Idea of the Indian Constitution, a conference for teachers, in Calcutta, with the question: When does a constitution become a requirement? What followed was an explosion of ideas and thoughts from some of the finest minds in the country over three days.

The Idea of the Indian Constitution II, a conference for teachers, now travels to Pune with fresh insights and new voices.

Take a look at the programme here!
Just concluded
Beyond 'Teaching'
A conference on the larger meaning of education
20, 21, 22 January 2020
The proof of education, more than anything else, is humility. To possess the ability to break the mould that culture has cast for us; to have the ability to embrace a sense of adventure; to be willing to navigate uncharted territory, to risk revision of long-cherished traditions—this is what defines life-affirming education.

How do we equip our teachers to become enablers of life affirming education? How do we create classrooms that deal with ideas and teachers who nurture intelligence plus character, wonder plus amazement, curiosity plus questioning, thought, reflection, creativity and imagination.

This was the preoccupation while curating the three day conference in Kochi that was organised on invitation by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan to celebrate 50 years of Bhavan's Adarsha Vidyalaya, one of their seven schools in Kochi and one amongst the 75 across the country.

The exercise of putting this conference together was full of trepidation, given the fact that we were to address an audience that was quite unlike the one that we see at the Calcutta conferences. However having just concluded the conference after months of planning, I realise all our doubts and concerns were completely unfounded. From Urvashi Butalia's spell binding oral histories of women during the Partition; Shahnaz Khan's extremely interactive workshop on dealing with identity issues in the classroom; to Tina Servaia's tips on how to teach like a historian; Akhila Seshadri's pedagogy using the tools of history which include diverse elements such as timelines, monuments, evidence and even a neighbourhood atlas!; Ashwin Prabhu's interesting ideas on combining the study of history and geography through field trips; Sebastian Joseph's tips on using popular cinema in the classroom to look at diverse interpretations and arrive at concluding evidence; Jayshree Nambiar's analysis of J Krishnamurti's philosophy and how they translate it into his education vision in practical terms at the Krishnamurti schools; Anil Sethi's scientific explanation of the basis and foundation of doing history and the selection of content that aims at teaching history to sharpen the intellect—each one of these talks and presentations seemed to weave a seamless tapestry of ideas and inspirations. But the ones that truly swept the audience off their feet were Sundar Sarukkai's musings on compassion being the bridge between education and philosophy and Jerry Pinto's electrifying talk that broke all boundaries between speaker and audience leaving each one present extremely vulnerable.
In-depth reports on the talks and workshops are on their way — stay tuned to our website for further updates.
Presenting a new module!
Whose Valour, Whose Terrorism?
Heroes. Villains.

Categories that have existed for centuries in human thought, in stories across lands. What is it about this seeming binary that we are drawn to so easily? Why does a narrative become simpler to absorb after identifying these categories in it?

Representations of India's struggle(s) towards nationhood and independence from British colonial rule continue to be strongly present in our everyday popular culture—be it in the latest Bollywood blockbusters, bus station hoardings, street names, memorialization through government holidays, educational charts—so much so that it's easy to consume these presences as only stories, to forget they have links, however sketchy, to actual pasts.

History syllabi across boards in India dwell heavily on this period of history, starting as early as the beginning of middle school. What is it that our students take away from these chapters on India's national struggle(s)? Do they process these narratives as stories? Is there a problem if they do?

A teacher at a social science teaching workshop we conducted recently, shared that some of her students are very opinionated and assert that Gandhi was 'fickle, weak, disloyal' and Subhash Chandra Bose conversely, was 'strong, determined and capable'. If history is as unpopular among school students as it seems (we're all familiar with the 'Oh god, daateess!' refrains), what in this process of education enables the formation of strong opinions about personalities who are long dead and for many of our students simply figures in text books?

We do not have a clear answer. What we do have however is a module that was born out of a need to find answers to some of the questions we asked above. Whose Valour, Whose Terrorism looks at the categories of valour and terror and compels us to identify and critically address the shades of our understanding of them through a close study of household names from the freedom movement. The module includes primary and secondary material representing multiple perspectives to engage students in critical thinking about these boxes, about the factors that shape our understanding of what makes valour, and what terror.

No time for all this in the busy school year?

We come prepared!

The module is the result of thorough research by those trained in the discipline and comes with a clear list of sources should you want to verify any information. It includes multimedia resources, bringing together multiple perspectives, ready to implement assignments that will push your students to think while still being within the ambit of looming syllabi.
Go on, try it. Responses, feedback, positive, negative— all welcome.
Lesson ideas
Seven national and international teaching history conferences over five years later, our concern remains consistent: what learning do teachers take away from the conferences, how long or deep do these learnings persist, do these shifts in understanding ever find their ways into the classroom?

While our conferences work towards bridging the wide gulf that exists between developments in academia and arts practice on the one hand, and school level social sciences teaching on the other, we are nowhere close to content. The need to engage teachers with each other, to bring to teachers resources that lend themselves to classroom practice, is more crucial than ever. In light of this ever-increasing need, two day-long workshops were conducted— 'Reading Propaganda' and 'Beyond Teaching' in November in Kurseong, and 'Teaching History like a Historian' in December in Calcutta.

Below, we share with you three lesson plans that were demonstrated and tested by teachers over the two workshops mentioned. Go through them, dissect them, apply them. Good, bad, ugly—tell us what you think!
History: Whose Story?
~ Sreyasi Chatterjee

Multi-perspectives, multiple sources.

If you're a history teacher, chances are you've used or heard these terms used more times than you care to remember. But how exactly do these terms turn into the lenses through which you approach history? Can fairy tales have anything to contribute to teaching about the Aryans? Horrified at the thought? Read right on!

Gandhi and Non-Violence
~Amita Prasad, Anjum Katyal
How did Gandhiji commit suicide? - a question in a Gujarat school exam.


What is the lifespan of historical memory? Is Gandhi more or less than a pair of glasses to symbolize a national cleanliness campaign? Most importantly, how can our teaching of Gandhi bring to critical life the politics and principles of the 'father of the nation' ?

Amita Prasad and Anjum Katyal addressed exactly these questions in their workshop, analyzing 'ahimsa' as political strategy.

'A generation of hagiographic biographies uncritically held up Gandhi as the ‘father of a nation’ – one of the most revered public figures of the 20th century. Some people think of him as a spiritual figure who led through moral persuasion alone. Others picture him as a political figure, one of the greatest leaders who defied the might of the British Empire in India.

Recent historians have sought to provide more nuanced accounts of Gandhi’s contribution to Indian independence. This lesson plan tries to analyze Gandhi’s unique weapon of ahimsa through a study of sources – both primary and secondary.'

Reading propaganda
Tina Servaia

'Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself. The masses have to be won by propaganda.’

-Hannah Arendt

In use since ancient times, propaganda has always served emperors and democratically elected leaders alike in controlling the world and people around them. It found its highest expression in Germany, under the Nazis, who perfected it as a means to gain and consolidate control. Reams have been written and discussed about how the Nazis used and abused propaganda and why people accepted and believed it. Yet, the propaganda wheel keeps turning. We live in times flooded with images and messages, whether from mainstream media, art and culture, social media, advertisers, political leaders or even our friendly neighbourhood beauty parlour—all of whom use some aspect of propaganda to convince us to accept what they are saying. It is more important than ever for us to read and decode propaganda, in order to retain the ability to think for ourselves.

Thankfully, there are simple, classroom-friendly tools to enable us to do this.

This lesson plan uses classroom-friendly tools to enable you to understand, examine and decode samples of Nazi propaganda and then locate, select and decode examples of propaganda from the world around you.
'Politics' in the classroom?
^by Sohini Sengupta, shared with artist's permission.
Recently, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights recommended counselling for children participating in the anti-CAA, anti-NRC protests at Shaheen Bagh, Delhi, citing 'mental trauma' as a result of 'rumours and miscommunication'. Not very far from the popular general sentiment of 'Politics is bad. Students' duty is to study, not do politics'.

Where do we draw this line between study and politics? Is the choice of staying 'out' of politics for future citizens of a nation, a genuine choice at all? After all, syllabi do not simply appear out of vacuum. Neither do popular comics openly based on myth-like childhoods of political leaders.

The question then is, can we continue teaching the social sciences from the textbook under the realities of time, syllabi and administration constraints when the winds around us are affecting and reshaping the very concepts whose precise definitions our students get marked on?
Here's a little challenge we have for you
We've been curating (some of) the explosion of art that has come into the public domain in response to the socio-political changes that have sparked off a country-wide public discourse on citizenship and democracy through innovative forms of protest. Witty posters, biting references to a history being repeated, brutal groovy rap, digital illustrations of unforgettable verses...the list is long.

Here's what we had in mind : why don't you take a look at this gallery and tell us how you might use the music, the cartoons, the images to engage your students in discussion? One step further to be ambitious: can you connect these images to syllabi you teach?

No idea is too wild. Read, think, try — we are all ears.
 this and that...
In barely two months, this nazm by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, written in the regime of Pakistani dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq has become anthemic in the country-wide anti-CAA, anti-NRC protests in India, newer vernacular translations emerging every other day. Parallel to this, a higher education institution decided to investigate whether Hum Dekhenge is 'anti - hindu'.

What exactly is going on?
^ Listen here to a recording of a historic performance of this nazm by a black saree-clad Iqbal Bano in a time when the wearing of sarees and the poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz were both banned.
'The recent hullabaloo in India around Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poem Hum Dekhenge – which is being recited daily by students protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act – has devolved into two broad camps: On one side are those who decry the poem’s “anti-Hindu” slant, in particular two lines that mention "idols" and "Allah” in a way that is deemed hostile to polytheism. And on the other side are those who dismiss this critique with loud avowals of Faiz’s credentials as a lifelong secularist and progressive.

Incredibly, neither side engages with the poem on literary terms, ie, in ways that investigate its tropes and metaphors. Nor do they reckon with the full geopolitical context in which Faiz wrote it. Missing too is an appreciation of the poem’s place in Faiz’s oeuvre – as a culmination or summing-up of his life’s work.'

In PeaceWorks News
Travelling Anne Frank to Kochi!

This January also saw the Anne Frank: A History for Today travelling exhibition in Kochi—its first appearance in the state of Kerala! We worked with 30 class 8 students from seven Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan schools from across Kochi over two days, and conducted a teachers' session around our Human Rights Defenders' module, Learning to Live with Difference with 20 English teachers from the same 7 schools. A detailed report on the experience will soon be up on the website — to stay tuned to updates, like/follow PeaceWorks on Facebook.