The Joy of Learning and the Expensive English Toy

The Indian National Curriculum Framework opens with this most telling childhood anecdote from the poet Rabindranath Tagore:

When I was a child I had the freedom to make my own toys out of trifles and create my own games from imagination…One day in this paradise of our childhood, entered a temptation from the market world of the adult. A toy bought from an English shop was given to one of our companions; it was perfect, big and wonderfully life like. He became proud of his toy and less mindful of the game; he kept that expensive thing carefully away from us, glorying in his exclusive possession of it, feeling superior to his playmates whose toys were cheap….One thing he failed to realize in his excitement ….that this temptation obscured something a great deal more perfect than his toy, the revelation of the perfect child. The toy merely expressed his wealth, but not the child’s creative spirit, not the child’s generous joy in his play, his open invitation to all who were his companions to his play-world.

from the essay Civilization and Progress

Tagore and Gandhi

photograph by V.N. O’Key

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