Friday, November 21, 2014

The Cult Of Mediocrity

The Cult Of Mediocrity

So there I was one day this week, arguing with a colleague about the relative merits and demerits of a bunch of students of whom a few were exceptional, most moderate and fewer were really pain-in-the-necks. We were collating the yearly attendance to forward to the university for exams and as the painy-types had been absent for more than half the working year – making them ineligible to appear for the exams- my colleague was arguing for giving everyone the required percentage of attendance regardless of whether they had actually turned up or not to the clinics. I, on my part, said it was unfair, unfair to equate the kids who had come in at all times, on all days, rains or riots notwithstanding, to attend to patients who required care; if they were in the end to be lumped along with others who had probably taken it easy by sleeping off all day and turning up only when/if they felt like it. Colleague argued that it was not fair to punish the students life like this over such a little thing like lack of attendance to which I replied “but madam if they didn’t attend the clinics, didn’t treat actual patients, didn’t learn anything, I shudder to think of the damage they will do to people, real patients in the real world, once you release them like this on an unsuspecting world”.

Colleague demurred and said that they still have to pass the university exams to which I reminded her of the unspoken but neverthless strictly enforced regulations of giving a 100% pass percentage to every batch of students (by the simple expedient of punishing the teachers if a student fails) on the theory that students are sensitive people and they will not take the rejection of failing so easily and cant be forced to read and appear again for the same subject after six months. If everyone knows that they are all going to pass anyway, I argued, then what the hell are they going to study for? You are removing the incentive to study, to learn, the incentive of humiliation- of being left behind in a class of your juniors while your batchmates go on ahead. Remove that fear and you remove all necessity for knowledge. And I said I really sympathized with those idiots (for want of a more apropriate word) who knowing all this, knowing that they simply have to appear for an exam to pass, knowing all this and still working hard, still studying so much, waking up in the early mornings, reading all night, the kids who are dedicated to learning and to shining in the profession – those kids who don’t know better but are simply moved by an inner urge to succeed.

And it was only when the said colleague sympathised with and continued to espouse the cause of the lazy shits by arguing and pushing strongly for them that I realized that she had a different (hidden) agenda- she was merely demonstrating the “like bats for the like” principle or the “cover your ass by covering your people’s ass” thing. Those who thrive in mediocrity recognize only the mediocre- they are intentionally blind to the bright and the exceptional. Those who benefit and get through for reasons other than pure merit and talent are perforce forced to defend those of their own ilk as they remind them of themselves when younger. The mediocre at all levels and ages hate the bright and the brilliant- even if the brilliance is a product of hidden hard work and uncounted hours spent slaving in preparation while others take it easy and sleep. It’s so sad to see this cult of mediocrity spread even to educational instituitions- where donkeys are encouraged to amble while horses are hobbled. Everywhere I look in our country I see this same indifference to excellence and an encouragement to mediocrity –for the lazy are an abundant lot while the hardworking are we few.

After the above said episode I am reluctant to pass on my knowledge to the next generation as I am more and more convinced that it is going to be unwanted, unappreciated and an exercise in futility. I am even rethinking working here at the teaching hospital, watching the tragedy of bright students getting crushed everyday while the idiots are coddled and feted. All this unnneccessary stress is giving me heartburn and ulcers. So I am planning to shift back to hospital practice and leave the trainign of the next generation surgeons to the wise administrators and their numerous followers who act on the principle “that everyone is equal and no one should get hurt”. This kind of egalitarianism should work out very well for our society when these same batches of student passouts start practicing in the coming years. I am pretty damn sure that my practice will shine all the brighter and my waiting rooms will be fuller once  people realize the kind of doctors they have everywhere because of their encouragement of the mediocre and incompetents. To borrow from Actor Vijay (of Thupakki fame)- I am waiting. 


  1. Welcome to the academic world. What you have seen and experienced is but the tip of the iceberg. While teaching seems to be satisfying, dealing with nitwits as you colleague is a pain, I swear. Sometimes these so called colleagues are 'senior' staff and so nothing can straighten their attitude and mannerisms. I loathe such an environment but sadly this is there everywhere.

    Joy always,

    1. caught my point exactly susan. all i want to do is empower students- give them the choice to either pass or fail on their own account and not be fed handouts and given pass-like alms thrown to beggars. where is the dignity in that, i ask and end up being demonized as someone who wants to fail students...but i guess academics has also gone to the dogs like the rest of the institutions in our great country