n Shahnaz Khan During my recent visit to Pakistan, I had the opportunity of interacting with a university student. We were working on a project and I assigned him a task. He responded back saying that he will take care of it as soon as he gets out of class, and signed off, 'yours obediently. These words took me back to my own high school years when we were learning to write letters or applications etc. and were taught to sign off as yours obediently or at times as your most obedient servant and frankly, it shocked me to see that after all these years the culture and mindset of 'yours obediently was still alive and well in Pakistan. The word obedient in the dictionary means: well behaved, submissive and has the following synonyms: Acquiescent, amenable, at one's beck and call, attentive, biddable, complaisant, compliant, controllable, deferential, devoted, docile, duteous, dutiful, faithful, governable, honouring, in one's clutches, in one's pocket, in one's power, law abiding, loyal, obeisant, obliging, observant, on a string, pliant, regardful, resigned, respectful, reverential, sheeplike, subservient, tame, tractable, under control, venerating, well trained, willing, wrapped around finger and yielding. It was sad to see a young man thinking of himself as obedient (i.e. subservient, submissive, complaisant, etc). I wondered why we want to inculcate the mindset of obedience in our children. Some of my friends blamed it on the British, who wanted to raise an educated class loyal to them and on their beck and call anytime. But I believe that there is another, perhaps, more important reason. And that is our cultural and traditional norms. We take pride in our values of respect for elders; from home to school, children are taught to accept authority and not to question any belief, rule, teaching, or dogma that is shoved down their little brains; parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and, of course, teachers all know what is right for children; there is no room for disagreement, debate or discussion; to challenge or question a teacher or parent is considered a mortal sin. At every stage, children are rewarded for being conformists and emulating authoritative figures in their lives. In school, they are expected to regurgitate whatever is taught to them, rather than critical analysis of the subject. Dissenting with the opinion of those who have even the slightest edge, whether due to age, social class, economic status, etc is considered rude and disrespectful. It applies equally to both genders, but, of course, girls are affected much more. Granted, that when children are encouraged to question and to think for themselves, the first adults they will question will be those who are close to them: parents, other family members and teachers. This will require patience and skills on the adults part to handle this. I am not advocating rude and belligerent behaviour, but we owe it to our children to encourage them to think for themselves, even at the risk of making mistakes at times. The point I am trying to make is that when we raise obedient children, we get obedient adults - men and women - who dont have the fortitude to stand up to the authority whether in workplace or home, national or international arena. So everyone is a most obedient servant to his/her superiors, while expecting obedience from her/his subordinates. A sorry state of affairs as far as creativity, independent thinking and dignity is concerned. Now, connect the dots all the way to our political leaders and you will understand their compliant behaviour to their foreign masters. Do the following traits apply to them where their relationship to their foreign lords is concerned: Acquiescent, amenable, at one's beck and call, attentive, biddable, complaisant, compliant, controllable, deferential, devoted, docile, duteous, dutiful, faithful, governable, honouring, in one's clutches, in one's pocket, in one's power, loyal, obeisant, obliging, observant, on a string, pliant, regardful, resigned, respectful, reverential, sheeplike, subservient, tame, tractable, under control, venerating, well trained, willing, wrapped around finger and yielding? The picture is clear and calls upon us to teach our children to stand up to authority, and be prepared that the first authority they will stand up to will be ourselves. Let us learn to expect it, accept it, respect it and reinforce it. So may I suggest to the parents and teachers to inspire children to be courageous, daring, determined, fearless, resolute, ingenious, innovative, creative, inspired, imaginative, visionary, productive, problem solver, original thinkers, bold and self-respecting and encourage them to critically examine all the dogmas regardless of who is promoting it. Teach them to challenge injustice whether done to them or anyone else; to stand up for their own and others rights regardless of how powerful the opposing forces are and you will be raising children who will challenge you, but who, when they grow up, will also have the mettle to stand up to tyrants and bullies of the world whether within or outside the country. You will be performing a service not just to Pakistan, but to the humanity. You hold the power to change the world through your children. Use this power wisely. n The writer is a freelance columnist based in USA. Email: shahnazk@gmail.com