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Category Archives: Reflections

English and Scientific Research: Some Reflections

 – Deepak Subedi

When I was asked to contribute an article on the importance of English language for scientific research, I felt I got an opportunity to express my gratitude to the language which gave me an enormous access to good books written by scholars around the world. Without the knowledge of English, I would have to rely on books written only in our native language, which would have certainly narrowed my thinking. My simple understanding is that our ability to think is proportional to the number of good books we read. Also, it is generally accepted that knowledge is for the brain as is food for the body, and that a person with knowledge of different languages has greater vision and wider horizon.

I was motivated to learn English by my revered father since my childhood. Although my father himself never had formal education, he had gained some practice of spoken English during his service in Indian army. He had a strong desire to educate his children in English medium. I think this might have been due to the influence of British officers in India. He used to tell me fascinating stories about the additional benefits he used to receive in the army unlike his colleagues by virtue of his knowledge of English, although limited. Even with this limitation, he was supposed to be superior to others, and was assigned some official tasks during the war time which avoided the risk of being deployed to the front.

In spite of a moderate income,  my father always stressed on educating children in good schools. Although our family was based on a village, my father settled in the town only to provide us good education with additional tuition in English.  So far as I remember, he was the first person in our town to arrange tuition in English from the primary level. It was during this time that I met my most favorite teacher of English, Balkrishna Shrama, who inspired me to learn. He was a noble teacher with amazing skills of delivering spellbinding lectures. With his guidance, I experienced the joy of learning new words in English and writing them nicely in four-lined papers.  Since then, I started learning English spontaneously.

I realized the real importance of knowing English when I joined I. Sc. in Amrit Science Campus in 1989. All our subjects were taught in English. Had I been poor in English, I would have certainly been discouraged from studying science.  The knowledge of English helped me in learning the major subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics. I had a huge advantage over my classmates with a weaker background of English. Meanwhile, some of our teachers had just returned from US with terribly twisted tongue, and many of our friends who were from remote areas of Nepal got frustrated with the US-style pronunciation. Students who had their schooling in English medium had no difficulty in grasping the lectures in the major subjects.

Well, these were some of my recollections about my background in the English language. Let me discuss a little about the importance of the use of English in the field of science.

In 1931 Vladimir N. Ipatieff, a Russian-American chemist, had begun to take lessons in English at the age of sixty-four. He was already a well-known scientist but had to learn English in that age in order to continue his research in the USA. He probably was under the influence of the “publish or perish” dictum so common in the field of research. But his story simply highlights the necessity of knowing a language of wide international readership in order to popularize researches in science.

Michael Faraday said that any researcher has to follow three major steps: “work, analyze and publish.” All the three parts are equally important. However, the importance of the language appears in the third part — publishing. The real output of any scientific research is measured by its impact, hence the level of international journals is determined by their impact factor. How many people cited our papers is more important than how many papers we wrote. To make our papers accessible to a large number of readers, we have to publish our results in a language understood by a large population.  Thus one has to publish his/her findings in English.

Most of the world’s leading scientific journals are published in English. It has been reported that researchers from non-English speaking countries have to spend a significant portion of their time in getting their reports and research papers translated/written in English. This obviously steals their precious time from laboratory work. For example, in Japan English is becoming the language of basic science resulting in the gradual disappearance of  publications in Japanese. RIKEN, one of Japan’s most comprehensive groups of research facilities, has claimed that its scientists published about 2000 original reports in English in 2005, but only 174 in Japanese. One report shows that editing companies in Japan charge researchers $ 500 to $ 800 per manuscript. Language training can cost $2000 for a ten-week course. These costs are additional burdens and slow down scientific activities in laboratory.

In fact, this should not have been the period for spending so much time for writing the paper alone. Had their schooling been in English, as that of ours, the researchers could have devoted more time for their experiments than exercising for language. In this respect, we should feel fortunate; we learned basic sciences in English medium at school and the university. In several international conferences and seminars, I have observed the difficulty faced by scientists from the countries which are quite developed in science and technology but are non-native English users. In spite of their good research results, they are sometimes nervous during presentations due to the difficulty in expressing their ideas clearly in English.  On the other hand, researchers who studied their courses in English are more confident in presentations even if the merit of their research work is not of high standard.

Another case where proficiency in English plays a vital role is in the preparation of research grants proposals. Even a promising project proposal may be rejected because of the lack of logical reasoning. It may be argued why a researcher should worry about English when one can easily consult with professional editors to prepare a proposal. But the fact is that professional editors may not know the technical ideas of the project, and that sometimes this joint venture may lead to negative results. Considering the growing need of disseminating research results to a wider population, many Asian and European countries, which used to teach science courses in their own native languages, are gradually adopting English as the language of science.

Summing up, today no discipline can function in isolation. Since a large number of interdisciplinary subjects like environmental science, biotechnology, biomedical engineering, engineering physics etc. are emerging, people of different areas of expertise have to work together. Professionals from different disciplines find English quite comfortable to communicate among themselves. Also, professionals in the discipline of English language must also constantly update themselves because the world is changing rapidly due to the advancement in science and technology.  For the survival in this competitive and rapidly advancing world, everyone has to be able to grasp the new challenges and opportunities. Due to the latest advancement in information technology, specially with the introduction of internet services and cellular phones, the world has become like a village. Whoever gets the latest information at the earliest will come ahead and those who miss will certainly lag behind. In which language this communication is being made in a broad scale? Of course, English.

[Courtesy: http://neltachoutari.wordpress.com May 2010]

 

 

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Posted by on December 21, 2015 in EXPRESSIONS, Reflections

 

On Intellectual Disuse

– Hem Raj Kafle

Some of our undergraduates show remarkable philosophical leaning when they are allowed to discuss life. The discussion sometimes involves such meaningful questions, directed to the teacher: “When do you think an academic will go out of use? Can a person remain spirited forever? Isn’t there the possibility of one’s sudden disappearance because more vibrant persons come to displace/replace?”

These questions must make a high-spirited person hold his breath for some time to envision his own future, with a feeling of slight pinch to his current usability. He should rather start with this thesis: “When I degenerate, I will disappear. To exist I should know the tricks of scooping butter with a crooked finger.” Well, it is tricky to try to find the number of such thinkers.  My assumption is that there are many under our noses. To mention some universal symptoms of atrophying is my purpose here.

I think the first striking symptom is the reluctance to being receptive. This is when a person begins to set limits to learning and teaching, which is to say, he develops a sustained sense of fullness and saturation to the extent of intolerance towards productive criticism, and displeasure for the emergence of competent young successors.  The second symptom is the fear of failure and bitterness. One’s intellectual erosion begins with the urge to avoid challenges when one has accumulated absurd experiences so much into believing that the world conspires against good people and life itself is deceptive.  But one who fears challenges will hardly teach others the remedies against hardships. And one who always falls probably fails to tell others how to rise permanently.

Perhaps the most remarkable symptom of erosion comes with the feeling of surrender when there still is a chance to confront for a good cause. I believe each learned person should develop the quality of leadership with minimum sense of positive dominance over ignorance. Someone has rightly said, “When my father stopped shouting at me, he lost his world” meaning that a powerful, competent hand is always welcome in guiding a productive individual.  Let alone sharing personal experiences, when a more matured generation begins to fear or lose control over less matured generation even in necessary cases, the channels for transmitting established socio-cultural values will gradually disappear. Each generation should develop as much the power of dominance and guidance as the readiness for reception and expansion of knowledge and values.

The old practically do not avoid being sociable and sharing experiences, but if they do, they will only contribute to backwardness or possible stagnation.  One who has lived an individualistic life, cut off from empathetic relatives during life’s most receiving phase, would finally regret saying, “I wish I could relive my elders’ lives in a new context. If only I had ever asked them how hard it was to live their times.”

People once venerated might go out of use when they literally begin to show signs of disappearance from the mainstream. Appearance is not the matter of age but of intellectual energy. Neither does it have anything to do with the matter of physical presence but of leaving a legacy.  Those who resign from the desire to become heritage allow others to lose sight of them. Visibility remains so long as others see you in terms of social presence and achievements.

An intellectual invites his own disappearance when he only revels in the past achievements but does not add any at present while competitors have already achieved newer heights. Successful people are usually narcissistic to the extent of gradual exclusion from the majority.  But they can save themselves from disappearing by transferring their achievements to upcoming generation of competitors. If human beings had the rigidity of keeping all their skills and subsequent achievements to themselves, and if they had inability to learn these from others, all of us would still be living primitively.

The power to command respect is an important quality to check early atrophying.  The respect should come with being able to become a convergence point for the majority in matters of leadership and knowledge. I believe a leader or a knowledgeable person has to be useful in the local level. Some competent people are out of use for their craze for telescopic usability, which means the ambition for a higher level, probably international, exposure without sufficient commitment to their lived surroundings.

Finally, I would exemplify three kinds of people who would rise in momentary limelight, but gradually fade away because of certain hamartia. The first type plants a tree, works hard till it grows and bears fruits, but finally, reveling on the fruits and gentle breeze atop, becomes too lazy to pluck weeds and shun insects. He rather expects someone to attend the tree merely for the sake of shade and wind-blown fruits.

Someone recently told me of a second type in an interesting metaphor about the relationship between legs and the chest. He said, “The legs move and hold the body, but the chest receives the medal.” I think, this hints at the Shakespearean sense of “bubble reputation” that someone in a leadership enjoys till the subordinates agree to work hard for him. When the legs choose not to move, perhaps because the chest cannot sustain the glory of the medals or aims to climb too high to notice the pains below, the “bubbles” begin to burst into oblivion. The chest will begin to pant in helplessness.

A third type presents a somehow oxymoronic appearance. He boasts of having got very wide eyes after having “borne a thousand blows of life,” but the vision is too clear ahead to miss seeing the filth under his feet. The filth ultimately travels to his kitchen, bedroom and worship. This happens repeatedly. He is busy cleaning the filth indoors, and ultimately becomes invisible.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2015 in Reflections

 

Dealing with the Thinking

– Hem Raj Kafle

In teaching spontaneity has a greater power than planned outpourings though planning is fundamental to traditional theories of teaching. Spontaneity brings out original thoughts. It corresponds with the need of the circumstances, and creates the most suitable statements to the mood of the audience. No doubt, planning is useful. But it depends. Is what we deliver a set of PowerPoint slides prepared ages ago, and printed, photocopied and handed to the dear pupils in each session for their exam-time convenience? Or is it a formal lesson plan designed for a specific class situation, which the teacher updates every session, and which helps augment students’ learning through self-study, reflection, internalization and reconstruction?

I usually do not work with readymade handouts; I only reflect on and take notes of what I might say in the class, to compel myself to deliver the best from the internalized knowledge. My initial classes are filled with guidelines, not necessarily in the form of setting rules for students. I say that certain rules, like giving regular classes, making students regular and conducting tests are my works, but my being a leader automatically draws students towards them. I say I would not repeatedly remind them of the rules because I consider the students mature enough to understand the right ways; they should know that by making them work I am adding to my own stock of responsibilities.

I think the best thing I tell them is that a human being is a thinking and feeling creature and therefore has to save herself from being a machine. Life is less formula than feelings though formulas help shape a section of our professional future. Our lives are also guided largely by the works of others, or say, the thoughts of others. This sets for us the requirement to be associated with people who think and create ideas. Teachers seek this association in other teachers, and also with students. Students have teachers and their class fellows to fulfill this need.

I do not forget to explain the rationale of prescribing the contents of the courses. Every theme has a purpose, way beyond a compulsion to study and take exams. My first lecture explains why we teach a story in place of the other, how one text relates with the other and with the lives of the readers as well. Moreover, I make it a point to show what one gets to learn from certain writers and texts. I work in full adherence to V.S. Ramachandran’s warnings: “Did you enjoy doing what you did?” and “Did it really make an impact?” To me joy  is what I feel from being able to make students realize the value of learning. And the impact need not always be outward, directed to changing our surroundings. It is equally important to experience some kind of transformation in ourselves. Any academic, creative task we do in a university should have the quality of giving direction to at least a few people including ourselves.

My classes teach me to teach better.  I  like to treat every new student as a mysterious stock of knowledge, sentiments and challenges. If you take her as a mere creature, you will not see her beyond a semester. If you take her as a thinking and feeling being, stop for a while to meditate on the potentials she bears. This is why I love to share the fancy of being old and mature and useful so that the students might fancy identifying with this vision of being old and mature and useful. This is called making people think beyond rules and formulas. My contribution in this sense lies in instilling, and sometimes reviving, this humane sense out of the monotony and rush for driving towards dreams and fulfillments.

This is why the readymade slides and handouts work  only little with me. I do not either regret for not having any of them because I do not identify my success as a teacher with the sight of students breathlessly cramming slides and handouts few minutes before the examination bell. My satisfaction rather lies in those contented faces, which head smugly in and out of classrooms and exam halls  on all seasons. I have all reasons to be happy for this notoriety of discouraging mechanical learning.

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2013 in EXPRESSIONS, Reflections

 

On Identity

– Hem Raj Kafle

Hardly anything bothers human beings so much as the uncertainty about identity.  The question of identity tickles more acutely in a foreign land. A place is foreign not only because you don’t belong to it, but because it poses on you the challenge to prove that you really or somehow belong.

Estranged from the ancestral soil, whether by choice or compulsion, people regularly attempt to find ways of establishing the identity they desire, and the desire is largely to be what they originally are. In this regard, they rarely show readiness to spiritually submit to the culture of the host country. For example, orthodox Indians or Nepalis may find it difficult to cope up with the ways Europeans or Americans live. But the same does not apply to the case of Nepalis in India or vice versa. The reason is clear: the similarity of culture, and geopolitical proximity.

Cultural similarity and geopolitical proximity are complications in the process of identity formation. Cultural similarity is the cause of easy dissolution / assimilation into the host community and may result into the dissolution of originality itself. It will lead the emigrants to such extent of adaptation that a bit of intolerance from the host community puts existence at stake. This, facilitated by locational proximity, usually does not trigger retaliation because reporting back to the native land is a wiser choice. It is, however, easier for those who own properties and have relatives in the native land. Usually the native country is cooperative enough to allow the returning citizens. Nepal, for example, did not have much grudge to let escaping Bhutanese Nepalis enter and take refuge here. In Nepal’s acceptance, nothing but the recognition of their ancestry had worked. Rejection would have elicited national and international criticism for being cold and unfriendly to its earstwhile countrymen.

Living in marginalization poses a greater crisis in identity building. The Nepalis living in Jammu and Kashmir face a perpetual crisis of remaining Nepalis by political identity. Their problem is unlike that of Nepalis living in North east, where the question of being Indian citizens of Nepali origin reigns supreme. Nepalis in Assam, for instance, claim the rights for a status of first grade citizens retaining their own language and culture and taking part in the mainstream politics. The Nepalis of Jammu and Kashmir are not in a position to claim participation in the mainstream due to their minority. The majority is stronger in many respects. The Nepalis of Assam have a kind of mutual empathy which keeps them emotionally secure though they have perpetually undergone ordeals in maintenance  of Nepaliness. They have their Nepaliness intact for their success in keeping Nepali as a dominant medium of communication. They have made it possible by producing considerable bulk of literature and journalism in Nepali. On the contrary, the Nepalis of Jammu are in a condition to forget the Nepali language itself. Specially, the new generation do not even know the everyday Nepali, let alone the language of literature and academy.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Reflections

 

Nexus between Law, Morality and Public Policy

 Hem Raj Kafle

Introduction

This article discusses the nexus between law, morality and public policy. It shows that the three are complementary and interdependent factors, human society being the ground for each to emerge and operate. The first three sections of this essay present the mutual relationships between the three in this order: law and morality, morality and public policy and law and public policy. The final part concludes the discussion.

Law and Morality

The common function of law and morality is to regulate human behaviour so as to establish a congenial social environment for all humans. Law and morality help manage the relationships between individuals and the society, or further, between individuals, societies and the state. Morality encourages individuals towards ‘being good’ and ‘doing good’ for the sake of the well- being of the society as a whole. Thus law and morality come together — “… to complement each other, rather than compete with each other” because “human flourishing requires such complementarity” (Shiner 436).
The “complementarity” implies that law and morality rely on each other; one can be both means and end to the other. Certain legal provisions are directed by the need to respect existing moral norms. This can be seen in the way law prohibits and penalizes actions that are universally considered immoral. To quote Kent Greenawalt’s argument, “Murder, assault, theft and fraud are immoral. In any society sufficiently developed to have law distinguishable from its social morality, the law will forbid murder, assault, theft and some forms of fraud” (476). One of the ends of law is, therefore, to enforce morality in the society, especially when it comes to controlling the practices which directly or indirectly harm the society itself. Law, therefore, preserves the dignity of human life and brings “pleasure and satisfaction to those who live it” (Shiner 436). This indicates that dignity is a relative stage of human psychology and is realized as a source of “pleasure and satisfaction” in connection with the performance of moral duties and responsibilities.
There are arguments for and against the place of morality in the foundation and functions of law. Natural law theory holds that “there is a necessary connection between law and morality, such that an immoral law is invalid or not binding” (Smith 304). According to this school of thought, for law to be a just law, it has to be based on two sources: the law of the divine and the law of nature. But the positivists, in their fundamental “separability thesis” claim that “it is not necessary in all legal systems that for a norm to be a legal norm it must possess a moral value …” (Coleman and Leiter 241). Though such divisions exist, in contexts where law has to address the social, cultural, moral and natural needs of individuals and society, the interdependence between law and morality cannot be ignored. In the words of C.G. Weeramantry, “Just as moral standards have exercised a continuous and continuing influence on the law, so also legal standards can exercise an influence on morals” (132). Weeramantry highlights the inseparability and interdependence between law and morality and illustrates that such interdependence has worked throughout the phases of the evolution of the law. 

Morality and Public Policy

Morality forms a ground for the evolution and legal enforcement of public policy. As stated above, morality inspires people to be united and to care for the welfare of one another; it enhances the concept of collective well-being in people. Morality also helps public policy take birth. Public policy in a broader sense is a system that addresses the moral, cultural and economic values that maintain the unity of the society. A society accepts only those practices that have passed the test of the norms of morality it has consistently observed. This is why the issues like prostitution and homosexuality may not be easily be legalised in Nepal because majority of the Nepali citizens take them as immoral practices. Morality, like law, has norms “relating to the avoidance of interpersonal harms and the management of limited resources, … norms which regulate the distribution and holding of goods” (Shiner 437). When we talk about harms, we don’t mean the direct assaults or immolations alone. Practices that indirectly disrespect the moral sentiments of other people can equally be taken immoral. Law respects these sentiments and enforces the norms of morality to maintain public policy. Greenawalt highlights this concept saying that “in a country that is overwhelmingly Jewish or Muslim, prohibitions on pork eating would be acceptable” (484). If so applies, it is equally plausible on the part of the governments to impose restriction on slaughtering cows in a society dominated by Hindus.
There are limitations in the process of imposing morality in the name of the respect to public policy. In the context of secularism, it would be questionable if the government of Nepal imposed legal restrictions upon the cultural practices of other religious and ethnic communities in the name of respecting the sentiments of majority Hindus. Legal restrictions on the practices of minority, which are thought to offend the beliefs of the majority, may fail to materialise as a sufficient justification in liberal democracy (Greenawalt 485). The point here is that if people are divided in terms of religious beliefs, moral norms grounded upon individual religions do not form consistent public policy. However, morality supports and enhances public policy for the common good of the members of the society.
The relationship between morality and public policy can be seen in the way both are connected to law. Natural law theorist Lon Fuller asserts that law is a particular means to an end, “the enterprise of subjecting human conduct to the governance of rules” (qtd. in Bix 231-32).  Fuller’s proposition clearly binds morality and public policy, as law’s means and ends are “human conduct” and “governance.” Both morality and public policy commonly deal with the regulation of human conduct for the governance of the society. But, where law has been absent (or ineffective) in its service, moral values and social conventions encourage people to maintain peace and harmony, thereby making the society a good place to live. Here the role of morality and public policy as a companion and complement to law is inevitable. 

Law and Public Policy       

Law and public policy contain and complement each other. In the first place, law is a part of public policy. This means that obeying law and helping in its effective functioning is the duty of the people in the society. Law can play its part only when people obey it or realise its efficacy in giving them the service they need. People expect from the state a “full extent of the legal guarantee of freedom of expression … of a right to life, liberty and security … and equal treatment …” (Shiner 438).  In this sense, respecting the natural rights of citizens and guaranteeing impartiality in its treatment are at the root of a state’s public policy. Moreover, the state has the duty to enforce morality as a part of its policy. As stated earlier, the cultural values of a community in majority have an influence in the mechanism of the state, and it has the obligation to protect and respect these values. Apart from being the saviour of cultural practices, the law is entitled to enhance the political norms of the state. In a democratic event like an election or a referendum people do not usually make inquiry into the “objective soundness of the winning side” provided the victory follows fairness, because the fact that “the side secured the majority is sufficient” (Shiner 439). This is possible because people respect the policy of the state and give utmost value to the results of processes in which they are directly involved.
The public policy of the state authority — both administrative and judicial — is to act as a legal guardian of all the citizens. The first duty of the state is to make citizens aware of the law itself. The famous maxim “Ignorance of the law is no excuse” maintains that citizens should be aware of the law. With this view, the governments print books of law and make them available to the public, or make law a part of higher education. In addition, authorities run awareness campaigns through the media with a message that every adult citizen, because law influences their everyday life, should have minimum orientation on their country’s legal system. For instance, Nepal Bar Association publicised its awareness programmes through television and radio channels in order to provide legal assistance to the needy Nepalis. As a result of such campaigns, people take it as a requirement to know about the uses of law in their lives, and refrain from violating law and disturbing the values of the society. Moreover, as a guardian, the state has the responsibility to protect the citizens’ rights to observe traditions related to birth, marriage and death, and equally to prevent unpractical and collectively harmful traditions from taking place. This is why the practices like early marriages, forced marriages, desecration of graves, mutilation of human body and racial discrimination are made illegal in all countries. 
Public policy is also an important source of law. Certain laws emerge out of the policy of the contracts. This means the state allows citizens to enter into individual contracts. Because of this provision, many social issues do not reach the legal court for an official settlement. For example, individuals run monetary transactions and buy and sell properties without law interfering in these affairs. Even many of the disputes and anomalies related to these contracts are settled within the society itself. But, when these issues reach the court, they may form a basis for a law. They are settled with reference to an existing provision. New cases, on the other hand, evolve new policies which later get incorporated in the legal system. Both positivist and realist schools of thought commonly value these real social conventions as the reliable grounds for law to evolve and operate.  

Concluding Remarks

The above discussion shows that law, morality and public policy function in complementarity, as is the case between each to each. Each contributes to the formation and evolution of the other. But this does not mean that one is the only means or end to the other. Law respects, contains and enforces morality. In the same way, morality directs, supports and enhances law. Similar is the nexus between morality and public policy. Morality directs, supports and enhances public policy. Like law, public policy respects, contains and enforces morality. Law and public policy exist in the same relation of interdependence. Law contains, respects and enforces public policy. Like morality, public policy directs supports and enhances law. Thus function law, morality and public policy together as fundamentally intertwined factors working for the accomplishment of human flourishing within a systematically functioning society. To conclude, law, morality and public policy, functioning in correspondence and complementarity, promote the welfare and development of human society under a systematic state mechanism.

Works Cited

  • Bix, Brian. “Natural Law Theory.” Patterson 223-40.
  • Coleman, Jules L. and Brian Leiter. “Legal Positivism.” Patterson   241-60.
  • Greenawalt, Kent. “Legal Enforcement of Morality.” Patterson 475-87.
  • Patterson, Dennis. Ed. A Companion to the Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory. Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1996.
  • Shiner, Roger A. “Law and Morality.” Patterson 436-49.  
  • Smith, Patricia. “Feminist Jurisprudence.” Patterson 302-10.
  • Weeramantry, C.G. An Invitation to the Law. New Delhi: Lawman Pvt. Ltd., 1998.
 
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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Reflections

 

What Rhetoric Means to Me

– Hem Raj Kafle
My academic standing as an M. Phil. in English and a teacher of English language, literature, technical communication and media studies in Kathmandu University has largely shaped my inquiries into different domains of rhetorical scholarship. My entry in this field began with a limited understanding of rhetoric as an embellished discourse where literary tropes played major role in eliciting certain emotional responses from a reader/auditor. Poetry featured most in this understanding, with fictions and persuasive essays to complement at times.
When I studied the classical system of rhetoric, with Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian as focal resources, my perception broadened from rheotric’s aesthetic dimension to more practical contextual dimensions for its being a system of organized, persuasive discourse. The practical sides, basically the three genres (forensic, deliberative and epideictic), three modes of proof (ethos, logos, pathos) and the five canons (invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery) guided my teaching of English and media studies and helped shape my own researches, presentations and writings.  
My work has not been unidirectional, as is common in a qualitative inquiry. If I had chosen to be registered full time, with rhetoric at hand, and was not teaching at the university, I would be more focused to the task of clearing methodological and analytical arrays now. But I might have been in disadvantage in two respects. I would not adapt to the pedagogical value of the classical system of rhetoric through practical applications in everyday professional activities. Nor would I consciously improve my sense of discourse embellishment through the awareness of embellished arrangement and style. Allowing myself open channels of learning and practice, I have helped myself to experience my subject in its multiplicity. 
I am trailing through two rich territories of rhetorical scholarship. The first is Rhetorical Studies, which helps scrutinize the social, historical, political dimensions of the April Movement and its representations in the editorials. The second, scholarship in English studies with Rhetoric and Composition as a disciplinary category, teaches me the nuances of discourse structures, figures of speech and overall aesthetics of editorial writing. Unlike a general trend in rhetorical scholarship in the west where a researcher/candidate is formally confined to only one of these disciplinary terrains, and where the two hardly combine or “cross-pollinate”, I have enjoyed the freedom to draw knowledge from both. This may ultimately lead me to a third territory, that of Rhetoric in its fundamental classical sense, where the study directs me to recognizing a particular system of rhetoric characteristic to a non-western, Nepalese context. To be more specific, this is where the inferences might help explore a pattern of Nepalese media rhetoric reflective of a social movement. 
Fantasy Theme Analysis (FTA), a method of rhetorical criticism underpinned in Ernest Bormann’s Symbolic Convergence Theory, which I aim to apply in the study of about 400 editorials, blends the aforesaid lines of scholarship. It merges aesthetics (for its emphasis on performative/dramatic qualities of discourse) and politics (role of time, space and actors). Symbolic Convergence Theory which takes that any communication helps construct a rhetorical vision, a symbolic reality which underlies the convergence of a cumulative number of people who identify with the reality and participate in transferring it further.  Fantasy theme analysis systematically examines how rhetorical visions are constructed from communicative artifacts. It takes communication as a form of drama with characters, actions and settings where realities are dramatized in the form of fantasy themes (shared narratives). FTC accepts the notion that shared narratives accumulate as fantasy types which constitute rhetorical vision, the symbolic reality with which the participants of communication identify. 
I have internalized rhetoric in three dimensions. Whether it really can be of practical, pedagogical value is my first concern. And it does have. The classical system of rhetoric, which involves three genres, three modes of proof and five canons, is useful in the practice and teaching of oral presentation and written composition. I have conceptualized two classroom approaches/activities with the help of the five canons.  The first is what I have introduced as “The Eight R’s of Presentation” involving the steps of preparing an effective oral presentation. The second concerns a blog entitled Rhetorical Ventures intended to facilitate and archive student compositions. I presented this blog in two International conferences of English teachers in January and February 2010.
Besides, I have included fundamentals of rhetoric and rhetorical criticism in the syllabus of Text and Audience, which is taught in the third year of Bachelor in Media Studies, Kathmandu University. This helps complement a small section of the syllabus of Public Relations for the second year, which contains rhetorical strategies as communication strategies for public relation campaigners.
Subsequently, as a second dimension, rhetoric functions as an important tool for the creation and critique of everyday communication. I am conscious of using effective means in all forms of communication, be it meant for persuasion, information, invitation, identification or settlement of conflicts. I have been more conscious seeing the same means critically in the communications of other people. One achievement in this direction is the development of the habit of what Wayne Booth calls “listening rhetoric”. This helps me make clear sense of any communicators’ intentions, weigh the extent of truth and lie in their words, and trace a ground for devising appropriate forms of response. Rhetorical awareness saves me from potential relationship crises because it helps me decide when to force an argument and where to withdraw it in the lack of adequate modes of proof. 
The third and the most crucial dimension of my present study on rhetoric involves critical scholarship. First, it drives me more towards my research through the painful and pleasant moments of losses and finds — my journey of oscillation across disciplines and approaches, and of the moments of serious discourses with the supervisors and potential readers. While the actual analytical journey stills remains in a bulk, I have been trying to feel the adventure through shorter writings, presentations, editing, reviewing, and supervising student projects.
Overall, with two years’ intense involvement in rhetorical scholarship, I have learned that in research the process counts as important as the product.  The process helps me grow along with the concept, and gradually ensures the reflection of this growth in everyday professional adventures.  I am equally conscious that the product has the potential for adding some dimensions to the field of scholarship where I have so far trailed and toiled. The work is ongoing. I feel the growth every time I encounter a new rhetorical challenge.
 
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Posted by on December 3, 2011 in Reflections

 

Growing with English

          Hem Raj Kafle
I am a learner throughout. I have been a teacher for more than seventeen years. I am self-trained, or trained by time and exposure.  It has never occurred to me that I could have done anything other than teaching and would have been better elsewhere. I do not have a big name, neither do I aspire to assume one, but believe that I have not been too small where I am. 
I have taught in all levels from Nursery to Masters at different places and different odd times of my life. This gives me some confidence to assert that my life as a teacher embodies the lives of many teachers in Nepal. Most of the past years have been filled with a kind of activism for updating myself against many inconveniences, both as a person and a professional, with English at the center stage. English came to my life without a conscious plan, and naturally long before I happened to decide to become a teacher. 
I don’t clearly recall if anyone ever told me (not) to become a teacher. The cliché that one comes to teaching after failing elsewhere does not apply to my life since I did not explore other areas. Moreover, I don’t think a teacher’s responsibilities and achievements are comparable with those of others. In fact, the cliché does not either apply to any real teacher’s life even though they choose teaching after exploring different jobs. It is my first choice and now an instinct. I began to teach as soon as I learned to read and write. I had three brothers more than two classes below me. When I was in grade two, they began to learn the alphabets. So, I would be asked to teach them. Well, this does not sound big, does it? But in a traditional joint family the elders – big or small – naturally teach the younger. 
When I was in grade four, I already was the “first boy.” This meant that in the succeeding years there would be more kids around me during exams from the same class and below. Thus, our house became an unregistered night school all the year round. Sister’s classmates, brothers’ classmates, my classmates, and those “grown-ups” who would like to be literate belatedly, flocked in our veranda. They were brahmins, chhetris, magars, limbus, rais, and dalits. My parents and grandparents were ever appreciative of this learning community. Father acted as the head teacher of a sort. And there was not only study but singing and dancing till late. The “first boy” had the responsibility to teach mathematics, English, and songs. We had more than a dozen village kids to sleep in our house every night. I passed my childhood in such a semi-dormitory house. Having grown up with a multi-ethnic company, I did not learn to be an orthodox ‘bahun.’
When I was in grade seven, some villagers including my father decided to begin a tuition class in the morning. I was to take turns to teach there. Later, they decided to register it as a primary school, and someone with an SLC took it over. The school, begun as a tutorial in a hut, runs today as a lower secondary school in the middle of the village. I was one of the founders! I contributed in two ways: first, by sparing time to teach the kids in the morning, for a long time, and second, by taking part in the fund-raising deusis every Tihar. In fact, four of us – father, sister, elder brother and myself–helped it grow till it found some eager SLC-qualified teachers.
I first entered a formal classroom in 1992, the year I took my Intermediate Second exams and was left free to explore things. Someone temporarily vacated a post in the school from where I had graduated, during his B.Ed. practice teaching. I was invited to share his classes for two months. I taught everything they assigned. I taught Maths, English, social studies, moral science, science etc. etc. This opportunity instilled in me the zeal to choose classrooms. 
I became an English teacher because I studied English in the university. I studied it as my major subject and gradually acquired it for life skills. To me teaching English is not limited to teaching it as a foreign language, but helping human beings to broaden the perception of the world through communication, creativity and discourse.  This submerges the general notion of teaching into my understanding of life as a constant alternation of learning and unlearning. And the following lines from one of my articles in The Kathmandu Post may suffice to sum up my experiences so far:
The fact that teaching is of value as long as human beings live in the earth with their naturally inquisitive minds always underscores the existence of teachers. The fact that you are needed and respected must keep you attached to this pious job and social service. Teaching is not a thankless job, though the rewards are not immediate and obvious. The real reward lies in being useful to the society. A teacher is an adventurer; a person who seeks novel spaces in every adventure as a test of his/her strength to persevere odds of life in the mission of helping minds to thrive. (“On Teaching and Teachers” 1 August 2007)
There is a simple condition for becoming a teacher: that you must be able to teach. It is not the question of having high intelligence, but of being able to use whatever intelligence you have so as to impart at least some portion of your knowledge. Anyone with this ability can come to teaching and become successful in course of time. What matters is your desire to update. Teaching and stagnation do not go together. When they do, teaching fails. To teach is to know: to know is to be able to teach.

It’s already seventeen years since I first stood before a few dozen curious eyes. I am still struggling to emulate myself. I am thirstier everyday – enjoying it for being able to do it.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Reflections