Let me state upfront one thing. I am not a WhiteHat Jr employee/management/investor/advisor/sympathizer etc. etc. In fact, with all my (non-existent) creativity also I could not come up with any connection with the company, though I am being told that everyone in the world is at best 6 degrees of separation away. Now that I have referred to WhiteHat Jr, I am sure a voice inside you either tells you “No! not again” OR tells you “Come on baby. Let the fun continue.” So, irrespective of what your voice says, I am going to say what I want. After all, didn’t Andy Warhol say,
“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”
- Andy Warhol
And I have yet not got my 15 minutes. So, let me see if I can ride on this White wave and get my due.
Ok. So, let’s get cracking.
A lot has been said by lots of people worth their salt about the Byju funded WhiteHat Jr in the last few days, sometimes with such intensity as if they are voting in the election for the PM to this country. So, I thought I should also cast my vote. After all, didn’t John F Kennedy say,
“The ignorance of one in a democracy impairs the security of all.”
- John F Kennedy
Now, if I cast my vote wrong its Kennedy who can be blamed. After all, was I not peacefully sleeping?
What is that people didn’t like about WhiteHat Jr?
Do we have a problem with the pace with which Karan Bajaj became a millionaire?
I am told that WhiteHat Jr is still a toddler and yet it got USD 300mn. Congrats to all the employees who have stock options. By the way, how much is that in crores? I must confess I have a problem. Any number stated in million looks very small to me… I need that 70+ multiplier and magnifier to get the impact. If I ever sell any business and make any money I will for sure insist that definitive agreements have price in crores or still better in lakhs. Future potential investors, I hope you are listening.
Ok. Let me not digress too much and come to the point. From my limited reading I think there are two broad objections.
- Firstly, their product is not as useful for children as much as they have made a noise about. So, the common line of objection in many messages I have seen is “Coding is not such an important skill in life, problem solving is.”
- Secondly, their marketing/advertising was unethical.
Let me now state upfront in bold (so that short-sighted people also don’t miss it),
“I agree with both the objections.”
(I sincerely hope WhiteHat Jr will not file a suit against me for trade mark violations or some such thing. I am a lower mortal who likes Vidya Balan but can’t identify with her when she says “Kuch logo ka naam unke kaam se hota hai … mera badnaam hoker hua hai” (Dirty Picture movie).)
Now you must be thinking then what is there for me to say if I agree with everything that has been said. After all, don’t our marketing gurus tell us that if you want your 15 minutes of fame your messaging has to stand out (irrespective of the fact whether you have something meaningful to say or not, just say something different). That’s where my problem starts. I am a failed marketer… actually I am a horribly failed marketer. Even a small meaningless creature like mouse is also better than me. At least once every year comes a period of 10 days when he is the most respected and revered soul around. In my case, forget 10 days, people don’t give me more than 10 seconds also to hear me, and that applies universally to everyone, including friends and family. So, let me not try to market. However, I must congratulate you for coming this far, for you have surely listened to me for more than 10 seconds. Boy you are different.
Coming to first point made by everyone. Absolutely no debate on this fact that problem solving is the most important thing in this life. But here are my few observations:
- Is this the only period in human history where problem solving skill has become so important? All along for centuries were people living without that? So, why are we fussing so much about it?
Well, my perspective is that problem solving was and is always important. By the way it was much more important in the past than its probably today. Just imagine living in a cave in a forest and feeling thirsty. Now imagine going from your cave to the stream nearby (many times in the dark also). Every step of yours was filled with the uncertainty of being attacked by some wild animal, getting bitten by a poisonous snake, slipping and falling and breaking your neck, or some such innumerable dangers. Every sense organ of yours has to work at its full potential. Your problem-solving ability to handle this amazingly simple situation of drinking water has to be of legendary proportions, for even a small mistake was the distance between life and death. I don’t think any human alive today can appreciate this. Now compare this with what happens today with lots of us who live in homes with direct water connection. You have to get up and walk 0.0000001 x 10^(–9) light years (I have actually calculated this number. Let me assure you I am fully committed to getting my 15 minutes of fame. In fact, my mind is talking to me as if its Salman Khan “Ek baar jo maine commitment kar di, uske baad tho main khud ki bhi nahin sunta”). Not only this, this amazingly large distance of light years is full of dangerous animals like tigers, panda, etc. and you have to escape their attention (so what if they all are stuffed with cotton). And if you accomplish this dangerous task and reach water, then you have to pick up a ferrous based object which can potentially kill (don’t ask me to explain gory details), fill it with water with trembling hands and then drink. And that’s not all. While doing so you have to continuously manage the bombardment of air particles on your ear drums because a monster called Asha Bhosle is crooning, “Bhoot haine yaha koi…” on your mobile phone. Wow. What an amazing adventure each one of undertake multiple times every day.
I hope you got my sarcasm. The point I am trying to make is that life was far more difficult in past and therefore our problem-solving skills were acute. Today life is amazingly simple. Never in the history of this planet, so many people have lived for so long without thinking about a war or a calamity on a daily basis. Now I know some people will immediately jump up with example of plight of millions of poor marginalized people on this globe. I must humbly again say that I agree. See I told you I am not a good marketer for I don’t know how to stand out. However, let me quickly add this. Try comparing their life with the life of poor marginalized people in the past and if you can show me a person who doesn’t have tears in his/her eyes I can show you a perfect human being who has achieved nirvana.
“Whether touched by pain or pleasure, the wise show no change of temper.”
- Gautam Buddha
Coming back to my point. Life was difficult in real terms in the past. Today our difficulties are nothing when compared to past. And that’s probably why majority of adults in the world today have no real problem-solving skills. What most of us have is this pseudo arrogance of being intelligent because of passing some meaningless entrance exam or because we have attained some designation in some so-called great organization or because we have sold our start up to someone for few million or billion dollars or some such achievement which won’t be even remembered in most cases in our own life times. And if you think I am trying to now go overboard, then just answer this simple question of mine,
“Never in our history we had access to so much science and technology, then how is it that instead of having a blast, we are literally grappling with a potential scenario of the end of human reign on this planet?”
I suspect if any generation before us thought that this world will end so soon, though they always feared for their own lives or lives of their near and dear ones on a daily basis. We are living in times with amazing knowledge and tools at our disposal but can’t use them properly, for tools are useful only when we can solve the problem first. This is why there is so much noise about WhiteHat Jr today. Problem solving skill is so much in scarcity today that its presence is felt by all the people (worth their salt) and that’s why there is so much noise about it. WhiteHat Jr just happens to be that proverbial bali-ka-bakra who we are using to make noise about a serious problem grappling our specie.
Just open your eyes and look around. Our entire education system is bereft of problem-solving skills, (until and unless memorization and vomiting are classified as problem solving then I have nothing to say). Have you ever seen parents writing so much about it or talking so much about it? Yes, I know a lot of people are trying to correct the system, but let me assure you that this is nothing new. A lot of sensible people have tried to do the same in the past also but the system is still going strong. But forget education system we have topped it with an entire industry where classes are done for supposedly teaching kids some amazing things and they happily thrive and survive. By the way let me confess again here, I am one such tuition class. The fact that people like me survive is the saddest part of our education system. This pandemic has brought kids to park/garden/play areas. I have never seen so many kids playing for so long, for so many days, in my entire life in my gated society where I live. All thanks to this pandemic which has shut off physical schools and the other tuition classes thereby giving kids a life. When I see kids playing in a carefree manner, I think that’s normal…going to some tuition class for some supposed glorious future is abnormal. Had there been so called logical thinking in this world, we would have never come to such a sad state of affairs w.r.t our education system. And this brings me to another point. But before I go ahead let me say one thing, “If you are going to conclude that I am a moron who does not want this pandemic to end, based on what I have said just now, then I must say, your problem-solving skills are legendary. Bhai tumhare charan kaha haine?”
Logic is a very relative thing. What one finds abnormal another, and sometimes the whole world can find it normal. And because it’s that way, every person worth his/her salt, and every person who is not even worth his/her salt, thinks he/she is logical. Show me a person who thinks he is illogical and I will show you a philosopher.
“I know that I know nothing.”
So, this is where we stand today:
- There is an acute dearth of problem-solving skills in this world today.
- Everyone in this world thinks that they are expert at problem-solving.
And this is the problem — When everyone seems to know problem-solving then what is there to teach?
So, all those who are writing against WhiteHat Jr… here is my humble submission,
Sirs and Madams,
We all, including our children, know what problem solving is all about. There is nothing to teach there. What we just need to learn is to implement our solution and for that we need to learn some tools. Now since we don’t want our kids to become car mechanics, we don’t send them to classes that teach them tools related to that. We all want our kids to create technology solution, some App or something like that and then sell it to someone else for million/billions of dollars. Coding is one such tool and that’s why we are willing to shell a fortune for that. Do you have any problem with that?
Let me at this point state this, I have a self paced online course (The Art of Rational Thinking (ART) Course) that teaches kids problem solving skills through age old stories and I have been selling this course for last 2+ years and yet there are no takers. Now I am sure, lot of people will think the following,
- “Aha! So, this article is a surrogate advertisement for a course.”
Let me neither reject nor accept this PoV. Rather let me remind you what I have said earlier, “I am a horrible marketer”.
- “If your course does not sell, it must be useless.”
I humbly accept this criticism. Thankyou for being the 999th individual on this planet to say so. So, I have a request, “Why don’t you help me improve it so that you or your son/daughter who does not know problem-solving can learn?”
I almost feel I am again hearing, “We know it. There are others who need to learn.”
- “If your course does not sell, it must be too expensive.”
I am sorry for this. Some idiot told me long back that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys, and I just got carried away. Later as I grew older I learnt, courtesy Darwin, that monkeys are our close ancestors. So, now that I have learnt my lesson, give me sometime and I will soon have a pricing model where you can pay in peanuts.
- “If your course does not sell it must not be child friendly. ”
I must say again I agree. For God sake can you say something that I can disagree with and stand out. But honestly I was actually given this feedback by one mom who said, “Children have very low attention span nowadays. They are not so much into reading. So, put some good quality videos”. Now, I am still trying to figure out if she was trying to tell me a problem that exists and we as sensible parents/adults should try solving it OR was she wisely advising me (like Krishna advised Yudhistir once) that this is kaliyug, so give up and accept the bad parts of life. In any case, I have decided that I will go with the kaliyug advice and do the needful.
- “What have you achieved in life to teach problem solving?”
This view is bang on target. I am not just a failed marketer… I am a failed “XYZ”. Please replace that XYZ by any word that you like and most probably it will fit in. At my end, I just wish that every teacher in this world should be asked to first go and earn some medal or get some name for himself/herself and then start teaching.
Ok. Let me move to the second criticism for WhiteHat Jr.
2. Can the people who have raised objections on the fact that the advertisements of WhiteHat Jr are unethical, show me one advertisement today which speaks truth?
So, when a car company shows me an AD that so and so car will create a magical family experience, is that a truth?
When a toothpaste AD or a deodorant AD shows girls getting attracted to boys just because they use that toothpaste or deodorant, is that a truth? (And if it is do send me that brand. I am willing to part with all my modest income)
When a sports coaching class ties up with some sporting legend, who will come and say Hi to kids once a year/quarter and then use that name to promote themselves, is that truth?
Do you remember seeing any advertisement where the messaging is honest and factual?
It’s all emotional drama. And we call them creative and give them awards also.
If WhiteHat Jr is unethical then why don’t we call majority advertisements of ours unethical?
Let me make my point clear. It was never about ethics. The way we all do business has long back crossed the border of ethics. In fact, the way we execute our affairs in daily life, the word ethics now exist only in some courses taught for heck in some colleges. And we all know this and yet we will never accept this. It’s exactly like the problem of problem-solving. All of us are ethical but surprisingly the world is so unethical.
This reminds me of an incident that happened in my engineering college hostel long back. Once a thief entered the hostel and tried stealing clothes of one guy. Unluckily for the thief, the owner of the clothes caught him in the act of stealing and expectedly gave him a sound thrashing. Till now everything is fine. But can someone explain to me as to why did the entire hostel gave the thief a good thrashing? One answer for sure is that the hostel comrades’ heart would have said, “Tu bhai haine mera”, but I also know that such bhaichara only happened at 12’o clock in the night over a bottle of country made liquor. And this incident happened in the evening only. See, the problem is we were in a college which had some 300+ boys for some 6 girls in one year. Given that girls were flushed with proposals and the boys were flushed with rejections. That thief that day had to bear the brunt of all those rejected frustrated souls. This is exactly what is happening today. We all are unhappy with all the stress we are going through in our lives… and I am not saying all this…the doctors are saying this. This frustration of our life comes out on anyone who is caught on the wrong end. Just few months back everyone worth their salt had to comment on SSR, now its WhiteHat Jr, tomorrow it will be someone else. It’s that simple.
This year for the first time Time magazine named “Kid of the year” and the recipient was a 15 year old girl Geetanjali Rao. First of all, congrats to her and her parents. I was reading one article where she was quoted as saying this,
“Don’t try to fix every problem, just focus on one that excites you.”
- Geetanjali Rao
This is how one lives a meaningful life. But most of us, including me, live by this principle, “Don’t try to fix any problem but do write/blog/comment/tweet/message on any and every problem in this world”.
Long back I read a quote,
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
- Reinhold Niebuhr
This 15-year-old has already understood this and we adults are yet far away from this. In fact, this has been, in very simple words, my last 4-year journey. It’s again and again shown to me that kids are born with amazing quality of problem-thinking skills and that lasts only till we adults don’t get in with our legendary problem-solving skills to teach them. If we really think that WhiteHat Jr is wrong then we should stop telling them what to do and start correcting ourselves… we should stop teaching kids and start learning from them… above all, stop making noise about problem solving skills. This world has lots of kids and they all our amazing problem solvers provided we have the wisdom to understand. And this is not what I am saying for I have anyway not achieved anything (By the way the biggest proof of this is that I have no TEDx video of mine as of now)… Just listen to this,
“There are children playing in the streets who could solve some of my top problems in physics, because they have modes of sensory perception that I lost long ago.”
- Robert Oppenheimer, Nuclear physicist
Before I end, I must congratulate you. You have heard me for more than 10 minutes. Heartfelt thanks. And if you agree with me do share my article. See I am working hard to become a better marketer. I have been told that a social media worthy message has to have a call for action. Unfortunately, all along I thought people act when they think it’s logical and not because the writer asks them to act. But now as I think about it , it makes sense, for Newton’s Third Law of Motion says, “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” If I want people to react, I have to act. So, here I am courtesy marketing gurus and a legendary scientific guru, asking you all to react because I have acted by asking, “Please share, like and subscribe”. Thank you.
DreamNobel is an education initiative to engage in a way that “independent thinking” and “empathy” becomes an integral part of student’s personality. We have developed a unique and revolutionary science course whereby a kid can be “taught” broadly all the Science subjects (Physics, Chemistry, Biology & Geology) in an integrated manner, through a unique story and rationalization led pedagogy. The following are our social media handles: Twitter, Instagram, Medium, LinkedIn. If the thought posted here resonate with you, then please follow us to reach out to a wider audience.