Cut-offs at Delhi University have yet again touched the 98-99% mark. If you are a student, you know how anxiety-ridden this period is, but you have also been told, once you get into a decent college there will only be fruits and flowers.

After all, you sold your soul to get clear of the obnoxiously high cut-offs.

As my last year dawns at DU, I can’t help but reflect upon my student life. I managed to enrol comfortably in one of the ‘dignified’ courses at a North Campus college - yet I find myself itching to leave.

During the initial months, I knew it was preposterous of me to feel anything but lucky for having cleared the cutoff. The selection criterion glorifies prescribed learning by rote and is miserably dependent on standardised test scores for almost everyone. A hollow concept, it also decides your level of achievement among your peers.

What unsettles me most is how this orthodox system succeeds in labelling so many of us ‘stupid’, and still decides the self-esteem and future of hundreds of millions of vulnerable students countrywide.

Being dyslexic during my initial years, I have experienced the brute impact it can have on someone if you constantly remind them of their incompetence.

I have also been on the other side of the fence, after hacking the system to top my school in the board exams.

I have been labelled both, stupid and genius, been slapped and patted, despised and cherished by the same educational structure.

But did I really become smart during my later years in school? Or did I merely remodel myself into an ideal product of our unprincipled, wasteful education system?

While traditionally school is a place that demands obedience and compliance with the whims of those in authority, an elite DU North Campus college professes to be just the opposite, a place where you can unlearn the orthodoxies you digested. It pretends its ‘liberal arts’ give you an opening to destroy the preconceived notions you cherish.

Shiv Visvanathan believes, “The democratization of democracy would begin not with the constitution but with the liberal arts syllabus.”

But what do the liberal arts of DU really offer?

Vidhi Jain, an activist, did an art workshop with 30 children in Udaipur. 26 of them attended a traditional school, while the other four had probably never stepped inside a school premises. After the workshop she observed that all 26 school students had drawn exactly the same thing: trees, mountains and a river. The four unschooled students drew different things, an autowala, the kitchen in their home, and so on.

She concluded that we kill the creativity of schoolchildren by the time they turn 5.

A mature manifestation of this is prevalent in the liberal arts DU colleges, with the majority of students obsessing over finding hacks to clear the UPSC exam. Evidence of this obsession is not tough to find. Just look at what students scribble on college tables during lectures:

It’s easy to make fun of these illustrations and dismiss them as mindless doodles, but when every second ‘liberal arts’ student develops the very same goal, I am reminded of the hollow men of T.S.Eliot.

It is bizarre to acknowledge that so many of us go through so many years of schooling without actually learning very much about ourselves. Instead we’re taught how to present data about ourselves in such a manner that we manage to please university admission evaluators and job interviewers.

All that is required of you is to collect certificates, join college societies, perform as many internships as possible and of course, score well.

There is no time to be vulnerable, to question the conformist wisdom which is so powerfully shaping our personalities.

And if you gather the courage to attempt to cure the diploma disease, you fall behind. You become a failure.

Anirudh Shukla is a theatre activist and the playwright of 21st Century.