Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Education, a view 04-10-15

A Perspective on Education

Mirza A. Beg

Written September 20, 2004

Sadbhav Mission Patrika September-October 2004

As a former educator and a life long student, I have observed that human beings go through three stages of knowledge, or the idea of 'knowing'. The first stage is when people are unlettered, as it used to be when I was a young man in India. They could not read or write and they knew their knowledge was very limited. I used to make an effort to talk to them when I could, particularly while travelling in trains. An average poor villager was very religious in a ritualistic way (Hindus and Muslims), but I never heard him pass an unkind and insulting remarks about others. He was helpful, courteous in an unpolished (non-fake) way. He was what he was and he let others be what they were. However the upper cast people who held better jobs or wielded power were often less tolerant of others especially the week.

Gradually the literacy increased in India and around the world. Now people read, but unfortunately only those things that appeal to their preconceived notion of good that fortifies their base prejudices and make them feel good and superior to others. It is true in India, the US, and from the news I surmise in almost all other countries societies and religious traditions. It creates hatred for others, based on ignorance perpetrated in the garb of education. To reach their goal the fascists in India paid special attention to propaganda through textbooks, many eloquent articles have been written about the assault on education by the former fascistic ruling party (the BJP) in India.

To get to the third stage when people truly get educated is to realize how little one knows, and to strive with introspection to see events and ideas from the others perspective as well. It leads to the simple realization that humans have enormous amounts in common with miniscule differences. These small differences can even be useful with tolerant discourse and be actually helpful in the progress of the humanity.

Unfortunately most of the world is entrapped in the second stage of contrived and cultivated ignorance replacing the simplicity of "not knowing" because of being unlettered. Most of the news media thrives on half-truths packaged as news. To get to the third stage is the challenge of modern structured education. We become scientists, engineers, physicians, accountants and businessmen. Smart people, without any grounding in philosophy, history in its many shades, comparative religious studies, ethics and morality. The educational systems, from pre-school to XII grade need to work hard at it, because this is the essence of humane education and relationships.

The challenge is enormous. Various political systems in the world strive for prosperity and some sort of hegemony without acknowledging it. These systems may be classified in four broad categories.

1. The Religious supremacy states: Their time is on the wane, but still some are very much in vogue as in case of religion based states. "Islamic states" Saudi Arabia and many others, Israel's insistence on Jewish supremacy, even the fascists in India would like to see India in that group.

2. The Communistic States: Their time is also past, where party in the name of the people became the instrument of oppression by concentration of power in very few hands, such as former USSR, North Korea and China. China is gradually moving towards a hybrid capitalistic dictatorship with communist mask.

3. The Capitalistic states: They seem to get the highest billing these days. They are very successful in creating new opportunities and advances because of freedom to achieve by those best endowed with brains wealth and power. It creates new technology and wealth by the most capable but leaves much destruction and misery for those, unable cope, the weaker sections of the society. The US, and to a lesser extant many former dictatorships flourishing now are good examples.

4. The Socialistic States: Many European countries are doing very well after being stung or destroyed by capitalistic fascism and religious imperialism. India also belongs to this group or certainly used to. Among the post WWII, liberated poor countries that are at the threshold of breakthrough in the industrialized world, India is a unique example where the government, often inadequately tried to lift the masses along with the privileged into the future of freedom and opportunity.

Pakistan on the other hand tried the amalgam of 1st and 3rd categories. It lost Bangladesh and is teetering on the brink of further break up. Korea and China and other similar countries went the way of draconian dictatorships and have achieved much, by sacrificing about three generations, of millions of innocent lives lost and exploited.

Obviously bringing the teaming masses along slows down the progress, but it is worth the effort if one cares about the process and the humanity rather than the end result irrespective of human toll.
Today those taking credit for India's advancement are disingenuous in not giving credit the socialistic vision of Nehru and his colleagues.

Mass education it is a complex, difficult and multifaceted task. There are no clear compartmentalized answers. The government that does not worry about the deprived and the weakest sections of the society is not a good government. The government that does not facilitate a multifaceted liberal education is a party to the spread of discord in the country and the world.

Mirza A Beg invites comments. Mab64@yahoo.com

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