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Thread: My Idea of Education: An Essay

  1. #1 My Idea of Education: An Essay 
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    “A society’s competitive advantage will come not from how well its schools teach the multiplication and periodic tables, but from how well they stimulate imagination and creativity.” – A. Einstein

    Right since my inception in this earth, it seems as if I were born to hate my school where I wasted thirteen great years of my life. The school gave me nothing throughout my life except for, in the final year, a mere sheet of paper which reads in bold letters, M-A-R-K-S-H-E-E-T. I was happy now, not because of the reason why everyone else was, but because I was leaving that school for ever and ever. That sounds impudent to you, I guess. But remember the great saying, blind respect for authority is the worst enemy of truth. Do you think that the laminated piece of paper was the only thing for which I spent my thirteen long years in the fetters of my ever-shifting life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness? Do you think the holders of the banners of education, take part in the slightest creation of educated beings? Do you think education is cramming the brain with information for the sole purpose of bringing home a very good certificate? Do you think education is to be the proud “one” chosen out of thousands and thousands of seeking faces? Do you think education is that which guarantees you the job of a multinational company, the earnings of which will build you a castle of gold? Probably you are replying in the positive.

    I might be wrong then. Or perhaps you are talking of literacy – the ability to read and write. Oh yes, you are talking of literacy. I have seen many uneducated literate people – the world is filled up with them. Literacy basically makes people understand what others say and make others understand what they say. Apratim, for instance, was one of the high-scorers of his engineering college. But now he works as a sales manager in an oil-refinery of Abu Dhabi. What was the use then of his engineering college? The only use I see is that it made him literate – he could count numbers, write them in a piece of paper and speak up the numbers when needed – all these capabilities of Apratim, as a literate person, was declared by a lifeless sheet of paper known to be his certificate. That was why he got his job. Apratim, if asked today to suggest a way to create a simple lab device that would permit the study of small electrical fluctuations for example, he would definitely reply that he is not in touch with his engineering. How can he? He was not born to be scientific thinker. Still do you believe he is educated? Let me give you one more example. Himangshu got the national award as an academian from the hands of the President of India. He was a student of philosophy. I asked him to share some of his knowledge of philosophy. To my surprise, he said of philosophy that, there is no need of logic in it; you are free to claim anything, whether rational or irrational, and you are correct every time; does not matter whether others believe you or not. I was surprised and quite reasonably I asked him, “Why?”. He said there is no answer to that; it is just as it is. Believe me, there was nothing philosophical in that. More of a surprise, Himangshu now works as a contractor like his father. What about his studies of philosophy (I mean the broken ones at least, may be for which he was given the national award)? What did those studies earn him? The straightforward answer is literacy. If you still tend to believe that literacy is education, I impose a question on education. Why does it not ever produce an Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare or Abraham Lincoln of any sort?

    I know the answer. That which you call education is not education at all. Look at the child. He is born an Einstein, Shakespeare and Lincoln. Look at him, how he questions everything that comes to him. “Papa why did you keep it here?”, “Mamma why do we brush everyday?”, “Why is that crow black?”, “Why are ice creams cold?”. Look how he entangles himself to his toys the whole day long sitting in the very bed he was given his toys. Immense pleasure does he get therein – creating castles, worlds and universes, sustaining and destroying as he pleases – the sort of pleasure that God can only feel. While walking along a path when he sees a butterfly, he chases it, and when it sits somewhere, he sits too. With his cheeks resting on both his hands he keeps on staring at the little creature without a single blink of his eye. He sits like that, as if for ages and ages until the moment comes when the butterfly bides him goodbye. I do not know what the child sees therein, but I do know he blots from the sight such great streams of pleasure which is unfathomable to the mature eye. Look at him when things go wrong, when he is not given what he desires to have, when he is forced to do things he dislikes, he then yells at the top of his voice, cries with bursting tears, throws things here and there, and protests against the unjust authority. Yes there is a scientist, a poet and an advocate of liberty rooted deep inside the heart of a child. What happens to him when he grows up? An adult resists the kid in him and eventually kills it, the most perfect gift of nature, so that he might fit well in the system of his so-called civilized society. One, who does not, is marked by history as a great man. Education is nothing but the creation of such men. Someone might say, great men are born great, they cannot be created. Yes I definitely agree. But I add some more, every man is born great, only that they do not retain their greatness when they grow big. The very aim of education is to retain the greatness of a child when he grows big.

    Only if my school had given me some education, I would have been writing a better piece for ‘The Academian’, probably discussing Quantum Gravity. Anyways, let’s discuss our present topic. One thing that you will always have to remember is that in education, there is no limiting factor. Once upon a time, for instance, algebra was considered to be a post graduate study, “not for minors” type. Now children of 12, 13 and 14 years study algebra. Nothing can limit the human brain – this is the natural decree. So you should not try to limit it either. A bird flies high only when it is set free. This is called intellectual freedom, without which education is impossible. Intellectual freedom also encompasses the freedom to choose. The child, for example, having given the qualities of a scientist, a poet and an advocate of liberty, would have a leaning towards one of these more than the other ones. This is his choice and he should be free to choose. Now comes the turn of the society – everything is ready, oils are running through the veins of the engine, only a little push to launch off. This push is so important in education that it forms the central idea of our discussion. So what is this “push” basically? It is to provide the student with all that he needs to sustain in the path that he has chosen for himself. In fact, you don’t need to think about what to provide with. This is somewhat like Darwin’s natural selection. The student, upon accepting that you are his sustainer, or teacher more literally, will ask you for all that he needs. This is, I believe, another fundamental right of the student, which falls into the category of intellectual freedom. When asked for, if you being a teacher of this student refuse to supply him with his demands, for some reason or the other (may be because of one of your personal opinions), remember that you are breaking one of the basic tenets of education – intellectual freedom. Another important aspect of intellectual freedom is that it permits disobedience, not that kind of disobedience which creates disorders in the society but those, I mean, which are against conformity to pre-established ritualistic set of dogmas and rules that you have to blindly accept without a single question. Well it is very necessary to reason. Anything that you do without any good reason behind it is meaningless. And meaningless waste of time is but meaningless waste of time. This type of truthful disobedience must be encouraged in schools (although I know it might be very hard to do so). For example, in spite of saying “You have to do this by that method”, ask the student to devise his own method and perhaps you can help him by saying “Here is one method used by some one or the other, that you can have a look if you wish.” Why am I talking so much of intellectual freedom? Because it is as true as the rising of the sun in the east, that the moment you cage a student, I mean the one who is trying to develop his potentials, he will be loosing all his capabilities to the man-made system of apparent civilization. Therefore the student must be free, like the birds soaring in the sky, the rivers running down the hills. Only then he will be able develop the potentials he was born with.

    Well-said it is that example is better than precept. Let me tell you the story of a boy who was given perfect education, according to me. As a kid, he liked to work on puzzles, erect complex structures with his toy building set, play with a steam engine that his uncle gave him, and build houses of cards. His parents noticed that the boy was able to construct card structures as high as fourteen stories. They realized the potential of the boy – he was leaned towards science. Quite unlike others, they started giving the boy the “pushes” of education. His father decided to bring him a compass – the decision was wise. The boy got so excited as he examined its mysterious powers that he trembled and grew cold. The fact that the magnetic needle behaved as if influenced by some hidden force field, rather than through the more familiar mechanical method involving touch or contact, produced a sense of wonder that motivated him. As he grew older, his parents made their “push” sharper. They brought him the textbooks in advance so that he could master them over summer vacations. Not only did he learn the proofs in the books, he tackled the new theories by trying to prove them by his own. For days on end he sat alone, immersed in search for a solution, not giving up before he had found it. On the other hand, his uncle, an engineer by profession, introduced him to the joys of algebra. He went on to give the boy difficult challenges, and when the boy triumphed, he gave him even more difficult ones. At the age of 10, he met someone whom he took to be his ever-respected teacher and from whom came the greatest intellectual “push” required by the child. The teacher used to bring him realms of easy-to-understand core books of science that contained in great detail the scientific researches being done at that time. The child read them with breathless attention. The teacher also helped the child continue to explore the wonders of mathematics by giving him a textbook on geometry two years before he was scheduled to learn that subject in school. By age 12, he already had a predilection for solving complicated problems in applied arithmetic. Before he was 15, he had mastered differential and integral calculus. The teacher even recommended ‘Kant’ to the child. Kant’s works, incomprehensible to ordinary literates, was made clear to him. Let us cut the story real short. Their combined efforts for the coveted “push” were eventually successful – the child is now known in this big world with one great name – Albert Einstein.

    I don’t say there is a need for a catastrophic change in the present system of education. But there must be a change in attitude – the attitude of the teachers (I prefer calling teacher rather than authority) towards education. Everything should not be looked upon as formal and professional. Teachers must not think of themselves as discrete units of an authoritive system. Students don’t go to the teachers in order that the teachers might stuff their brains with some rigid packets of information. Just examine the attitude of the two teachers – one enters the class and says, “Students, let me teach you today Kantian epistemology”, while the other says, “Students, today let us learn Kantian epistemology.” Although this seems no big deal, the latter is right in attitude. Education takes place where students and teachers equally participate. Education is a continuum of tiring efforts of both the student and the teacher, not a discrete superfluous system of the teacher only. If this set of attitude be followed in schools, colleges and universities, I promise you the upcoming of tomorrow where the world will not be filled up with infertile engineers and doctors, but with Einsteins, Shakespeares and Lincolns.

    All criticisms are warmly accepted.


    J Rahman,
    Christ University,
    Bangalore, India.
    Ph. +91 8867681098
    (Visit my blog here and also find me on Facebook)
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  3. #2  
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    This is particular about the Indian system of education. So you dont need worry if you are not an Indian student. In your country, situations may be better or worse.


    J Rahman,
    Christ University,
    Bangalore, India.
    Ph. +91 8867681098
    (Visit my blog here and also find me on Facebook)
    Reply With Quote  
     

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