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Intellectual Illiteracy

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  26 Feb 2017 12:00 AM GMT

By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee

Education is supposed to be the key to knowledge. Only knowledge can enlighten our mind by removing the darkness of ignorance. Francis Bacon, the renowned philosopher, had stated “Knowledge is power”. For gaining knowledge education is indispensable. But it must be the right kind of education; wrong education does not edify us; rather it may have some adverse effects on the mind of the learner. Right education must enlighten the mind and it should not compress it. But it seems that in the present era education has not been able to give proper knowledge to learners.

In fact, education at present has become a chief obstacle in the path of intelligence and freedom of thought. The primary purpose of education is to build the character of learners. But now this noble goal seems to have been lost, since education is no longer interested in character-building exercise. If we go back to the ancient era, we find that besides imparting knowledge on various topics, character-building was the main objective of preceptors. But today’s educated persons do not seem to have any idea of morality and they may not even be aware of the distinction between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.

Parents want to admit their children in the best schools. The ‘best’ implies the most sophisticated, expensive and glamorous school and only affluent section can hope to obtain seats for their wards in these aristocratic schools. As far as my knowledge goes, moral lessons are not given due importance in any of these schools, whether well-known or unknown. I believe that nowadays ‘Moral Science’ is in the school curriculum as a subject to be taught in some junior classes. There are some text books on moral science. But it is treated as a purely theoretical and unimportant subject. Hence the young students do not give the least importance to moral science, nor do the teachers.

One must be a moral person to teach morality to the pupils. But morality has become irrelevant in the present age. Hence we see chaos and calamity all around the globe. Most parents do not bother about the lessons in morality to their wards, since corruption has gripped the tion in such a way. Young people are getting involved in all sorts of vices and the way they are drifting away to the wrong path does bring apprehensions to the minds of the conscientious and sensible parents. They are afraid their wards may not develop into better human beings, because most institutions are churning out academic adolescents, who have not learnt the value of morality and right conduct.

We all can see how the institutions of education are functioning today. They have been battered down by indiscipline, violence and diverse forms of agitations. They are no longer temples of learning with the maxim of ‘simple living and high thinking’. This admirable principle has been turned into the principle of luxurious living and low mental attitude. In the primitive age the disciples were taught the value of self-sacrifice for the good of others and honesty. Now they learn to sacrifice others for persol good and dishonesty has elbowed out honesty. As a consequence most of the young men with university degrees do not become good and honest human beings; rather they become ruthless, selfish opportunists with wrong idea of value.

The aim of true education should be to minimize the evil inclitions and to maximize the good ones. Unfortutely the process appears to have been reversed. Today’s degree-holders love to lead a luxurious life. They look with contempt at the simple village folk, behave rudely with the menials and the daily wage-earners like rickshaw-pullers, vendors, cobblers and small shop keepers. They seem to believe education is the license for their atrocious behaviour.

You can see students from some reputed English-medium schools, after their entry to some college, always huddle together and look with disparagement at students from vercular-medium schools. They do not seem to be aware that education does not imply the learning of English language only. It is good to learn as many languages as one can. One may also learn French, German, Latin and other languages. If they are interested, they may also learn some Indian languages. Sanskrit also is a very important language. But one must never discredit the mother tongue. No person can claim to be educated, if he does not respect his own language.

Swami Vivekanda had said that he was amazed to see the vanity of people taking the western form of education and having knowledge of English language. Strangely enough, even some mothers proudly say that their children get very good marks in English, but get poor marks in their own mother tongue. I think it is not a matter of pride at all, rather it is a matter of shame. But that is what education implies today — it is to extol foreign culture and denigrate own customs and civilization.

It is obvious that our young students are obsessed with anything western, whether it is language or things. So we can see that our people are always tempted to buy things with a foreign tag. Various educatiol institutions hardly offer any ideal to the young children, who are already bemused by violence, intolerance and indiscipline they witness in our archistic democracy. The institutions themselves function in a chaotic manner and the students are imparted knowledge through a lacklustre method of teaching. They dictate old worn out notes in the class rooms, which do not create even a spark of interest in the minds of students.

If we go back to earlier times, it may be noticed that the students learnt about discipline, punctuality, generosity and other aspects of morality from the behaviour of teachers. The teachers taught them moral activities through examples and not by precept. Today the teachers are busy augmenting their income by private tuition, though they are much better paid than their counterparts in earlier times.

In the present era, education has been turned into a commercial venture. Temples of learning have been changed into trade centres. There does not seem to be any organization of the streams and no true system of knowledge. The student’s mind remains confined to the books or notes and he cannot go beyond that limit. He has no idea that some great mysteries might be revealed to him and that a different and more humane way of life can be constructed by what he is going to learn. Only the right sort of education can give him true knowledge about the mysteries of the universe.

The university has ceased to be distinctive. The academic circle provides bality and caters to the career needs of a bunch of course-completing and degree-holding illiterates. They are only interested in placements and an excellent salary. And in this competitive market, knowledge or learning takes a back seat and we have a bunch of degree-holders without proper knowledge. This mental clogging is characteristic of ubiquitous nihilism found in the mind of the Indian youth. The young people today are more interested in entertainment, sexuality, crime and money power.

There are many universities in our country. There are many buildings in a university, which are used for offices, colleges, libraries and laboratories. But in spite of the imposing buildings, there is no atmosphere of study or meditation. One can only find overwhelming commotion and agitations. The only aspect missing is constructive suggestion regarding the implementation of better education for making better human beings. Canteens are crowded, while classrooms are empty. Are these educatiol institutions temples of learning, to which we send our children? In these institutions the emphasis is given on mere theoretical knowledge to the utter neglect of the inner, higher and the imperceptible element in man.

To make the situation worse, our tradition of simple living and high thinking handed down to us by our saints and preceptors from the ancient age, has been most shamefully abandoned and set aside as something hackneyed, unscientific and degrading. People today clamour for money and more money. If the young students had been taught to listen to the voices of the saints, they would have acquired something more than money. They would have got grace, peace and a sense of fulfillment.

The British attached great importance to discipline. We followed them in every sphere and adopted their culture as our own, but did not adopt their rigid adherence to discipline. Now our people have adopted their life style, their dresses, behaviour, language, mannerism, and consequently have done immense harm to rich Indian culture. We have rejected discipline and banished morality and religion. We have the liberty to do anything we wish to do. The question of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’, does not come into it.

After completion of the exams, the successful candidates obtain their degrees and are happy. But the degree, which ought to be a certificate of general intellectual competence, becomes a certificate of intellectual illiteracy, because the university systems have created knowledge of many new topics, but have not been able to create a new humanity. We in India can at least reject the western mode of education and offer our students a humane education, which will enhance their intellectual and moral qualities. Education should aim at making good human beings. Then only our children will be truly educated in the real sense of the term.

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