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Dhanyabad from Anil Kumar Cheeta
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Eduction by Shrii P R Sarkar- Discourses on Neohumanist Education
Eduction by Shrii P R Sarkar- Discourses on Neohumanist Education
Parents(1) often allege that teachers do not teach anything worthwhile nowadays, but I do not feel that this is a very well-considered remark. In actual fact they are only making excuses in order to avoid their responsibilities. At the same time, however, I should add that most teachers demonstrate, through their mental outlook ...or their actions, far less awareness of their social responsibilities than concern for their own interests. They do not devote even a fraction of the time and energy to building society that they spend making money by any means possible, such as by writing “made easies” [course summaries] or study guides.
Sometimes uneducated or semi-educated parents abuse their children, using bad language and beating them, but the behaviour of teachers is often far more despicable. In many cases, even after studying numerous books on psychology, they deliberately wound the sentiments of their students with their offensive remarks. Instead of trying to rectify the bad habits of their students, they assail their minds with caustic language. There are many teachers who hurt the feelings of students by ridiculing either their castes or their fathers’ occupations, saying, “The plough suits you better than the pen, my boy,” or “You had better join your father at the potter’s wheel.” Even today such utterances come out of the mouths of many teachers. If a student is ugly, there are teachers who will make faces and say, “Your intelligence is like your appearance” – not to mention the beatings and other kinds of physical torture. Even today we can observe that many teachers use fear tactics to compel the students to prepare their lessons. The day such teachers are so unfortunate as to fall sick and miss school, their students go into raptures of joy.
How many teachers try to awaken a genuine thirst for knowledge in their students? Some teachers say, “The education system is itself only a profit-making business. What are we supposed to do?” Can they escape their responsibilities with such remarks? Is profit-making education no education at all? Is there no scope for acquiring knowledge in such education? Is it devoid of the seeds of welfare? And surely teachers cannot dismiss everything by saying, “How can we give attention to one child out of a crowd of two or three hundred?”
It must be the teachers’ responsibility to impart knowledge, teach restraint in social life, and give instruction about all the various aspects of collective endeavour, but the parents will have to take on most of the responsibility for the moral and spiritual education of the child. It should be the duty of society as a whole to ensure that the children of immoral and unrighteousness parents are brought up as virtuous citizens. If possible such children should be removed from the unwholesome environment of their parents.
The Role of Teachers
Before making further comments about the responsibilities of parents, it is necessary to say something more about teachers. The first point is that teachers must be selected carefully. High academic qualifications do not necessarily confer on a person the right to become a teacher. Teachers must possess such qualities as personal integrity, strength of character, righteousness, a feeling for social service, unselfishness, an inspiring personality and leadership ability. They are samája gurus,(2) and for this reason it is not possible to accept just anyone as a teacher. Because teachers have an extremely important role to play, their professional standards must be very high.
Many people today recall the forest hermitages of ancient India, admonish starved or half-starved teachers for deviating from the lofty ideals of the past, and say that they should again live up to those ideals. Such glib talkers ignore the fact that their high-sounding platitudes do not remove the pangs of hunger. A person who is constantly hungry thinks about food all the time. So if a teacher, under compulsion of poverty, works as a private tutor in four or five places and due to extreme fatigue fails to teach his or her school students properly, should he or she be censured? No, the teacher is not to be blamed at all. In many countries the cost of the monthly meat ration for the dog of a rich person exceeds the salary of a teacher. Under such circumstances how much social consciousness can we expect from the teachers? The salaries of teachers in every country should be on a par with, if not higher than, the salaries of public servants in the judiciary and the executive. It should not be forgotten that the sages of the past used to receive temple endowments, gifts of land and regular sacerdotal fees from the kings. They did not have to go from house to house as tutors to support their families, because the government was directly responsible for solving their mundane problems. While it is true that such sages provided food and clothing to their students, the money for this came from the public and was donated out of reverence.
Simply raising the salaries of teachers, however, does not automatically mean that they will have the opportunity to create ideal men and women, because today in most countries of the world (where teachers generally have the opportunity to live fairly well) teachers nevertheless do not have the right to formulate educational policies. Rather educational policies are generally formulated by professional politicians, most of whom have perhaps no experience in education. If teachers are to be held responsible for building ideal men and women, they must also be given the right to formulate educational policies, instead of being mere teaching machines.
Governments may submit their [social] and political needs to the teachers, but the teachers should be free to accept or reject the governments’ proposals without interference. Of course, if the teachers do support any state policy, on the basis of national security or for the good of society as a whole, they will have to actively implement that policy, because the state will then have every legitimate right to their services.
I mention these things mainly because in our modern world, in those societies where democracy predominates, political factionalism has become a routine affair. In these circumstances it is but natural for every ruling party to try to influence the adolescent mind to further its party interests. But teachers should not try to ingratiate themselves with so-called political benefactors. They should always keep higher ideals before them as they work. Those who are not teachers should not be allowed to interfere in educational matters that come within the jurisdiction of a school.
So far we have discussed who has the right to determine educational policies, but the matter does not end there. In many countries we can observe in regard to school administration also that people are often given important posts as administrators only because of their wealth, while they themselves are, colloquially speaking, complete idiots. Their great wealth is their sole qualification. Such things occur only in countries where the state, for some reason, fails to carry out its educational responsibilities. Such wealthy school administrators often consider the educated teachers to be mere objects of pity. They put pressure on them in order to ensure that their brainless, dull-witted children pass the examinations. They unnecessarily interfere in educational matters. When their children are taken to task, they angrily chastise the teachers. Such a situation is not at all desirable and does not encourage teachers to perform their duties conscientiously. In their poverty teachers, out of fear of starvation, “serve their term” perfunctorily day after day, or, as a result of continuous attacks on their virtue, one fine morning resign in extreme bitterness and set out in quest of some other profession. If teachers have to work under such conditions, how can they possibly have the strength of mind to keep a watchful eye on their students?
The Problems of Students
These are the problems of teachers. The students also have some special problems which many people choose not to consider.
I have already pointed out that it is improper to extort anything from students through undue pressure and intimidation. Intimidation appears to work to some extent, but it does not yield lasting results. Whatever students learn from their parents and teachers out of fear fades into oblivion as soon as the agencies of fear disappear. The reason is that their learning and their fear were inseparably associated, so with the disappearance of fear, the knowledge that they had acquired in the course of their education also disappears from the more developed parts of their minds. As soon as the bullying teacher leaves the classroom the students heave a sigh of relief. Within a few hours, whatever they had committed to memory starts growing hazy. Out of fear of failing their examinations students work hard, poring over books, and accomplish ten days’ work in one hour. But after completing their examinations and playing a game of football or visiting the cinema, they forget much of what they had learned, due to the absence of fear.
People in many countries throughout the world are painfully experiencing the detrimental effects of education through the medium of fear. Most educated people lose the abilities they acquired through education after they graduate from school or university and enter their field of work. If I were to assess the value of the education these people received, I would say that most of their time, ability and labour had been wasted or had been spent meaninglessly.
So as I was saying, it will not do to impart education through intimidation. A thirst for knowledge must be awakened, and, to quench that thirst, proper education must be given. Only then will education be worthwhile and develop the body, mind and ideals of the student.
Children are by nature most inclined towards play, so a thirst for knowledge will have to be awakened in children through the medium of play – children should be educated through play methods. Children are also by nature inclined to listen to fantasies and stories. Through stories children can easily be taught the history and geography of various countries, and they may also be taught the initial lessons of how to practise universalism in their lives. Children love play and stories almost equally, so in their case the two should be equally utilized.
The dream of the future first crystallizes in the mind of the adolescent. So adolescents should be taught, without indulging in narrow-mindedness, through the medium of idealism.
The minds of young adults are, however, somewhat inclined towards realism, so in their case pure idealism will not suffice. In order to educate such young adults, a harmonious blend of idealism and realism is required.
Teachers must bear in mind that their students – whether adolescents, youths, old people or actual children – are, to them, all just children of different ages; and that they themselves are children like their students. If teachers distance themselves from their students or continually try to maintain a forced gravity, they will not be able to establish sweet, cordial relations with their students. The free and frank exchange of ideas is simply not possible unless a feeling of mutual affection is established. The lack of cordial relations causes many children to heartily wish for the death of either their severe teachers or their abusive parents.
The Education System
In many newly-independent countries an attempt is made to recast the education system in a national mould. Without going into the merits of such attempts, it may undoubtedly be said that if these changes do not take into consideration the needs of the students, the education imparted may be nationalistic, but it cannot be humanistic. Like provincialism and communalism, nationalism is highly detrimental to the minds of children. Children’s crystalline judgement power is to a large extent sullied by these sentiments. In newly-independent countries such perverted ideas as “Only my country’s products are good; we need learn nothing from others,” may be heard expressed at any time. Assertions such as “Everything is in the Vedas,” or “The social system that the great prophet So-and-so commanded us to follow cannot be even slightly changed because it is based on the words of God,” or “Such-and-such country learned how to make aeroplanes by studying our country’s Rámáyańa and Mahábhárata” are the results of the national, religious or communal rigidities that have been injected into the minds of the students.
When the propounders of an education system are obsessed by chauvinistic nationalism, they often, in the name of preserving the national character, try to keep the students of that country segregated from the rest of the world. It must always be borne in mind that the bonds that afford opportunities for mutual contact and understanding between people should never be weakened but should always rather be strengthened, for in this lie the seeds of collective welfare. In order to create a feeling of genuine collective welfare, extreme nationalistic zeal may have to suffer a little jolt, but intelligent people will have to absorb that jolt and make a tremendous effort to overcome that prejudicial zeal.
I mentioned the bonds of human unity. Take, for example, the case of pre-Independence Pakistan or India. Although English came from overseas, it alone was responsible for forging a unifying link among the diverse population of India. Not only that, Indians were introduced to and became acquainted with the rest of the world population through the medium of this language. In those days Indian students who had a general knowledge of two languages – their mother tongue and English – would become eligible to enter the temple of knowledge. If today anybody in India tries to remove the English language, their efforts will be nothing but attempts to break that unifying link.
It is not proper, under any circumstances, to burden the young shoulders of students with a heavy load of languages simply to satisfy the political whims of the leaders. Just imagine the fate of Sindhi-speaking students in Pakistan today [now Pakistan and Bangladesh]. How many languages do they have to learn? (1) Sindhi, their mother tongue; (2) English, the world language; (3) Arabic or Persian, the religious language; and (4) Urdu or Bengali, the national language, or both these languages if they want good jobs. In other words, as many as five languages are being imposed on the students. Are these students supposed to acquire knowledge or to stagger about carrying a heavy burden of languages? If, however, the nationalistic sentiment can be to some extent restrained, all the languages can be excluded from the syllabus except two: English and the mother tongue. If students study in or awaken their thirst for knowledge through these two languages, then in time, propelled by their own urge, they may learn not only the other three languages, but ten or twenty more as well. In schools and colleges also, it is desirable to offer as many optional languages as possible. Such a policy is not likely to be criticized by anyone.
In order for people around the world to be able to communicate, a vishva bháśá [universal or world language] is needed, and the teaching and study of that language should be given equal importance in every country. If we consider the following three qualities of a language – that it should be widely spoken, be easily understood and be capable of powerful expression – English alone is qualified to become the world language. No one in the world should consider English to be the language of England alone, but should rather accept it with an open mind as the common language for the communication of ideas. Doing this will in no way harm any mother tongue.
If a false sense of prestige prevents any country from adopting the world language, it will certainly not add to the glory of the human race. It is not at all desirable for the people of one country to remain incomprehensible to those of another country. Of course in the distant future people may select another language to replace English as the world language, in accordance with the needs of their age; English cannot keep its position as the world language forever.
It is surely a great injustice to burden the shoulders of the young with the responsibility of paying off the whimsical nationalistic, communalistic or any similar prejudices of their elders. Adults should of course determine the type of education to be given to students to help them develop into worthy citizens in the future. Adults should not, however, be given a completely free hand in the formulation of educational policies merely to allow them to give expression to their predispositions and caprices. The needs and well-being of the younger generation must be safeguarded.
Students go to school and sit for examinations in order to pass. Examiners should bear this fact in mind. They should not adopt the rigid position that “Only such-and-such percentage of students will be allowed to pass.” Examiners should take into account only the range of knowledge and the extent of the thirst for knowledge the students possess. They should not trouble themselves over students who omit to dot their “i’s” or cross their “t’s”. Nor do they need to addle their brains about how much lime has fallen from their betel leaf!(3)
The Ideals of Teachers
Having discussed teachers and the education system, something can now be said about ideals. The failings of the education system or the grievances of teachers should not be cited as excuses to avoid this subject.
Take, for instance, the psychological atmosphere within which knowledge is imparted to students. It is not [unusual] to see teachers who try to somehow extract the correct answer from their students without having either awakened in them the desire for knowledge or taught them how to acquire the necessary knowledge. There are also many teachers who would like to lecture only and be free of any further responsibilities. These are unpleasant truths, needless to say. Whether such conditions existed in the past or not is for historians to judge, and I certainly hope that they will not exist in the future, but it must be admitted that such a state of affairs does exist at present.
(The unprofessional behaviour of a handful of teachers may be the reason why the whole teaching profession has become an object of ridicule. If so, I would say that those genuine educators – those who have even a little capacity to work or to make others work according to their own will – should deal very seriously with unprofessional behaviour. This is possible only for those who are directly engaged in the teaching profession, and not for school inspectors.)
Society will gain no lasting benefit if teachers force students to swallow knowledge like quinine pills instead of awakening the thirst for knowledge in the minds of young children, or for that matter in the mind of any student.
Speaking of ideals, yet another point comes to my mind, and that is the moral character and conduct of teachers. Many teachers demonstrate a flagrant lack of restraint over their language. There are also teachers who, after discussing the abuses and evils of intoxicants in the classroom, immediately go outside and start smoking. This sets an extremely bad example. If the teachers would just use intoxicants, without saying anything about them, it might not be so bad. But this approach naturally encourages the students to be undisciplined. They will think that the use of such things must be enjoyable, and that their teachers deprive them so that they can enjoy them alone.
In many educational institutions there are two or more factions among the teachers, and each faction tries to draw the students into its own camp. Such teachers try to generate a feeling of disrespect in the minds of the students of their group towards the teachers of the other camps by speaking against them. As a result, ultimately a feeling of indiscipline is aroused in the minds of students. It is futile to complain about this and say, “Nowadays students don’t respect law and order.” Is it the fault of the students if those who are supposed to teach them discipline do not discharge that duty properly?
Many teachers and professors actively take part in politics; they often abuse their personal influence and use simple, idealistic young students as tools to achieve their political ends. How on earth can students learn discipline under such circumstances? Politics, at least politics today, is just an instrument for mutual mudslinging. In the political world such things as honesty, simplicity and a sense of discipline simply do not exist. “Crush your adversaries by fair means or foul” is the creed of politics today.
The principal cause of indiscipline among students is an extreme obsession with politics. Other causes are clearly secondary, and result from the failings of a mercenary social system. The influence of the education system and the behaviour of parents, however, cannot be entirely discounted when it comes to awakening a sense of discipline or not.
I do not think that the interest some students develop in politics can be dampened by those who, for whatever reason, previously encouraged their involvement, no matter how strongly they may later advise them. At present the situation has come to such a pass that mere exhortations will have no effect. To solve this problem the entire education system will have to be reorganized. It is necessary to have a thorough grasp of the psychology of students in order to be able to infuse a sense of discipline into their minds and impart proper education.
The Responsibilities of Parents
The mental outlook of children has already been moulded in a particular fashion by the influence of their family environment before they start school. No matter what or how much they learn at school, it is extremely difficult for them to free themselves from the influence of their family. Drawing on what they have learned in the family, the immature minds of children begin to learn about the world and understand it, and to receive ideas and master language so that they can express those ideas. Unhesitatingly they adopt their elders’ way of looking at the world. Hence the primary responsibility for acquainting children with the world lies with their parents or guardians. Children will become assets of society in the future to the extent that their parents or guardians discharge their duties properly.
I have no hesitation in saying that today’s adults have not yet developed a scientific method of training children’s minds. Even most so-called educated and refined people, let alone average adults, are either ignorant about or indifferent to the education of their children. Their ignorance may be pardoned, but how can we forgive their indifference? The family into which a child has been born will naturally have to bear the primary responsibility for the physical, mental and spiritual development of that child.
It can be said that ordinary people, like teachers, face many types of problem in their lives; in fact teachers’ problems are only a reflection of larger social problems. It is quite true that in the modern material world strenuous efforts to conquer the limitations of time, place and person are apparent everywhere. It is as if human beings are being forcibly dragged forward by the hair of their heads. Speed is the main consideration; whether any good is accomplished or not is a secondary factor. Thus different social trends are unable to maintain a harmonious pace in their forward movement. Some trends are far advanced in their development while others lag behind. This causes some parts of the social structure which were close together to move apart, and other parts which were once apart to come together, leading to the collapse of the entire structure. The thatched hut is still the same, but electrical wiring has been strung through it. The only food available is salt and boiled rice, but the ordinary old clay stove has been replaced by an electric “heater” [hotplate]. Such incongruities are now common in society.
The views established in our psychic world regarding the different trends of life have so unnaturally diverged from one another that the naturalness of the human mind has been spoiled. Human beings have lost the capacity to think anything, but somehow pass their days with a lot of hollow, mechanical mental objects. The caravan of our social life thus rolls on.
So today parents may rightly say, “We have almost no vital energy left after exchanging blows and counter-blows with life. We have no chance to mould the minds of our children with the care and tenderness of our hearts. All the sweetness and finer sensibilities of our minds have been sucked dry by the harsh realities of life. How can we take care of our children? We cannot even provide them with proper food and clothing. How can we know what they are thinking? Do we have the time to understand anything properly at all? We know children should be taught through the medium of play and entertainment, both at home and outside, but is it possible for us to do that? We even have to disturb our talented son at his studies to send him to the grocer’s to buy salt, cooking oil, spices, etc. We know it is wrong, but there is no alternative, for keeping a servant is beyond our means.”
There may be some truth in this, but it is not the point at issue here. In order to develop a healthy outlook, the most important thing children need is robust idealism. To impart this, parents require only two virtues: self-restraint and good judgement. Let us discuss good judgement first.
The method of extracting work by terrorizing the minds of children is not only made use of by a particular type of teacher, it is also often still more harmfully practised by parents. They frighten their children, tell them lies, engage in scurrilous brawls before them, and deceive and torment them; but they still expect that some day their children will become respectable members of society – that their children will bring glory to their family name. When their children are reluctant to drink milk or sleep, they terrify them by invoking imaginary goblins or frightful ghosts. Children initially have no fear, yet a fearful panorama is played out before them. Through this practice the parents may achieve some temporary gain, but even if the children wait a lifetime, they can never be compensated for the harm done to them. Even when these same children attain young adulthood, the thought of ghosts will not leave their minds – ghosts will become their permanent companions.
When the parents are about to go on a trip or go to a show, or when they are invited to a pleasant function or a social outing, the children may start whining or nattering to accompany them. At such times many parents tell lies without a qualm; somehow they dupe their children and leave. When the children realize what has happened, they also learn to tell lies; and to hide their intentions or their actions from their parents, they gradually start lying more and more.
Parents deceive their children in many ways. By calling sweet things bitter and pleasant things unpleasant, they prevent their children from enjoying them. But by disregarding parental injunctions and prying inquisitively, as is the wont of human nature, children discover the truth. Then they realize that their parents have been deceiving them. As a result they start deceiving not only their parents, but their friends and classmates as well. So it is abundantly clear that children are taught the first lessons in the arts of lying and deception by their own parents at home.
In a family it is natural that differences of opinion will arise among the adults; when they do, the adults should reconcile their differences considering each other’s opinions. Unfortunately they often lack the requisite mental make-up to reach an amicable agreement – each tries to convince everybody else of his or her viewpoint without caring about the opinions of others. The result is an outburst of unreasonable obstinacy – the adults lose all self-control and behave in a gross and vulgar manner. The effect on the minds of the children is disastrous. Children thus learn obstinacy from their elders. If the mother or those with whom the children spend most of their time is obstinate, the neglected children will, in most cases, become noticeably obstinate, and they will have to carry this psychic ailment around with them for a long time. If, on the other hand, as is sometimes the case, the wishes and desires (if they are not unreasonable) of children are fulfilled, the children will not have the opportunity to learn obstinacy.
In some families the parents have lost their peace of mind due to poverty or some other cause and oppress their children with or without reason. Naturally the children lose respect for their parents, which further aggravates family indiscipline. The parents have to put up with more unrest, adding to their lack of peace.
Parents who are middle- or high-level officials in the public works or police departments have to get work done through others or supervise manual labourers or subordinates, so they often forget to talk sweetly. Some become accustomed to using abusive language, and some to issuing commands. Due to this their children do not have an opportunity to learn to speak with restraint. Such children suffer from a superiority complex, even within their circle of friends. In their future lives it will be extremely difficult for them to love people and create a congenial social environment.
Some parents may claim that it is impossible to maintain a balanced life in an age full of problems, where they are extremely busy with numerous activities. I maintain, however, that it is possible for an intelligent parent to avoid the mistakes I have discussed. If parents fail to carry out their basic duties, I am compelled to say that, although they live in society, they are guilty of encouraging an antisocial mentality. By encouraging their children to develop a criminal psychology, they give unnecessary trouble to the police. The main point is this: for want of a little care, children are deprived of the opportunity to become complete human beings, even though they have a human structure.
Sáhityikas – the Teachers of Society
There is yet another section of society whom I cannot absolve from the responsibility of educating children. They are the sáhityikas.(4) Actually sáhityikas are a type of teacher – they are the teachers of society.
Humans have a deep longing for things far away. No one is satisfied by things that are within their grasp. Even if the mind is satisfied, the soul remains dissatisfied. That is why the world of dreams is sweeter than the mundane reality. Sáhityikas catch an image of the mundane world in the mirror of fantasy, which is why their literature easily attracts the human mind.
Such dream castles take on most importance in the minds of children. The more children get used to the impact of reality as they grow up, the more the dream subsides. People growing up want to bring the mirror of dreamland down closer to the mundane world, in order to see a reflected picture that is more like their own lives; but this would never occur to the minds of children. Children want to release their golden pegasus so that it will fly towards a coloured rainbow in the sky of their dreams. They want to run away to some unknown destination and play with the moon and the stars. Losing themselves in such fantasies, they surrender to the soothing influence of a lullaby and gradually fall asleep. Those sáhityikas who keep this peculiarity of the child’s psychology in mind as they write can easily win children’s hearts. Their wise words and precepts will then be readily absorbed. That is why I call sáhityikas the teachers of society. If these teachers are conscious of their responsibilities, children may be brought back to the right path despite improper guidance at home.
Cheap detective novels, adventure stories and nationalistic or communalistic stories may attract youngsters, but they gradually deprive them of sound judgement.
The biographies of great personalities can attract youngsters if they are written in simple and attractive language. By great personalities I mean only those who work with the good of all humanity in mind. I am not thinking of a great Indian, a great Englishman or Englishwoman, a great Russian or a great American. In society, however, there are few people who can claim to be worthy human beings. Because of their saḿskáras [mental reactive momenta], their fear or their deliberate pursuit of self-interest, people often want to divide human society. Such people try to impose their defective outlook on the minds of children through the literature about them, so that in the future these children will become their ardent supporters. Literary biographers must keep their pens scrupulously free from the influence of these non-humans (that is, those who should not be called humans but rather something else).
Nowadays some countries are propagating particular communal or economic theories which support intolerance; thus through perverted literature the minds of children are becoming contaminated. In the future these children may become the members of a community, or of a party which propagates a particular ism, but to what extent will they identify as human beings?
There is much scope for telling well-written, educational stories on the radio. Radio broadcasters can very easily delight the ears and minds of children with attractive and educational stories written by sáhityikas who have a knowledge of child psychology. If parents cannot afford radios at home, educational programmes can be broadcast at some scheduled time in schools, parks or even playgrounds.
However, the problems referred to above may remain unsolved if broadcasting networks are under the control of a particular party, because then the networks will be more interested in creating supporters to further the interests of their party than in building people’s character. Of course there is a way to avoid such an eventuality, and that is to entrust the management of broadcasting networks to boards of non-political, cultured educators.
Some time ago many educated sections of society around the world complained that the commemoration ceremonies held in their respective countries for their departed leaders and great persons were not being observed in a befitting manner. That is to say, these countries, by neglecting their revered personalities, were gradually losing their ideals. Such complaints may not be wholly unfounded.
Observing the manner in which these ceremonies and anniversaries are celebrated, however, I do not think that they have any value. Unscrupulous Mr. Cutthroat Crook or Mr. Villainous Leech, who has no ideology at all, is invited, in the hope of his making a fat donation, to act as the president or chairman. The speakers, one after another, deliver high-sounding speeches in polished and literary language, often concluding with, “The time has come to reflect anew over the legacy that So-and-so has left us. Just delivering and hearing speeches will not do; his legacy must be translated into action. Then and then alone will this commemoration ceremony be worthwhile.” At the end of the speech, looking proudly left and right, they ask, “Well, how was my lecture?” Evidently the speaker never meant to translate So-and-so’s ideals into action, but spoke to solicit the approbation of the audience.
I have not said, nor will I say, that these commemoration ceremonies are totally useless. If it is the genuine wish of the sponsors of anniversaries or commemoration ceremonies to give a practical shape to the ideals of a deceased person, the ideals should be given greater prominence in such functions and should be clearly presented to the public, especially to children, instead of reducing them to platitudes mouthed by dishonest speakers.
Pictures and Dramas
This can best be done through the use of pictures and dramas. The Rámáyańa is more appealing and educational when presented in pictures than when depicted in books, because those who cannot read can thereby understand the inner language of the artist.
After pictures come dramas. In a well-written and well-acted drama the audience feels the living reality of each character. A favourite leader, a revered and distinguished personality, is presented speaking to people, particularly to the children, in a congenial manner. Then the audience open the closed doors of their minds and enter into a free mental communion. So in my opinion no matter what the age of the student, a well-written and well-acted drama can do a tremendous amount of good, and can be a great asset to the spread of real education.
Today the cinema seems to be very popular with people of all ages. As a result film technology will gradually rise to ever-greater heights of technical excellence. The opportunity provided by the cinema to establish good relations with people can be very well utilized for educational purposes.
Seduced by the bestial instincts hidden in the secret recesses of their minds, people surrender to base propensities. But improvements in education and the social environment can help to bring this beast under control and make it obey their commands. To achieve this the first thing people have to do is to wage war against their animal propensities, which is no easy task. So cunning exploiters, by encouraging animality, are able to bring people under their sway.
The cinema industry suffers from this malady. This industry is controlled by a handful of business persons who make films according to popular taste and demand. While ordinary people naturally run after those films which in their ideas, language or visual images cater to their base propensities, such ideas, language or images instantly distort the ideals of the idealist beyond recognition. It is quite in character for purely commercial film producers to exploit these human weaknesses to their own advantage, and this is exactly what is happening. Generally youngsters outnumber older people at movies marked “A” (“For Adults Only”). Sometimes the words “For Adults Only” are so alluringly displayed that young people feel even more attracted.
For the sake of social education, such a situation cannot be permitted to continue for a long time. If we have even the slightest intention of using cinema for the benefit of society, it has to be placed in the hands of non-governmental cultural bodies and not in the hands of business persons or the government. Because in countries where the cinema is under government control, the possibility exists of using the film industry more for party propaganda than for the spread of education.
A great drawback to the cinema when it is used solely for propaganda is that the beauty of both drama and literature is not given the scope to fully develop – the cinema is reduced to the level of a megaphone, spouting forth party propaganda.
Giving experienced and competent directors the opportunity and the complete freedom to make benevolent cinema does not yield bad results. Rather it can spread joy and education simultaneously. This fact was fully substantiated by a film produced by the West Bengal government some time ago.(5)
Finally I would like to say that those teachers, dramatists, actors, writers and radio artists whose help is essential to sow the seeds of true development in the minds of children and to ensure that these seeds grow into small seedlings, flourish, and bring forth foliage, flowers and fruits, must be freed from worldly worries so that all their energies and capabilities can be completely and properly utilized. Nothing will be achieved if we repeatedly talk to them about the magnitude of their responsibilities without trying to solve their problems.
(1) Throughout this chapter, “parents” should be understood as “parents or guardians”. –Trans.
(2) Elsewhere the author defines samája gurus as follows:
“Samája gurus are those who lead the entire society by virtue of their extraordinary intelligence, deep wisdom, towering personality and leadership ability. Hence it can be easily imagined that this world has been blessed with few such [samája gurus].” (“Vraja Krśńa and Sáḿkhya Philosophy” in Namámi Krśńasundaram, 1997)
“In the history of our human society sometimes it so happens that a major portion of the people, [who used to get inspiration from their enviroment, cannot, due to the influence of antisocial elements,] get that inspiration. When such a situation is created, it is the duty of the nobler and better portion of the human race to guide others so that they may not feel any difficulty due to unfavourable environmental pressure. These people are the samája gurus.” (“The Phases of Human Approach” in Ánanda Vacanámrtam Part 30, 1996)
(3) In South Asia chewing betel-nut and betel leaves mixed with lime is a popular practice. The metaphor is a common one in India, and refers to a negligible shortcoming which does not indicate a real defect. –Trans.
(4) There is no equivalent word for sáhityikas in English. Sáhityikas are those who write with the thought of the welfare of all humanity uppermost in their minds. –Trans.
(5) Pather Panchali by Satyajit Ray was partly financed by the West Bengal government. When it was released in 1955, it received great acclaim both from the critics and the public. –Trans.
Shrii P R Sarkar
Discourses on Neohumanist Education
Posted by Free Thinker at 2:18 AM
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