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Education and Human Life – by Asif Zaidi

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All of us are here to serve a cause which is greater than us. Our own existence becomes significant only when we become aware of our reliance on others from the early development of our personality brought about by the efforts of our parents and our teachers.

The nature, the evolution, the scientists, the sages, the prophets, the philosophers, the thinkers, and the poets have, down the ages, contributed to our development, making our lives meaningful for us. Many of us take all these helpful influences that shape our lives for granted without ever thinking that if all that I am is the result of the contribution of those who have preceded me and the sacrifice and influence of those who are the pick of my familial, social, and intellectual environment then what am I doing in order to pay back this debt of reverence or to manifest my gratefulness by somehow contributing my share to the universal cause of human development? Many of us never ponder over this vital question as we continue to take things for granted and live mechanically. In my view the main purpose of education must be to make us conscious of our social responsibilities and of the extent of our dependence on others so that we are mindful of making our own contribution towards improving and elevating the human life.

 

 

When we become conscious of our obligations, we can soon see who we are indebted to and why. Thereafter, we cannot shun our responsibility in the face of the claims this universe has the right to make on us. Our dependence on mother-earth is quite evident. We depend for our survival on the very air which we breathe, the water we drink, and the nourishment we seek. We would not survive if mother-earth was not so kind to us. Once we are really conscious of dependence on earth we can never allow ourselves to walk disrespectfully and conceitedly on its bosom and deform its lovely face by hurting and killing our fellow humans. Once we define our attitude to life in the light of this complete dependence of man on earth, shall we not walk humbly on earth and help her in becoming more productive? I agree with Carlyle who would often say that he who converts this barren and brown earth into green performs the highest act of worship.

Same approach should apply to other means of dependence external to us. As kids, we depend on our parents for our upbringing and can never be grateful enough for the sacrifices they have made to secure our development. Then as students, we depend on our teachers who familiarize us with the products of human evolution. Then we depend on our country, our society, our farmers, our labourers and many others. To further evolve as human beings, we depend on the moral and cerebral fineness of some individuals whose lives provide us with the examples to grow in the mould we desire.

It requires humility to acknowledge one’s dependence.  Only when we are conscious of our dependence as described above do we have a chance to control our lower passions and impulses. Education to young must be able to secure the growth of their humanity as an irreducible minimum. The ultimate aim of education is to reclaim the individual and save him from being dominated by the play of lower passions by giving him inner resources with which to appreciate and enjoy this great gift of life and to fulfil duties honourably expected of him. Education is as large as life itself and represents the most efficient means for raising of man’s life from the biological plane of all animal life to a level where it grows to be the creative and moral expression of man’s urge to move forward.

All real progress is progress in giving to one’s fellowmen and progress in showing reverence to this mystifying universe of ours. Without this sense of reverence, in one guise or other, we cannot play effectively our part in the scheme of things. The human infant, who is the most helpless of all the young ones of the animal species, ultimately reaches a high-water mark of development because of his ability to use the gift of rational thought to incorporate the elements of human experience into a foundation for further development. While the young one of an animal is born with acquired instincts in the service of his biological needs, the human child must be familiarized with the past experience of the human race. Thus what is achieved by heredity in the life’s cycle of an animal has to be accomplished by education in the case of human.

While learning forms a constant value as the process, there is no set formula for the development of the human personality. Education is the sovereign activity which transforms the being of a child to make him grow into a worthwhile mould. In the early life it is wrought by the parents’ influence on their child. In adolescence it is brought about by the magnetic impact of the teacher and peers on one’s life, much like the sunshine working on plants to produce leaves, fruits, and flowers. Thomas Traherne makes the same point when he says: “All spirit is after all mutually attractive even as all matter is – being the ultimate fact beyond which we cannot go. Just as, in water, to face answereth the face, so also, the heart of man to man.” Hence, educational process is not based so much upon the law of mechanical causation as upon the law of personal sympathy. With due respect to the efficacy of online and impersonal learning, there is no substitute for a great teacher -just as there is no substitute for a great parent or a great doctor- for the cultivation and growth of human mind and knowledge.

We all know that the foundations for such development can only be laid in the formative years of a human life when our being is eagerly receptive to the invigorating influence of good and great things of life. Otherwise soon, in some societies sooner than others, learning crystallization with hardening of arteries sets in as our real life is kept out by the menial servants –lower passions fuelled by biological instincts- in our system, who begin to command us. Hence, early on, a child has to be taught to transcend the claims which mere biological instincts place upon his being. He has to be made conscious of his link with his fellow beings and with the universe. Once the basic education has fulfilled its role then the more specialized education takes over to engender in us the professional skills to earn our livelihood by handling various departments of human activity. This is how education fully equips us to wage the battle of life through participating effectively in the total venture of organizing the life of community and contributing our bit to the political, cultural, and economic activity which is going on around us. When all is said and done what is the purpose of education if it does not lay paramount emphasis on the humanisation of man? The humanity of a person has to be emphasized as the crowning glory of his life and the society must be geared to enriching it so that one is able to live in tune with the spirit of one’s age.

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