Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What is education? continued..

I ended my last post saying that the ultimate objective of life is to experience maximum happiness and thus, our definition of education, one of the most important aspects of life, must come out of happiness.

Therefore, for defining education, I first need to know what happiness is. What makes a person happy and what doesn’t? 


An excerpt from the United States declaration of Independence:
“...all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...” 

While the declaration talks about right to liberty; for happiness, it only says the right to pursuit of happiness, not right to happiness. Why is it so? Because I think, while you can be given liberty by others but you can’t be made happy by others. Happiness is a deeply intrinsic feeling, which, though generally influenced by outer factors, can be completely independent of these. While some people can make you laugh, happiness comes from undefined horizons.

While we spend our lives running for money and fame, many people experience true happiness only when they share their abundance with others, not when they compete; when they give up something so that the other may achieve something; when they continue to love someone even though the other shows hostility towards them; when they sacrifice their material achievements for building relationships; when they hold onto their values in extremely testing times; when they bow before The Almighty for all He has given them, not for asking more.

 If we keep our fears aside for a moment and reflect, aren’t these the things which will make us happy, truly proud of ourselves? Aren’t we defined by what we feel, rather than what we think? Don’t our values define ourselves, than all the intellectual stuff and the material accumulations?

Basically, we are happy when what we are doing is in resonance with our true self, our core values. Core values of all of humanity are same: love, compassion, trust, honesty, courage etc.  We feel inner joy and happiness when we think or act in a way, which allows us to experience these values.

Given that most of the humanity, if not all, has more or less forgotten these values (or rather find these values too dangerous to follow in this dog-eat-dog world), happiness levels have gone down. People become angry even at the slightest of provocations; grow jealous at the success of even their closest friends/relatives; continuously denounce/berate other people on such flimsy and trivial accounts like how one eats, how one dresses, accent, color of skin etc (believe me, a person with third class eating habits, no dressing sense, worst possible accent and darkest color of skin, can be one of the most wonderful person from heart).


Since we achieve happiness when we experience our true selves, our true values, the objective of education should be to take us closer to these values or in other words, closer to our essence, our real self. A dog-eat-dog model of the world should be replaced by a more loving and compassionate model. While the person should be made aware of the existing situation, he/she should also be made aware of a possibility of a better world and his or her role in achieving that possibility.

While one should be taught the existing subjects, one must also be taught about great people who exhibited positivity in the worst of circumstances. One must be given a perspective that all material accumulations and intellectual ideas will amount to naught, if he is not happy; if he doesn’t wake up in the morning thinking what a wonderful world he is living in, how wonderful people are, how wonderful nature is and how wonderful he is, who has the privilege to live in this world. If one is not able to achieve (or get closer) to this state of mind, what is the sense of all the accumulations. They’ll just be additional burden to carry.

Thus with these ideas, let me conclude here with a rough definition of education, as under:
“Education is a process, which gives us an opportunity to realize ourselves, our true potential so that each day we live in a better world than yesterday, where people are happy about themselves and everything around them. Various tools may be used to propagate such objectives of education, which may include subject knowledge, physical exercises, self-reflection etc.”

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What is education?

When I posted this question on my facebook wall, one of my dear friends replied "At present it taught us to earn livelyhood in this world..... It make us intellectual.... bring to us... the knowledge of world....[sic]".

Is this definition enough for our education system, in which our children (future of the parents, nations and the world), spend the most formative years of their lives. Does making them livelihood earners, intellectuals and knowledgeable, enough? OR are there important things to learn, which we would not like our children to miss during the first 20 years of their lives, which may actually determine the course for the rest of their lives?

Let’s first understand what we are doing here. Our purpose is to define ‘education’ here. This is the actual purpose. Some of us may say, why we should bother about that. After all, it’s a word, a symbol, which could mean different things to different people. How would defining it, do any help? 

I think it’s important to define words or alternatively, to clearly put forward the ideas they represent, when such definitions could alter our perceptions about something important to our lives. For example: the way we define the words ‘government’, ‘regulators’ or even ‘friends’, has a profound impact on the objective of their existence. This is because their definitions determine their relations to our lives and hence, purpose of their existence. (I have included ‘friends’ here, which is lot more personal than a government or a regulator. But you can think of possibility of any correlation between today’s definition of ‘a friend’ and increasing loneliness in people’s lives in general).

So, it is important to define ‘education’, since its definition would outline its purpose. Given the importance of education to our children and future, we better, have a purpose of education, than otherwise.

But, if you see, my friend has already defined the purpose. His idea of education also defines the purpose, which is to enable people to earn livelihoods, make them intellectuals and provide them the knowledge of the world. Definitely, one needs to earn livelihood to survive in this world. But how does becoming intellectual or possessing knowledge of the world, help? Don’t these both objectives only help in achieving the first objective of earning livelihood, and nothing else? And even about livelihood, don’t uneducated people earn livelihood? And if education is eliminated, won’t we be able to earn livelihood? Definitely yes. Since, everyone will be uneducated; there’ll be equal opportunity for all to earn their living.

Here, one could argue that the objective of education is to increase the standard of living of people. This, education has well served, over centuries. Standards of livings have, indeed, increased over the years. Air conditioners, cars, air planes, TVs, even electricity, would have been unheard if we go back in time. I agree with this. Overall society has benefitted with this purpose of education. But what about individuals? Are they better off, than before? Better, I mean, happier.  Are today’s people, happier than people, a generation, two generations ago? 

If yes, then indeed, we are on the right path. We have defined and understood the purport of education correctly.

But, if not, then, we do need to change the definition. This, I say, assuming that we hope life could be better and are willing to work towards that. Well, here, one may say that I am just mixing the cause and the effect. Accepted that people today are unhappier than their older generation but how does it tells us that the cause of this, is our definition of education or our current education system.

Yes, I can’t prove the cause and effect of above relationship, since I have not done any research on the same. Besides, in the first place, I think it would be near impossible to measure and then compare the happiness level of people of different generations. 

But since we accept that our happiness levels have fallen, it is natural to first point fingers on a process, which significantly impact the personality and attitudes of the people. Ultimately, a man is, more or less, a product of his experiences, especially if these experiences pertain to his adolescent life. So, I am not entirely wrong in pointing fingers at our definition of education.

So, now it’s time to ask, how should we define education? If the current definitions have not helped us, what definition would help us?

The answer to this, must come out of our definition of happiness. Since happiness is the ultimate objective, our education must support all those things, which make us happy and discourage all those, which do not.

To be continued....