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Shaping the mind and the heart

The nature and function of education is not confined to knowledge acquisition.

By Muttahir Ahmed Khan |
PUBLISHED January 02, 2022

I would love to begin with Frederick William Robertson’s soul-touching words, “It is not the number of books you read, nor the variety of sermons you hear, nor the amount of religious conversation in which you mix, but it is the frequency and earnestness with which you meditate on these things till the truth in them becomes your own and part of your being, that ensures your growth”. The nature and function of edification is not confined only to knowledge acquisition, knowledge management and knowledge application under the impact of mind and brain; it is, or must be, rather an unceasing course of spiritual transformation and refinement of human beings.

During the twilight phase of the twentieth century and the dawning span of the new millennium, the world has undergone an unprecedented process of revolutionary changes and transformation concerning all walks of life, in general, and in the realm of technology and education, in particular. Notwithstanding, the whole global society, and especially the third world, has been suffering an ever-increasing number of the youngsters and adolescents entangled with various kinds of socio-psychological, emotional and behavioral issues such as depression, aggression, insurrection and, above all, frustration. A manifest decline in adherence to moral values, social norms, human principles and ethical intercourse amongst the blossoming generations speaks volumes for the reasons behind the mounting crime rate in the society. The most suicidal cases are being reported in the regions with maximum socio-economic advancement, the highest literacy rate, the most educated and skilled manpower and, above all, the highly advanced tiers of technology and industrialisation. 

Last century, the most modern and progressive one, is blemished with the unnatural and unleashed developments of globalisation, mechanisation, and industrialisation: the lethal global wars over taking unjust possession of economic resources and dragging the humanity in the quagmire of materialism, self-centeredness and cutthroat-competition for assuring one’s survival added filth to that: the final nail in the coffin of humanism was the sanguinary battles between the two mutually diverging evils----the Capitalism and the Socialism. The sequential decades were bound to be the phase of melancholy, nihilism, agnosticism and distress and pushed the contemporary generations to the question of individual survival at the cost of socio-humanistic degradation. The fear of reoccurrence of adversity and calamities consumed the soul from within and slaughtered the faith in redemption, conviction in peace and humility, and interest in mystic and meditative learning.

So, the thirst for truth, knowledge and wisdom was washed away by the bloody lust for impassive but corporeal survival and spiritualism was devoured by the existentialism. Consequently, with the reactionary and overenthusiastic campaign of reconstruction and redevelopment, the scientific, technological, management, business and commercial education possessed the driving seat and the classical and medieval teachings were thrown into oblivion. The sheer decline in the trend of opting for arts, literature, humanities and social sciences for higher education is more than obvious to perceive the gravity of the situation. The classical prestige of pure and intrinsic fine arts has been eclipsed by the glow of graphic arts meant for commercial ventures and glamour.

Justly speaking, under the heavy charge of excessive lust for modernisation, cupidity and mechanisation, we have sacrificed the essential spirit of and basic purpose behind the education at the altar of academic and formal teaching that is mainly based on the concept of pragmatism and the notion of acquiring professional knowledge and vocational acumen that can lead to commercial feat and triumph. Human beings, the crown of the creatures and the conquerors of the universe, have never been meant to live a mundane life on a single dimension -----the physical one----like other living creatures. There is a “general consensus that humans are spiritual beings who seek to make meaning out of life and their experiences”. Anciently speaking, the concept of teaching and learning was rather tending towards the overall transformation of the learners in a positive and refining way by enabling them to seek and grasp logic, truth and spiritual refinement, at initial stage. Professional and vocational skill development was the part of secondary phase of training and it was more of an on-job-experience activity instead of an academic matter. With the passage of time, the things, apparently, went on getting revolutionised, but, actually, worsening and deteriorating, and the international society has, now, landed, at a planet of socio-cultural chaos. It reminds me of Henry Kravis’ highly valuable words that read, “If you don't have integrity, you have nothing. You can't buy it. You can have all the money in the world, but if you are not a moral and ethical person, you really have nothing.”

Unfortunately, in the contemporary paradigm of corporate culture and the global order of multinational business and economy, the construal of education and societal growth has been sinfully yoked with the art and skill of achieving maximum financial and monetary accomplishments. The terms like “Career Development”, “Practical Wisdom”, “Motivational Training”, “Learning the Art of Success”, “Mastering Business Management”, “Acquiring Marketing Strategies” and many others are being exploited to promote Machiavellianism that teaches the sheer abuse of humanity and ethics in order to make one’s way to gain wealth, glory, status, rank and power, and terms this approach pragmatism and wisdom. Here, I must make one thing clearer that I have never been against professional and vocational education and have firm faith in the concept that the modern societies’ growing economic issues can be overcome only by getting the maximum populace skilled and trained to earn livelihood with dignity and honesty and, then, contribute to the socio-national economic pool and progress.

Philosophical interpretations of education and rational debates on the nature and process of a young child’s learning date back to the 500-1000 B.C. with ancient Greece as their centre. The most prominent and historically authenticated versions of such theories are the ones that were offered by the subsequent scholars, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and their academic views of education, with all mutual accords and discords, were embedded in their broader metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, and political theories. In the comparatively medieval and modern ages, we can resort to the big names like Imam Ghazali, Rousseau, John Dewey and others for further guidance. It is remarkably lamenting as well as shaking to perceive that the contemporary problems and their resolves, to a great extent, have already been deliberated meticulously and expansively by these seasoned researchers and scholars, long ago. However, the modern world, despite has been tirelessly busy in exploring new and novel vistas to facilitate the students’ learning and training as per the socio-ethical and compassion-centric world order, could not implement such perpetually beneficial philosophies, in this regard.

Keeping in view our unique religious ideology, socio-moral doctrines and code of ethics, we can safely resort to Imam Ghazali’s model that first helps a pupil know the reasoning behind the creation and the relationship between the creation and the creator, then enables him to differentiate between evil and virtue, and, ultimately, teaches him to be a professionally and personally effective unit of the society, without crossing his limits in regard to socio-moral values and religious commandments. The capability of being successful, sagacious and prosperous in the worldly existence is an eventual by-product of the religious training and spiritual growth and this very individualistic blessing will surely reflect in the overall society. Ghazali lays stress on “inner science with outer science” and advises teachers to express and share their intuitive and spiritual experiences and insights with their pupils without any hesitation and delay because that is in integral part of their tutoring responsibility. Here, I must quote the western theorist Andrew Linzey who opines, “Moral education, as I understand it, is not about inculcating obedience to law or cultivating self-virtue, it is rather about finding within us an ever-increasing sense of the worth of creation. It is about how we can develop and deepen our intuitive sense of beauty and creativity”.

Like Imam Ghazali, so many gigantic scholars and intellectuals, from diverse religious backgrounds, in the western countries and other parts of the world, have laid ultimate stress on the religious and spiritual aspects of education, quoting references from the holy books. Amongst the most recent researchers, Dirkx opines that “Brain-based’ theories and the concept of ‘emotional intelligence’ suggest that emotion and feelings are deeply interrelated with perceiving and processing information from our external environments, storing and retrieving information in memory, reasoning, and the embodiment of learning.” Only a psychologically and emotionally balanced person, with the quest of enlightenment and growth, a vision for future and a mission for the world around him, can prove to be an apt learner and, especially, a good contributor to the society in return. 

Winding the proposition up, to be more precise, we can take the example of aptitude tests that are conducted before finalising the students for admitting into diversified academic disciplines or choosing the right candidates for certain vocational and professional responsibilities. Then, we arrange their professional training workshops to finish them according to the specific requirement or model because we believe that every field of work and every rank or position is not suitable for everyone. At a broader spectrum, it is the absolute and essential prerequisite to prepare a child to be an honest, conscientious and trustworthy citizen of the society before imparting him technical training and advanced education for specific objectives and commitments because without reaching a certain pedestal, platform or foundation, he will definitely fall down if gets exposed to the the further steps. The world has witnessed that genius, shrewd, highbrow and crafted fellows, devoid of moral education and ethical refinement, play havoc with the humanity and the civilisations when go evil genius. The blunders and depravities are always committed by the expertise sitting in the lofty chambers of authority and dominance: laymen have access to human errors and small-scale deviations only.

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all – Aristotle

(The writer is an educationist, author and analyst, can be reached at [email protected])