For Teachers and Students to Think about on Happy Teachers Day. By Dr. Stephen Gill
|The world of today is crowded with colleges, universities and academies for higher education. There has never been a period in history when so many people attended universities.
It is also true that there has never been such a period in history when a large number of population had so much unrest and nations possessed so many weapons of destruction. A country, which cannot boast of having good universities, is considered backward. These seats of learning primarily satisfy the need of their geographical regions.
They owe allegiance to certain regional truths and values. This leads to the formation of the regional intellectual blocks, roughly like the political blocks.
In several cases, there is severe competition among the institutions of higher learning to prepare students for making money. These universities are based on the thinking that is limited to the local values and needs. They prepare students to make money in a suffocating atmosphere of cut throat competition. Their education is based on specialization. It is largely because citizens still depend much on their national leaders.The present system of education promotes industry to give material comforts. It is based on the instinct of aggression. It trains students to compete against other students for examination results and to be able to make more money. In other words, the education of today is to divide.
The education of today divides students further into age groups and secondary, university, technical, commercial education and so on. There is further division and competition within each group for distinction, pitting students against students that further accelerate disunity. This division is something along the lines of rich and poor, upper and lower classes. This type of education does not promote unity, because it is disruptive. It lacks the entire province of moral values. Universities have built walls of separation because they cater to their local needs. Their education has shut humans from their fellow beings. They do not teach how to adjust, respect human rights and live in society.
Curiosity, which is a natural hunger, is often impaired by the universities because the teachers are usually eager to impart what they know with authority.
The government control of education is evident in the west and also in the east. In several cases, control is financial as well as administrative, organizational and curricular. Appointments and dismal of professors and their salaries are regulated by the state, including admission of students and the subjects they are taught. The old system of teaching has been replaced with a system of regular classes, prescribed curricula and regulations by the governments for graduation.
The universities of today do not serve the needs of the modern age because they are still storehouses to gather information and facts. Still students adhere to the old practice of taking notes, memorizing without using imagination to apply their knowledge in life. Still they do not see the deeper implications and meanings of their studies. Almost the same situation, maybe even worse, prevails in developing nations where students depend largely on memories and accept uncritically what is passed on to them by their teachers and the books they read. The universities of today are established for intellectual exploration and for exchange of knowledge. This work can now be done by machines and technology. Now is the time to talk also about wisdom, instead of primarily about knowledge.
What we need in these seats of learning is also the teaching of human rights, peace, understanding, harmony and about the science to live and let live. What we need is something that encompasses the study of the understanding of the world community and the inter dependence of its people and systems. The old system of education based on competition should be replaced with courses on cooperation, a sane use of natural resources and social justice. We need academies which are not simply buildings, but associations of people, working within and without for the welfare of the citizens. In such institutions, students should be prepared to use their skills for the betterment of life. The focal point of these universities should be to pave a way for the emergence of a new civilization that is based on harmony and cooperation among individuals, ethnic groups, religions, and nations. This cooperation and harmony that is essential to tackle many world problems, including the problems of war, human rights and ecology are global in nature. Nations need the universities where education is imparted for the awareness of oneself and for interdependence. The prime function, as it was in the beginning, should be to teach humans to think constantly and re-examine the facts to achieve wisdom.
The world is changing fast. People are encountering a new civilization. But the habits, and the thinking of people are buried under old systems. It is a serious hindrance to the awareness of inter dependence. The present need is for those institutions which will have teachers as well as students from all over the world to be in a proper atmosphere to learn and teach about other cultures and coexistence... Their campuses will be for humankind, and their students will be communists as well as non communists, rich and poor, from all creeds, colours and nationalities. It is not possible to have national schools or universities for international understanding. For international understanding, we need international schools, where the courses are directed to cover humanity; where the teachers come from different nations; where focus is on human rights and culture; where knowledge is given about the value of cooperation, tolerance and respect for other tastes and beliefs; and where teachers and students from different cultural backgrounds break the neck of ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism leads to narrow nationalism, imperialism and wars because it teaches that the culture of other groups is inferior and strange. This was the type of society that was foreseen by the Nazi youth that led to the Second World War. This may happen again if educators will not promote tolerance and cooperation and the value in the ideology of live and let live.
Francis Bacon, a contemporary of William Shakespeare, said that knowledge is power. The universities of today give this power without values and ideals for guidance. That is why knowledge is becoming diabolical. Its application in the field of physical science is obvious. The same is true even in the field of arts and literature. It is not ethical to give power over words, language and rhetoric to an individual to inflame prejudice in citizens to incite them to kill and be killed in the name of false god of violence and fanaticism. Instead of solving problems, the universities of today have become problem themselves.
Education involves the whole person. The pursuit of truth can never be complete without the moral and spiritual pursuits which modern universities lack. A student can be expelled from a university on moral grounds. The same students may ask on what moral and spiritual grounds the same university stands. The students are expected to be moral beings, but no principles are given to them to follow. There is danger when students are trained as intellectual beings without morality. As Newman says, a university is not a birthplace of poets or of immortal authors, of founders of schools, leaders of colonies or conquerors of nations. Nor should its purpose be limited to the training of professional men, though this too falls within its scope. A university education, he urged, gives a man a clear conscious view of his own opinions and judgements.
Internationalism has been promoted also through international conferences of scholars, meetings of scientists, the exchange of students and faculty members, the efforts of UNESCO, the development of trade and transportation, the introduction of peace as a subject in educational institutions and the formation of numerous associations and groups in different nations for this purpose.
We still live in a world in which internationalism is brought to us once in a while when there are international gatherings. The situation should be the other way around. To do so, the global village needs the help of educators at every level. Education, both formal and informal, plays a large part in designing events. The world has witnessed inhumanity
meted out to humans in different parts of the world before the First World War, between the wars, during the Second World War, after that and even today. The claws of barbarity are still around us. They have become rather sharper, cold and dangerous. Death and disease are common now. Often we are appalled by the reports of countless people being wasted in violence for no purpose. In order to avert such senseless avertable horrors, humans will have to prepare themselves and their children and children's children so that all could breathe peace and could move around on this planet for self fulfilment. To achieve it, the world will have to work collectively.
The world is going through a social revolution. Geographically, technologically and more or less economically the world is a single unit. It happened so fast with science that humans have not been able to adjust their traditions, institutions and attitudes. Our loyalties are still tribal even after the evolution of years. Ethnocentrism and narrow national pride are still destructively strong. All nations have not been able to get out of the ring of this weakness. In this respect all countries are developing nations. All men and women are human by birth and therefore they belong to the nation of humans first.
In order to build this nation of humans, the world needs the help of education. To prepare the world for a safe and enjoyable future, we need the hands of teachers and cooperation from everywhere, including from intellectuals. To preserve our future, we need the universities, which are based on the rock of internationalism.
A global security is becoming more important than the individual security of a nation. Greed, aggression and destruction are the symptoms of putting the parts before the whole, which is greater than the parts. The world has to think in terms of the whole, not the parts. Education for global citizenship is essential for that thinking. Education for planetary survival is increasing, yet not enough to protect the whole. The universities must be internationalised to shape the holistic character of peace.
About Stephen Gill:
Stephen Gill, a multiple award winning Indo/Canadian self-exiled poet, fiction-writer and essayist, has authored more than thirty books. He is the subject of doctoral dissertations, and research papers. Thirteen books of critical studies have been released by book publishers on his works and more are on the way. His poetry and prose have appeared in nearly one thousand publications. The focus of his writing is love and peace.
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