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Education is the progressive discovery of our knowledge

Palak , Last updated: 15 April 2014  


‘To know is to know that you know nothing. That is the true meaning of knowledge’ – Socrates

Education has different meaning for different people. For some it is just a path to their desired career. For Gandhiji it meant imparting vocational skills. For others it is moral, spiritual and intellectual development. The true and simple meaning of education can however be defined as learning new things, hitherto unknown to us.

This has been recognized even our ancient scriptures. For according to Vedas, a person had to go through four Ashrams in his life. In these, the ‘Brahmacharya’, the first stage, deals with the student life, where the person is supposed to discover himself and all about his ‘Dhamma’(duty).

The fact has been recognized in management theories also. Chris Argyris’s Immaturity-maturity continuum talks about the seven ways in which a person moves away from ignorance, towards a path of self-discovery and maturity. Even the father of psychology, Sigmund Freud has talked about the seven stages of life. It describes how personality(and tacitly knowledge) develops through childhood, starting from the oral stage and ending at the genital stage. For instance, in the Anal stage, a child begins to learn through the socialization process.

Education stems from ignorance only. For what was once ignorance, transforms into education. We believed the world was flat, till Copernicus came along, and it took the human race some time to accept his theories. Enlightenment in Europe led to discarding of the old Church theories and led to the ideals of liberty, equality, fraternity. Education in this manner, is a continuous process of unlearning old things and learning new things.

‘Ignorance is bliss’, only until we discover new knowledge. And it is this pro-tem nature of ignorance, that the state does not allow ignorance as an excuse. Facts do not cease to exist, because they have been ignored, they are just yet to be discovered. And education is our best defence against ignorance.

The issue of gay rights and reinforcement of legality of Section 377 by the Supreme Court has been much in debate. The homosexuals find themselves in this position, because of the society’s refusal to accept this norm as a part of the culture. They refuse to shred their ignorance about the existence of such preferences, and unless it is discovered that there is more than this ignorance, the gay community will not get its rights.

Similarly, it took the western values and active participation of women in the freedom struggle, for the society to gain knowledge about the importance of women. And it is since then that the efforts for emancipation of women have been made.

Man today, has been able to develop from the primitive man of stone age, due to the immense number of discoveries, he made on the way. Discovery of wood led to the development of wheel. Agriculture led to the settlement in cities. Spectrum has led to the development of mobile technologies. Every day mankind garners some new knowledge and everyday there is some new invention. Those who don’t update their knowledge, ultimately perish or disappear into the shadows. This however, highlights the saliency of ignorance also. Without ignorance, there could have been no discoveries. There is always something to learn. That is why it is said that the best teacher is one who not only teaches, but also learns.

For quite some time, we were ignorant of our past and of our future. But education has changed that. We know now that the planet we live in, was formed due to a ‘big bang’ in the universe. We Indians know the sufferings of our ancestors in the colonial era. We have made some people eternal, by appreciating their contributions. We know that Thomas Edison discovered the bulb, Newton gravity, Henry Fayol management principles, Marx communism, Christopher Columbus America, and the list can go on.

The distant future, also no longer remains unforeseen. The best example of this would be our concern towards sustainable development. Reports by international organizations like IPCC(international panel on climate change) have predicted that global temperatures have risen by as much as 3 degrees in the past decades and a further rise of 2 degrees can prove disastrous for the planet. Hence we have now started coming out from our ignorance in which we ruthlessly exploited our natural resources and instead have shifted focus towards conserving and protecting the environment, all thanks to the new insights we gained. The threat of ‘doomsday’ because of a nuclear war, has led to signing of nuclear non proliferation treaties.

Ignorance has its implications in the social life also. Julius Caeser wouldn’t have died feeling betrayed, if he hadn’t seen that it was his best friend Brutus who had killed him. Sodomy wouldn’t have any implications unless the other partner comes to know of the infidelity. The caste system also perpetuates due to our knowledge about the existence of the same. Love remains unanswered, till the other acknowledges our love. Various researches in biology have discarded the myth of superiority of the Whites. And yes, it was the discovery of our rich heritage, that we ourselves were able to break away the shackles of European rule.

Yet education would imbibe different things in different people. While the ‘Kuran’ teaches peace and love to all, some anti state actors like ‘Al Qaeda’ had used it for their propaganda of spreading violence.

And sometimes education fails to play its role. It is because of this that inspite of achieveing 74% literacy rate, most of the Indian population remains ignorant – ignorant about their rights, as well as their duties. There are a bundle of welfare schemes initiated by the government, but the vulnerable groups are not able to take advantage due to their ignorance about the scheme. The 2014 elections have been a welcome change, otherwise, inspite of knowing of our duty to vote, we remained ignorant of its value and didn’t exercise the same.

Some people just accept their ignorance. The ‘Dalits’ accepted the suppression by the upper castes, because of their ignorance of their rights – this changed with the entry of Periyar. Indians continued to be servile under the Europeans because of the ignorance of their own might – it changed because of the efforts of our numerous freedom fighters who caused an awakening in the people . Thus in a way, ignorance of many leads to development of intellect in others, who wish to eradicate the ignorance of others. Where would we be if the early man hadn’t discovered fire!

But ignorance to education is a never ending cycle. By coming up from one ignorance, we find ourselves in the milieu of other things we were ignorant about.

The more educated we become, more we realize the limitation of our knowledge. And that is why until someone does a boundary spanning of the all encompassing environment, one wouldn’t be able to adapt to change.

An economic man is content with what suffices, but a successful man would always seek more.

Superstitions are also a form of ignorance. Narendar Dabholkar had  to give his life, while fighting against these ignorant beliefs.

Ignorance, which is seen as an antonym of education, is actually a persistent condition which leads to education. The world we stand today is ignorant in relation to many things, which would be known to our future generations and educated in  quite a few things unknown to our ancestors. And those who fail to become educated with passage of time, become extinct, like the dinosaurs.

‘Education is the most powerful tool you can use to change the world’ – Nelson Mandela.

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