Contents of Education for Character Development
Methods and contents of education are interrelated; this is particularly true in respect of education for character development, where methods themselves are in significant measure contents. This is the reason why the treatment of these two subjects tends to have some kind of overlapping. In a sense, the teacher in respect of education for character development has no method and yet every method. Similarly, he has no specific content and yet every content. A simple statement like the one that was given to Shvetaketu by his father, "Thou art That," can become sufficient for the entirety of the contents, and mere meditation would suffice as entirety of method. But this would not suffice in each and every case or when we have to deal with a large number of students, where each individual will need to have a special programme appropriate to his or her needs of growth and his or her special approach and method of growth. It is for this reason that we need to formulate methods and contents in a somewhat general way which can guide the teachers in dealing with such a difficult and subtle subject as education for character development.
It must have been observed that while expounding the methods, we have restrained ourselves to generalities, since what the teacher has to do in specific situations or in specific stages of each of his students has to be determined by him, and no specific prescriptions can be made in advance. In the same way, if we are to present a programme or a curriculum in regard to the contents, it can only be in the form of a very general guideline, and it has to be implemented by the teacher not as
a fixed framework of a rigid syllabus, but as flexible and experimental set of ideas and suggestions. The teacher has to feel free to modify, enrich or alter it in an experimental manner while dealing with his students in specific situations or in specific stages of development.
An exploratory draft programme which is being presented here should be looked upon in this light.
When we study the concept of character development in all its aspects, one central thing that emerges is that the entire process of character development is ultimately reduced to the process of self-knowledge and the process of self-control. In our undeveloped condition, we are a complex of impulses and passions, of rudimentary faculties and capacities and of inarticulate ideas and aspirations. All these need to be developed by three basic processes: introspective observation, careful processes of control, and growing awareness of oneself and of the world and their interrelationship by means of refinement of faculties and capacities. The more we observe ourselves and the more we control our impulses and passions in the right manner, the more we discover what we are truly in our deepest depths and highest heights and how we can deal with the world in a manner by which we can act rightly and contribute to the increasing progress and unification of the society and the world. This entire process can be covered under the general theme of character development, and this theme can best be described under the general title: "To know oneself and to control oneself."
There are three important elements which have magnetic power to lift students from lower to higher levels of character. These are: illumination, love, and heroism. Illumination is basically the experience of clarity in respect of understanding of inner states of consciousness, of widening horizons of environment, and of value of relationships and internal complexities
of psychological and physical life. At a lower level, this clarity is conceptual, but as we ascend higher and higher, it assumes the nature of intuitive and inspirational enlightenment. Love is that indefinable but powerful force of delight that ultimately brings about harmony in all relations. As Shelley pointed out, "This is the bond and the sanction which connects not only men with men but everything which exists." Transcending selfishness and self-centredness, love opens its portals to the inner cave of our hearts and makes us surrender to the supreme glory that is universal and divine. Heroism is spontaneous gallopping of power that rides on crest of self-giving which cares only for establishment of justice and upholding of all that is noble and true. These three, in their combination, provide irresistible leverage for rising into a transforming process. They render the tasks of self-control into the tasks of transmutation. Not suppression but rejection, purification and sublimation of the lower impulses and drives is the real secret of self-control.
One of the important instruments by which these three elements can be made operative in the educational process is that of good stories. A programme of character development must provide for a large number of stories that illustrate the themes of illumination, love and heroism. But care should be taken to ensure that these stories should have been written in a language that is chaste and beautiful. They can be selected from the world literature but made available to the children in the language which they all understand and appreciate. They should be full of human interest, and they should be able to create an atmosphere that is clean and uplifting.
Along with stories, selections from poems and plays should also be a part of the programme. Inspiring passages and interesting essays also should be utilised.
Exhibitions play a great role in creating collective atmosphere and also in opening vaster vistas before the children's vision and imagination.
The programme should also include exercises of contemplation, purification and of aesthetic experience.
Nobility of character is greatly sustained by the mind which is both wide and profound and which aspires to reach higher levels of knowledge. A great effort needs to be made, therefore, to ensure that learning material should have a vast canvas where the East and the West can meet and were subtlety and complexity of life are portrayed in a stimulating manner. Subjects and topics must be presented which develop sense of wonder.
There are a number of topics which are directly related to self-knowledge; there are others which aim at giving a synoptic view of the world; there are topics which are concerned with themes of mutuality, harmony and true brotherhood. All these topics should suitably be presented in well-graded manner.
Linguistic capacities are a great aid to the development of character. The greater the mastery over the language, the greater is the mastery over thought; and the greater the mastery over thought, the greater is the power of controlling the lower by the higher. The programme should, therefore, provide exercises that aim at chiselling the capacities of linguistic expression, both oral and written. The exercises in this connection should also include those of recitation, singing, and dramatics.
Works of labour and community service with an inner sense of dedication should be underlined. The right attitude towards work should also be cultivated; it must be remembered that one must work, not to come first but to do one's very best, that one must work to achieve perfection and one must be neither in a great hurry nor lazy and sluggish.
devised that various threads of this programme are woven into the complex totality of all the other programmes of studies. The point to be underlined is that the central theme of education for character development would not form a mere appendage of all other subjects but would stand out as the overarching and the supervening subject of basic importance. (On this important subject, a special paper will be presented during the course of this workshop.)
It is sometimes suggested that education for character development or value-oriented education is relevant only to the primary and secondary stages, but not beyond. For, it is argued, children by the time they complete secondary education would have already formed their basic attitudes, their traits of personality and their character, and nothing more needs to be done specially in that direction at the higher levels of education. But this argument misses the point that the important element in the development of character is the development of free-will and of the learner's free and rational acceptance of the value system and directions of the growth of character and personality. And this development can rightly be done only at the higher levels of education, when the learner has developed a will of his own to some extent and when he has basic intellectual and moral and aesthetic sensibilities enabling him to examine the basic values and aims of life.
The fundamental aims of higher education include the pursuit of clarity of thought, search for perfection, irresistible will to realise "summum bonum" and higher humanistic, scientific and professional skills. These are also essential requisites of integral development of personality and character. It is this that necessitates us to recommend that education for character development should also form a central focus of higher education.
of freedom and discipline. It is worth remembering the famous view of Socrates that it is only when we are utterly free that we cannot but choose the good and the right.
The programme that is presented here aims at providing a flexible framework of the study and practice of those elements which would directly or indirectly promote the basic elements of character development. It is an attempt to correlate main aspects of what Swami Vivekananda spoke in regard to man-making education with the varieties of subjects that are normally pursued in the primary, secondary and higher secondary courses in Indian schools.
This programme underlines those elements of education which seem to be indispensable for every one to grow up as a well-developed human being, irrespective of what specialities are chosen for specialisation. Everyone needs to know the mystery and excellence of the human body, since the body is the material base of the pursuit of whatever ideals one chooses to embody in one's individual and social life. Everyone needs to understand one's own impulses, desires, emotions and willpower in order to determine how to control and master them and even transform them so that one grows into a personality guided by wisdom and inspired by the sense of harmony and heroic courage. Everyone needs to know how mind functions and how rationality, morality, and aesthetic refinement grow into higher and deeper reaches of psychic and spiritual being. Everyone needs to practise attitudes and powers of concentration and harmonisation of inner and outer life. Everyone needs to learn how to learn and how to continue to learn throughout life. Everyone needs to be a good pupil and a good teacher and everyone needs to develop the capacity to choose the right aim of life and to pursue that aim with determination and perseverance. Finally, everyone needs to have basic grounding to be
able to ask: What is the mystery of this world and one's own place in it so as to be able to play one's role effectively?
These and allied subjects need to be woven together in a graded manner so that the teacher can aid the student in a very flexible manner in the process of growth of character. As stated above, the key-words of the growth are "to know oneself and "to control oneself. It is to be underlined that both these are difficult, but to render them into processes of supreme interest and unfailing enthusiasm is a task that can be fulfilled only if we chalk out a programme that is psychologically sound and practically workable. Much will depend upon the teacher's skills and powers of inspiration and guidance. And much will also depend upon the quality of the teaching-learning material that will be provided by the educators.
With these introductory remarks, a draft programme is presented. This programme is tentative, and this presentation is really in the form of invitation to the participants to study it and to suggest ways and means by which it can be improved and implemented. It will be seen that this programme will require the production of relevant teaching-learning material. It will also demand from teachers new attitudes and new initiatives and dedication. This may also imply a new programme of training of teachers. A good deal of cooperation has to be sought from parents and all those who are connected with the development of children. It may also be necessary to initiate courses of training of parents and others. This will, again, demand the task of preparing the relevant teaching-learning material.
One of the purposes of this presentation is to involve the participants in a long-term exercise through which the required teaching-learning material can be produced, experimented upon and brought to some kind of perfection.
Let us then study the proposed draft programme, given in the Annexure.