Education for Character Development
India is today sinking under the weight of problems, some of which, like those of violence, division, corruption and plutocracy are proving to be most obstinate and most difficult to resolve. We are trying to find solutions but there seem to be certain tendencies and factors which require remedies at a level that is far deeper than the level at which we are now thinking and acting.
At present, we are engrossed within narrow boundaries, and what we lack most is perception of perspectives. We want democracy, but narrowed down in our adoption of the Western form of parliamentary democracy, we do not go to the root of the truth of democracy, namely, the development of the individual to grow into his/her highest possibilities, - physical, vital, mental, aesthetic, ethical and spiritual. True democracy demands self-determination by the individual and the collectivity at the highest levels of consciousness. This demand is consistently and systematically ignored or obstructed, and therefore, democracy is being increasingly collapsing in plutocracy, - the rule of money, the rule of crime and rule of muscle power. Our Constitution speaks of socialism, but we are not adequately cognisant of the way in which socialism tends to grow into deification of the State. As a result, we are not working consciously for the development of collective consciousness that takes care of the liberties of the individual, nor are we developing the ethos in which the individual and
the collectivity are prepared to sacrifice their egoisms for their harmonious and inter-dependent relationships. The only way by which we are reducing the impact of socialism is by reviving the grip of capitalism in the name of liberalisation and globalisation. We are not inquiring as to how we can devise means and methods by which, consistent with individual liberty, we can also bring about welfare not merely of a few but of all. Our Constitution also speaks of secularism, but while we easily yield to the tendency to equate secularism with materialism, we do not strain ourselves to transcend the limitations of consciousness where exclusivism of religions is overpassed so as to create a dynamic Dharma and dynamic spirituality, which does not shun material life but transforms it for the highest possible synthesis of Spirit and Matter. We want rapid social transformation, but we are still nourishing those institutions that foster casteism and narrow loyalties. We want rapid economic growth, but confine ourselves to the stifling attitudes, and thus we are unable to inspire adequate individual and collective initiative or required generosity and nobility in our institutions of commerce and industry. While we need sustained effort for development, we are riddled with fluctuations in regard to our priorities. We do think sometimes of education as of highest importance but we remain restricted merely to multiplying the number of educational institutions which continuously increase the impact of Macaulayan ideology of education instead of making bold efforts to transform the objectives, contents and methods of education that will educate all and educate them for development of wisdom and character.
In this situation, it has become imperative to underline that the most important theme of India today is that of education for character development.
This theme is also reinforced when we consider not only the Indian situation but the global situation which is constantly influencing and shaping our Indian situation. A huge structure is being built up with an increasing insistence on mechanisation, standardisation and dehumanisation, leaving practically no room for the growth of profounder, ethical and spiritual consciousness which alone can rightly and wisely guide human volition in taking decisions in the critical times that seem to lie ahead of us. While under the pressure of the technological development, the world is shrinking and we are dreaming of the possibility of a planetary civilisation, we have not yet the required corresponding psychological development which can enable the human consciousness and character to sustain such a planetary civilisation. On the contrary, there is growing preponderance of those impulses which can thrive only through ignorance, fragmentation, discord and violence.
As we study the situation, we feel convinced that it is a vain chimera to believe that the world of today and tomorrow can be safe without a radical change in human consciousness and character. It is true that the wisest leaders of today have declared unambiguously that the future of the human race is dependent exclusively upon a radical transformation of human consciousness, and that one of the most important means of effecting this transformation is an integral and value-oriented education. Unfortunately, this counsel is heard dimly and ignored greatly when we frame our plans ofaction for education.
It is, therefore, necessary that a voluntary effort is initiated and conferences, seminars and workshops are organised where the theme of integral and value-oriented education and the theme of education for character development are studied in depth. It is only through this method that a wide awakening among people can be generated. Without this awakening, such
a difficult thing as education for character development cannot be conceived and implemented.
In the first place, we need to clarify ourselves as to what we mean by education for character development. In simplest terms, character implies well-trained will to be straightforward, fearless and honest coupled with sincerity to act and even to fight nobly and courageously in order to embody in one's own life and in the life of the society all that is true and all that can foster solidarity and unity.
Character may be considered to have four dimensions, dimension of wisdom, dimension of heroic will, dimension of compassion and universal love, and dimension of competence, chiselled skill and untiring labour.
A well-developed character is integrated character; it is able to sharpen in-born capacities and potentialities towards their own highest values. A developed character is a developed personality that harmonises the demands of physical education, vital education, emotional education, of rational education, aesthetic education, ethical education, and spiritual education.
In our present system of education, all that we have conceived here to be relevant to the development of character is sadly missing. We are too preoccupied with mental development, and even in the field of mental development, we give a preponderant importance to those qualities which are relevant to our present examination system. We are thus not giving so much importance to the development of power of understanding as to the power of memory. Our education is limited to the
imparting of information; we hardly aim at imparting knowledge; and development of wisdom is entirely out of the court. We do not emphasise the development of imagination as much as we emphasise the learning of facts. We do not give importance to the pursuit of truth; we propose only the pursuit of piece-meal assemblage of topics and subjects which are prescribed in our syllabus. It is only recently that some place is being given to physical education and aesthetic education. But the situation is entirely unsatisfactory when we come to the domain of character development. Even our thinking on the subject of values which are central to character development is beset with confusions and doubts. Our first necessity is to explore the basic ideas in regard to values, to determine what they mean and what place they can be given and in what way they can be implemented in our system of education.
Let us dwell a little upon the word "value". This word, as understood in the context of educational philosophy, refers to those desirable ideals and goals which are intrinsic in themselves and which, when achieved or attempted to be achieved, evoke a deep sense of fulfilment to one or many or all parts of what we consider to be the highest elements of our nature. In a sense, it may be urged that the word "value" is basically undefinable, since it denotes a fundamental category and it is itself the highest genus of that category. At the same time, there is a common understanding in regard to truth, beauty and goodness which can be conceived as the supreme values of life. They are intrinsic in character, and they are ends-in-them-selves. Even if there are wide differences as to what is meant by these three terms, there is an agreement that they are most desirable ideals and mere orientation towards them inspires
development of those states of our being and becoming in which we can hope to find some kind of ultimate fulfilment.
These three great ideals can guide us in developing all that we have spoken of as character and all that can be considered to be of highest value to integral personality.
As a result, in the domain of physical education, we discover the values of health, grace and beauty. In the domain of emotional education, we arrive at the values of harmony and friendliness, of courage and heroism, of endurance and perseverance and of irresistible will to conquer the forces of ignorance, division and injustice. In the sphere of mental education, the values that emerge are those of utmost impartiality, dispassionate search after the Truth, widest possible synthesis, and calm and silence. The values pertaining to the aesthetic development would be those of the vision of Beauty and creative joy of the deepest possible aesthetic experience and expression.
When we come to the field of moral and spiritual values, the situation is rather difficult and complex. Is there, we may ask, any valid distinction between moral and spiritual values? In answer, it may be said that much depends upon what we intend to include in our definition of the word "morality" or in the word "spirituality". In Indian thought, the distinction between morality and spirituality has been clearly made and each one has its specific and distinguishing connotation. The word "morality" connotes a pursuit of the control and mastery over impulses and desires under the guidance and supervening inspiration of a standard of conduct formulated in consideration of man's station and duties in the society or in consideration of any discovered or prescribed intrinsic law of an ideal. Morality is often conceived as a preparation for spirituality. Spirituality begins when one seeks whatever one conceives to be the ultimate and absolute, for its own sake unconditionally
and without any reserve whatsoever. Moreover, while morality is often limited to the domain of duties, spirituality is fundamentally a search of the knowledge of the highest and the absolute by direct experience and manifestation of the search in every mode of living, thinking and acting.
Again, both the moral and the spiritual are to be distinguished from what is called "religious" when we speak of religious education. Religion, which can be called sampradaya, has the following distinguishing features:
1. A specific religious belief or creed or doctrine about the nature of Reality, scripture and traditional founder, prophet or incarnation;
2. every specific religion has, as its essential ingredient, certain prescribed acts, rituals and ceremonies;
3. a religious authority to which religious matters are referred and the decision of which is final.
Both moral and spiritual values can be practised irrespective of whether one believes in one religion or another or whether one believes in no religion. Both morality and spirituality can be independent of rituals and ceremonies and of any acts specifically prescribed by any particular religion. And both of them are independent of any authority except that of one's own free judgement and direct spiritual experience.
It is also useful to distinguish religion from what in India is called "dharma". Dharma is not any religious creed or dogma and system of rituals but a deeper law of the harmonious and interdependent growth of the deepest aspirations of the collectivity and of the individuals that constitute the collectivity. Dharma can be regarded as an ordered system of moral and spiritual values.
Values that we seek in the moral and spiritual domain are those of sincerity, faithfulness, obedience to whatever one
conceives to be the highest, gratitude, selflessness, freedom from egoism, equality in joy and suffering, in honour and dishonour, in success and failure, pursuit of the deepest and the highest, and of the absolute and the ultimate, and progressive expression of this pursuit in thought, feeling and action.
It must be observed that the pursuit of these values is not intrinsically related to any particular religion. These values are intrinsic and ends in themselves, irrespective of whether one holds any particular doctrine of ethics, religion or spirituality. Whether one belongs to one religion or the other, or to no religion, one can pursue these values devotedly and zealously.
Having clarified some of the important elements of education for character development, it is necessary to underline that this education should not be conceived as a training in certain Do's and Don'ts. It may be mentioned that Do's and Don'ts refer to outer actions; and outer actions derive their value only in relation to the inner motive and the inner consciousness from which they emerge. The given right state of consciousness may express itself in different forms of action, and each of these actions would be right, since behind each one of them there is a living vibration of the right state of consciousness. On the other hand, there are several actions which may apparently seem good and right in their outer forms, and yet if they are not spontaneous expressions of the right motive, they cease to have any value from the point of view of character.
It is also to be underlined that education for character development cannot be confined to a specific period in the total framework of a time-table. All occasions of daily life should be utilised to bring the student nearer to the realisation of the ideals of character development. There are occasions
when children express wild impulses and passions, and often they are in revolt. Children have their own daily battles of loyalties and friendships, and there are moments of desperate depression and of violent enthusiasm. There are occasions when children can be vexed, become sulky and go on strike. All these occasions are occasions for education for character development. With patience and perseverance, the teacher can utilise all these occasions to show the truth and light and to awaken among the children the right sense and the right sense of true progress.
It is also to be underlined that in the process of education for character development, character of the teacher is of supreme importance. We are thus required to demand from the teachers a very exacting role. For the fulfilment of this role, teachers themselves must feel inspired to learn the lessons of self-control and to foster harmonious blending of wisdom, will, courage, compassion, harmony, and competences of various kinds that are directly relevant to the tasks of teaching-learning process. The teacher should be able to involve his or her total being in the teaching-learning process. The question here is not merely to deal with subjects and books but also with faculties and capacities, and particularly, with the powers of will and concentration that are indispensable in developing character. The teacher will need to have not only a high degree of proficiency in his or her own subject of discipline but he or she will also need to arrive, as rapidly as possible, at a considerable maturity of the growth of personality, and he or she will need to look upon the work of teaching as a part of the discipline required for the development of his or her own personality and character. Only a teacher of high character can generate students of high character.
The role of the teacher in this connection will be more manifest when we consider the questions relating to methods
and contents of education for character development. It is to these two questions that we shall turn next during the course of today's workshop.