Interview on education - Track 3

Interviewer: So would you say it is a kind of a vicious circle that the adults are ignorant so therefore the children are not understood in the right manner, so therefore they are not guided in the right manner, the children don’t flower in the right manner. So it becomes like a vicious circle. What we need to do is ‘break it’. Some people who feel that they can help some parents, some educators, they should do the needful, open their eyes or to widen themselves so that they are able to look at the whole world and children in a new perspective and try to improve their way of looking and act in a better manner.

Prof. Kireet Joshi: I agree, but what you are proposing is extremely difficult. On paper it may look very nice and I agree with you entirely but how to do it? That is the great need in our country of what you may call ‘social movement’. There is no movement in our country, which we may call as social movement. Isn’t it surprising that we had at a time when India was still under British rule, several social movements? Something has happened to our country, today there are no social movements at all.  If you probe further you will find at the root of the problem is our political system. Our political system demands one major movement – electioneering, therefore all the activity of society become concentrated only on one thing, movements for getting votes. Why is it that people do not think of any other movement at all? It is because of political system demands that you must elect your members of Parliament by electioneering and that takes up so much of our time and energy that you have no time for anything else.

Interviewer: But in the case of a apolitical person, say the man on the street, he is a part of society and if some social change is really needed and if he is on the suffering end, that is where the revolution takes birth. And if he apolitical then why does he bow down to the political system because he is helpless or he is bought by the system?

Prof. Kireet Joshi: Well! This is a question to be inquired into. There are many, many reasons why this is happening. As I said earlier we don’t have many visionaries in our country, all those who are visionaries, their visions are not being communicated; a mere facet is being created. Government doesn’t encourage social movements excepting for those movements which are helpful for getting votes at the time of elections. The social leaders have no money, no resources, those who are really able to do something they simply don’t have the money. Money is sucked up by political parties for purpose of electioneering. Social change is hardly on their agenda. On the contrary it is status co of the society where caste system, communalism all this flourishing today at its own level, status co level, they  want to take advantage of it and they are taking advantage, they may say anything on the platform but what are they doing actually. It is flooded with the money so that the caste system becomes subservient to highest voting pattern. The money is being pumped so that the communal divisions are hardened and we are constantly speaking of slogans like appeasement, secularism, pseudo-secularism and nobody is touching the problem even at the depth level, if you ask any intelligent young person in India and say: please define secularism, only one short question and yet it is the fundamental feature of our constitution. You will get surprising answers to this question. Some people will not be able to define at all because they don’t know what is the definition, some people will give some answer derived from this lecture or that lecture, which is all partial and conflicting answers will be obtained. I only giving one example but many examples can be multiplied. What’s the reason for it? It is as I said our highest energies today are being spent on electioneering, it is our political system which is extremely sick and its maladies are demanding medicines in terms of lot of consumption of money and energy, for purposes which are not at all conducive to the progress of the society. Today there are no social reform movements as there were earlier.

Interviewer: So there is basically a complete degeneration of value system of society?

Prof. Kireet Joshi: Now you bring another dimension and it’s also extremely important, – value system and dimension of values. In fact in a sense all these are related questions. But it is good to raise this question rather with some focus, when you come to the question of values, one of the political leaders whom I had encountered at an earlier stage I said: Tell me what is your idea about values? He said: Very easy, – Democracy, Socialism, Secularism. I said this is a political answer you are giving me. It was surprise to him that there are dimensions which are different from political, where you have to think of values at different levels. When discussed with at length even at the political level, what are the values of Democracy, I asked him, tell me. He couldn’t answer, what are the values of democracy – free election, freedom to vote, freedom of expression. What is the idea of liberty? And he was a good leader; ultimately he became the President of the whole Congress Party. But he was quite innocent, he couldn’t answer the question, – what is freedom? And I asked many questions even to intelligent people, – Tell me, what is freedom? Our country has not provided sufficient material on which people can think pros and cons about freedom. In India itself there are many levels of freedom of which we speak. We have one idea which is in the currency everywhere Sa vidya ya vimukteye, vimukti is freedom, knowledge is that knowledge which gives you liberation, freedom. What is the meaning of that freedom, surely not to participate in electioneering; it’s quite a different dimension of freedom.

Interviewer: So the meaning of politics as it existed is very different from the meaning of politics today. Politics at that time was a call to aid your country, to help the country become better but today the politics has become the name of a park game. There is a fall and we need to correct it.

Prof. Kireet Joshi: The only question is what is the means by which you can correct it, I think this is your main concern and I agree with you. It’s a very deep concern, how to shake this society in this country, so that higher dimensions of thought come into the picture, higher visions come into the picture. Even if there are disagreements, I don’t mind but let it be some very high levels of disagreement. Even with regard to political freedom for example there are many theories of freedom and degrees of freedom that society to give or not give is also a very important question.  There is a dimension of freedom which is not spiritual as in the case of vimukti, it is a spiritual dimension, but even morally – am I free really to do what I ought to do. What is this moral dimension and this is the central question of values. At the minimum level values have moral dimension. What is for me, for the society, for the world which one ought to aspire for? This is the central question of value. What is the debate going on in our country, tell me? Has this question come up in our society in the last sixty years? What are the values that we ought to pursue? The one glimmering which has come up was when there was some thought of giving to our country in our constitution a new Article caller 51A, fundamental duties. I must appreciate that particular movement which is left to the insertion of that new article in the constitution – fundamental duties. But even at the level of educationists there has been hardly any debate as to what is the concept of duty, what are the different duties which are prescribed in our constitution now, and how you can instil commitment to these duties in our society. It is the central question of the educationists.  But tell me at least, I have been in the field of education for years and years, I have striven to speak of this subject at many places in this country, at many fora and yet I find so much lethargy in our country even among educationists even to think of this question robustly. I am really disappointed. Some of my very valued colleagues, they have very faint ideas about what are values? And when I talk about values they immediately count how many values, 51 values or 60 values and what is called fundamental thinking on values, which requires a high level of philosophical thought, even philosophers of our country are not concerned about it.

Interviewer: So they refuse to indulge or engage themselves.

Prof. Kireet Joshi: This is very important question, why should our philosophers of the country not take up the question of applying to our country philosophy of fundamental duties and why should people not demand it? And education should demand from philosophers.