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Modernity - Value Education

Modernity ─ Value Education

Modernity was born in Europe, and the modern world is still mainly European, a world dominated by the European mind and western civilisation. We want to set right this undue preponderance; we want to reassert for ourselves the Indian mind. And we want to preserve and develop the great values of Indian civilisation. But the Indian mind can only assert itself successfully by meeting the contemporary problems and by giving them a solution which will justify its own ideals and spirit.

Since the beginning of Indian renaissance, which dates to the work of Raja Mohun Roy, India has become engaged in this task, and the Indian society has been growing into modernity. There was a time when the dominant tendency among the elite of India was to embody European civilisation and even to throw away our ancient culture into the oblivion of the past. But that stage has long been overpassed, although a few tendencies of that stage do recur from time to time and in one way or the other of the domains of life. Today, our dominant tendency is to look more and more inwardly in the attempt to discover our own spirit, nature, ideals. There are efforts to create our own characteristic forms and the new environment, while trying to deal with external institutions which need not be and in the nature of the situation cannot be totally rejected. At the same time, there is still a great danger of submitting ourselves to various forms of commercialism, industrialism and materialistic seeking of pleasure which are spreading all over the world. A great issue for India today is two-fold discovery of our own soul and successful assimilation of all that is coming to us from outside. It is in the context of this two-fold issue that the theme of value education assumes great significance.

Europe began its journey into modernity by means of the revolt of individualism, by the revolt of reason against conventionalism of belief and practice. It first attacked the sphere of religion, and it proceeded to others, culminating in a general questioning of the foundations of thought and practice in all the spheres of human life and action. In this process of questioning, scientific, and consequently technological progress played a major role.

The individualistic age of Europe fixed for not only for itself, but for the whole world two idea-forces, which cannot be entirely eliminated by any temporary reaction. The first is the democratic conception of the right of all individuals as members of the society to the full life and the full development of which they are individually capable. The master potency of this conception is so great that it is no longer possible to accept the theory that the many must necessarily remain forever on the lower ranges of life and only a few climb into the free air, light. It is impossible for us to accept as an ideal any arrangement by which certain classes of society should arrogate development and full social fruition to themselves, while assigning a bare and barren function of service alone to others. Full development of all is the mark of modernity.

The second master idea is that the individual is not merely a social unit; but he is a soul, a being, who has to fulfil his own individual truth and law as well as his natural or his assigned part in the truth and law of the collective existence. It is for this reason that modernity insists on individual freedom, on individual initiative, individual thought, individual will, individual consciousness.  

Modernity - Value Education

Modernity - Value Education

Application of these two conceptions has laid two momentous experiments in democracy and socialism and in democratic socialism. These experiments have not been entirely successful. It has been found that when liberty is assured, equality has suffered, and when equality is sought to be assured, liberty gets strangulated. Democracy puts forward a trinity of values, liberty, equality and fraternity, and it appears now that the key to the fulfilment of the democratic ideal will depend upon the extent to which the value of fraternity will be applied to the disbalancements which are created in experiments of liberty and equality. But before we can consider the question of experimentation with fraternity, we must note the complexity of the situation that has been created by the emergence of modern science and technology.

At an early stage of the development of individualism, it was realised that the unrestraint use of individual elimination of the judgement without an objective criterion of truth would mean a perilous experiment. A search was, therefore, instituted to discover a general standard of truth and also for some principle of social order. This
search resulted in an answer provided by the discovery of physical science. This answer was two-fold: (1) Physics demonstrated a truth of things which depended upon no doubtful scripture or fallible authority, since that truth was written on the open book of nature which everybody can read, provided he had the patience to observe and intellectual honesty to judge; (2) Science provided a norm of knowledge and principles of verification to which all can freely and must rationally subscribe. This answer was the culminating point of the 19th century, which was preceded by two centuries of preparation. During these two centuries, the method of scientific induction was evolved, and a new scientific outlook on the world development.
What we call today scientific temper, is the result of this great endeavour. Since then, there is a widespread acceptance of the attitude which maintains that statements of facts should be based on observation, and not on unsupported authority.

It must, however, be observed that the victory of the physical science was largely due to its application, its technique and technology. Beginning with the discovery of gun powder and mariner's compass to the discoveries of electricity and telegraphy, and atomic power, we have a long story of mixed colours of good and evil, and we have today increasing number of sensitive and refined thinkers who have even come to equate science and technology with domination and violence. Some of them have fixed their attention on the way in which development is projected in India and elsewhere, and they have brought out quite vividly the peril of plunder, propaganda and violence to which masses of people are being subjected in the name of science and development. Promises of science have come to be questioned and there are increasing trends of thought which advocate limits to growth and the use of technology to control technology. The idea of the "small is beautiful" has achieved wide appeal. There is a growing awareness that all is not well with science and technology, that things cannot be allowed unchecked and unchallenged, and that fundamental issues of humanity's future need to be considered without any dogmatism, even if it implies questioning science itself.

Modernity - Value Education

Modernity - Value Education

We need to draw up a more balanced evaluation of contribution of science, particularly when scientific progress has a great role to play in determining the directions of value education. Let us first, underline that science has affirmed the virtues of impartiality, of ever-widening quest of knowledge. It has fought against ignorance and superstition, and it has enhanced the cause of education. Science has enlarged for good the intellectual horizon of the human race, and raised, sharpened and intensified powerfully the general intellectual capacity of mankind. In its dispassionate movement, science pursues truth for the sake of truth and knowledge for the sake of knowledge.
This is the highest right of the intellectual faculty of humanity, and in this dispassionate functioning, there is perfect purity and satisfaction.

On the other hand, when science tries to apply its discoveries and functions to life, it becomes the play thing of forces over which it has little control. This is the reason why the balance sheet of science is a mixed one. While, on the one hand, science has made discoveries which have promoted practical humanitarism, it has, on the other hand, supplied monstrous weapons to egoism and mutual destruction; while, on the one hand, it has made a gigantic efficiency of organisation utilisable for the economic and social amelioration of the nations, it has, on the other hand, placed the same efficiency of organisation in the hands of national rivalries, for mutual aggression, ruin and slaughter; while, on the one hand, it has given rise to a large rationalistic altruism, it has, on the other hand, justified monstrous egoism, vitalism, vulgar will to power and success; while, on the one hand, it has drawn mankind together and given it a new hope, it has, on the other hand, crushed it with the burden of commercialism.

Science does not have within itself any inherent leverage by which it can prevent its exploitation by human impulses and passions, and since it can produce great results, its exploitation for evil can also be great. The modern civilisation, which is science-based, has to deal with an extremely difficult issue, namely, that of the emergence of dominant economic barbarism. This barbarism impels humanity to sink in mud of desire and hunger on a massive scale. It makes the satisfaction of wants and desires and the accumulation of possessions its standard and aim. It has conceived of the ideal man is not that of the cultured or noble or thoughtful or moral, or spiritual, but the successful man. It puts forward the opulent plutocrat and the successful mammoth capitalist as images of achievement and fulfilment. It is this barbarism which assigns to them the actual power to rule the society. It prescribes pursuit of vital success, comfort, enjoyment for their own sake.  It subordinates all other pursuits; it looks upon beauty as nuisance, art a means and poetry frivolity or means of advertisement. Social responsibility is its idea of morality, it uses politics as a door for marks and exploitation.

It is now increasingly recognised that the development of science should be supplemented by an enormous development of human goodness. Bertrand Russell has pointed out that there are two ancient evils that science, unwisely used, may intensify: they are tyranny and war. In an important study of the theme of science and values, Bertrand Russell declares:

Modernity - Value Education

Modernity - Value Education

"There are certain things that our age needs, and certain things that it should avoid. It needs compassion and a wish that mankind should be happy; it needs the desire for knowledge and the determination to eschew pleasant myths; it needs above all courageous hope and the impulse to creativeness. The things that it must avoid, and that have brought it to the brink of catastrophe and cruelty, envy, greed, competitiveness, search for irrational subjective certainty, and what Freudians call the death wish ... the root of the matter is very simple and old fashioned thing the thing I mean — please forgive me for mentioning it — is love, Christian love, or compassion. If you feel this, you have a motive for existence, a guide in action, a reason for courage, an imperative necessity for intellectual honesty."

The central issue of our age, as we see clearly, is the growth of fraternity, of love, of compassion. This is the conclusion that is reinforced when we consider the issues of humanity and those of development. Global unity is necessitated by a number of factors, the growth of science which is universal in character, powerful means of communication and transport which have tended to shrink the world, and prospects of enormous economies if regions and continents can unite. But even when there are increasing reductions of armaments, is a fear in mankind, and there are enough nuclear war heads which can destroy the world. Hence, there is a continuing need to build the defences of peace in the hearts of men. Again, at a time when the world is shrinking, the gulf between the rich and the poor is widening. The sharp disparities of development and asymmetrical relations among nations impelling disadvantaged countries to seek are unattainable goals. The resulting vicious circle of dilemmas and predicaments can be broken, it seems, only if it is realised that development like peace is indivisible and that not by competition and exploitation, but by mutual help and cooperation can the goals of development be realised. Development of peace and development of cooperation seem to be indispensable for the modern society's future growth and advancement.

It is clear that if democracy is to survive, if science is to be utilised for stabilising society, if world unity is to be achieved, and if development of all nations is to be secured, we have to work vigorously on the human beings. It is evident that the structure of body and the human nature as it is today are incapable of taking us to the road to fulfilment. And it seems obvious that the systems and structures cannot be changed if human nature cannot be changed. And when we speak of the change of human nature, we speak of radical operations of the maladies of human nature. We need to create
human beings who will feel spontaneous brotherhood with all; we need human beings who will effortlessly extend cooperation in tasks of development; we need human beings who will have peace within themselves so that they will radiate peace in their environment.

This goal that we need to seek is to be viewed in the context in which we find an irresistible drive towards totality and all comprehensiveness. The wheels of the world are spinning so fast today that we are all obliged to overpass our limitations continuously and interminably. We are proceeding towards the future where a peculiar combination of wide comprehensiveness and effective specialisation will become imperative, and they will have to be fused together.

Modernity - Value Education

Modernity - Value Education

This is further enforced by the human crisis created by the need of the development of new faculties of consciousness.

All this explains why we need value education and why we need integral education? In recent trends of thought, we have been presented with the ideal of learning to be and learning to become. It is only when there is a right balance of the development of all our faculties that we can reach and attain the state of self-possession and self-mastery. We can then experience our true being and discover the secret of our perpetual being. We need to emphasise, therefore, the education of all our parts of being, physical, vital, rational, aesthetic, moral and spiritual. And the development of faculties and capacities of these parts of the being is closely connected with the question of the values that they seek. Values are the ultimate ends that personality seeks to embody, express and fulfil. Corresponding to each capacity, there are specific values. Our physical being seeks the value of health and strength; our vital being seeks the value of harmony and heroism; our rational faculty seeks the value of truth and universality; our moral will seeks the good and the right; our aesthetic sensitivity seeks the value of beauty and joy; and our spiritual faculties seek experiences and realisations of inalienable unity and oneness. Integral education, therefore, is also integral value education.

This, we may say, is the broad framework of the theme of value education, and we stand in the need of clarifying and discussing implications of this framework. Much work has been done during the last three decades and more. But the issues are difficult. They involve questions of goals of education, contents of education, methods of education. They relate to the goals of society also, and therefore, the climate of the life at home, life in institutions, and life in general. There are also issues connected with parents and teachers, questions as to how we look upon the child, how the entire society gets involved in the process of learning and teaching. It is for this reason that we need to think more and more rigorously, and to be engaged in this process of as a part of education. I feel, therefore, deeply gratified that this Seminar has been organised by World Association for Value Education and I am sure that the deliberations of this Seminar will prove to be extremely useful in giving further directions to our national programmes of value education.

Modernity - Value Education

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