Secularism in India is redefined as Hindu nationalism; policies are made to promote the redefined secular understanding. The offshoot is a ban on religious conversion in 7 India states. In midst of all this the governments speaks about protecting the minority. Moreover, there are organizations which want to take the so called “secular Hindu nationalism” to schools and colleges in the form of education. Can such education be justified? George A. Paul explores.
Anti-conversion is a movement primarily promoted by a few religious groups in the name of nationalism. These groups equate nationalism to Hinduism and assume all other religions to be a threat to patriotism. Hence they conclude, only a Hindu and until a person becomes a Hindu they are not patriotic.
Consequently, they have a desire to eliminate the other religions and two of the many strategies they have adopted are anti-conversion and reforming the education system. We would examine their strategy to reform education in light of the anti-conversion. In order to do this let’s first define education.
What is education?
Education encompasses discovering, learning and acquiring specific knowledge or skills through the aid of the teacher or by one’s self.
On examining the first part of the definition namely, “education concerns with discovering, learning and acquiring knowledge or skill,” three important branches of education and two basic truth about them stand out, these may be stated as…..
- The first two branches Metaphysics and Axiology give us the objects of learning. Epistemology, the third branch, gives us the means of learning.
- Without proper understanding of these three branches, learning and teaching would be impossible.
- Hence, let us examine these three branches, and how these branches influence our, “education curriculum” and our “education methodology.”
Metaphysics, Education and Anti-conversion:
Metaphysics deals with the question such as, “what is real?” and “what constitutes reality?” Over here we ask, what is the view of reality asserted and propagated by the groups which promote anti-conversion? The answer is….
Belief in a Universal Being pervading the entire universe
<!–[i· There is an Ultimate Reality residing within us. To realize and manifest that reality is the basic aim of their system of education.
The principles of Yoga form the basis for all religious life, whatever the denomination of one's faith be.
Should we follow and accept this as democratic and secular? If we do not, we would be branded as anti-patriotic hence a threat to the nation. Moreover, one has freedom only to accept and not to reject and one is not allowed to counter and propose an alternative view.
Examining the Ideology:
Many may not accept this view to be real. Moreover, only by accepting the existence of reality one can discover it. One cannot discover square circles; neither can one discover sea of milk or sea of curds as square circles, sea of milk or sea of curds does not exist. One cannot discover non-real truth; “non-real truth” is contradiction of terms. Since, it is fictional and we all know fiction cannot be discovered in reality. Furthermore, to discover reality one must have freedom to decide between various views of reality. This freedom of the student is denied by anti-conversion.
Consequence of unreal metaphysics:
If we accept fiction as real, and if we are allowed to create fiction and define fiction as history, then our education curriculum would be full of fancies according to one’s own interpretation of facts, in this manner forcing us to accept creative fiction as history. Thus a teacher who does not differentiate between fact and fiction may force us to accept fictional creation as history. By such understanding of reality, we will be forced to accept the existence of square circles and sea of milk and sea of curds.
Such creation can become school curriculum which children would learn in the name of history, and anti-conversion would deny us the right to propagate a contradictory view and it would also denies us the right to reject such fictional creations.
Hence, the solution would be to have freedom to propagate competitive and contradictory views of reality and allow men to choose based on evidence.
Axiological, Education and Anti-conversion:
Axiology deals with questions of value; it answers questions like what is valuable. Axiology may be further divided into question of ethics, “what is good?” and questions of Aesthetics, “what is beautiful?” What is the Axiological view promoted by these groups? The answer is…
<!–[· All happiness is a state of mind
Curriculum for Happiness: It is within oneself that one has to seek for it no material things will provide happiness.
Methodology for happiness: Four-fold divisions into four varnas, and the four stages of life in the form of the ashramas form the way one seeks this happiness.
Examining Axiological: By rejecting the real and by looking into one’s self we will become egoistic. Moreover, because of four varnas particular class will rule and the ruled must find happiness in serving the ruling class. One not having this spirit and state of mind to serve would be against India and the Indian spirit.
Consequence: By accepting and valuing anti-conversion we have laid an axe to legal justice, since it denies freedom to express diverse value based judgments. Consequently, today in the Indian academy Socrates deserves hemlock. Since, what is just is no longer ideal depending on fact and reality but rather on fanciful interpretation of men and divisions of men.
What's more, the arguing and questioning Socrates is silenced by the hemlock of anti-conversion. Since, it denies the defendants right to counter argue. This is where Derrida reigns supreme. We have created our own fictional world by accepting anti-conversion as an expression of freedom when the fact remains that it is a threat to liberal education, freedom, and liberty. In India we have started with a ban on a particular religious education and soon we will move to all other branches of education.
Epistemological and Anti-conversion:
Thirdly, according to the definition acquiring knowledge would be facilitated by what we believe and assert about epistemology. The questions answered by epistemology are: What is truth? How do we know what is true? Our answers to this question would determine our understanding about the first two areas of discovery and learning. Hence, it is but natural to ask what is the epistemological view endorsed by the so called, “only nationalists.”
- Reality to be illusion
- Hindu Dharma has always been flexible and adaptive.
Curriculum to teach: A teacher who believes, “all reality to be illusion” and who consequently asserts, “Reality cannot be known,” there by proposing agnosticism as the ultimate reality would force us to the same conclusion of dogmatism. Since, for such a person speaking about the existence of “women” would be speaking about illusion, because women would not exist. Hence we conclude there isn’t any curricul
um to teach, one may adapt and teach according to one’s fancies.
Methodology: Following this methodology in education one can create reality according to one’s fancies, women can become men and men can become women. Moreover, since all reality is illusion, flexible and adaptive. One does not have a choice, but to create one’s own reality. Following this trend, one may deny the undeniable reality that all men are equal, and one may create fiction of superior race (superman).
Consequence: Hence, by this dogmatic methodology the teacher would render discovering and learning an impossible task. Since, in the absence of reality we need not discover. All we need to do is create our own reality; consequently, all we would have is propaganda and indoctrination.
However, one may hold any view about reality, and one may teach and propagate it, no matter how foolish. However, if the student is denied their right to reject and counter their teacher and propose their own view about reality, then it would be the denial of the basic human rights. Moreover, we must take note that anti-conversion does deny this basic human right. It denies the teachers right to propagate, and the student’s right to reject the propaganda of the teacher.
Examining the second half:
We turn now towards examining the second part of the definition, where a student discovers, learns and acquires specific knowledge or skills through the aid of the teacher or without the aid of the teacher by one’s self.” while examining the second part of the definition it would become clear that because of the mistakes in three branches of learning, we have also committed three cardinal mistakes in teaching and learning to which we now turn.
Anti-conversion the foundation for imperialistic indoctrination
In today’s world it seems we have accepted indoctrination to be true education since it has become the order of the day. One may wonder how we have come to this stage in history. The answer is provided by the famous philosopher Dr. Mortimer J. Adler, he pronounced, “The answer lies in the loss of three insights about the nature of teaching and learning, in consequence of which three mistakes are made.” Anti-conversion makes these three mistakes in Education methodology and practice. The three mistakes he states are as follows:
<!–[if !supportLists]–>1. It is mistakenly supposed that the activity of teachers is always the principal and sometimes the sole cause of the learning that occurs in students.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>2. <!–[endif]–>When it is said that all learning is either by instruction or by discovery, it is mistakenly supposed that what students learn by instruction is something they passively receive from their teachers.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>3. The failure to distinguish genuine knowledge from mere opinion, together with the failure to distinguish impressions made on and retained by the memory from the development of understanding in the mind, arises a third mistaken supposition-that genuine knowledge can be acquired without an understanding of what is known.
Dr. Adler also suggests three points solution to the three point problem
<!–[if !supportLists]–>1. The first of the three mistakes can be corrected by the insight when teaching becomes a cooperative art between a teacher and student, rather than a productive art of the teacher.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>2. The second insight is that all learning is by discovery, either by discovery alone or be discovery aided by instruction, but never by instruction alone.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>3. <!–[endif]–>The third insight is that bits of information or matters of fact retained by the memory with no understanding of the information or the facts remembered is not knowledge, but mere opinion, no better than prejudices fostered by propaganda or other sources of indoctrination.
Dr. Mortimer J. Adler asserts learning will and can take place without the aid of the teacher. Since, naturally men learn in spite of the teacher. However, without the aid learning may be time consuming and tedious, given that the teacher enhances the students naturally ability to learn by acting as a guide. Hence, the teacher is dispensable but not the student.
This being the case we have to conclude
- Education is a free enterprise of the individual
- The teacher guides the student in acquiring knowledge
- The teacher is not a dictator who indoctrinates, rather the teacher acts as facilitator who guides so that the student learns to think on their own
- Given this freedom the student may accept or reject and even propose a counter perspective to the teachers proposal
- This implies persuasion by the teacher or student to win people to their opinion with the freedom to reject the persuasive opinion
Hence we conclude, without accepting the above mentioned facts true education would not be possible. Additionally, by accepting the conclusions we reached we have to accept conversion and freedom of expression as true educational models and we must also reject anti-conversion and indoctrination as a model for education. Since it fails to be true education.