Philosophy and Education: A Review By Prof Mohi ud Din Hajini

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Prof. Mohi ud Din Hajini (1917-1993)

PROFESSOR Mohi-ud-Din Hajini’s collection of research papers titled, Discourses of Prof. Mohi-ud-Din Hajini compiled by Dr Ameen Fayaz, is the best illustration of Prof. Hajini’s multi-dimensional personality. The book comprises three parts and carries three vibrant themes. The third and the last part of the book carry two papers, including “Philosophy and Education: A Review”.

The work is divided into two parts covering thirteen chapters, each one a comprehensive unit in itself, surveying various theories interconnecting Philosophy and Education. The contents are coherently interwoven and logically presented; and it appears very difficult to discover a striking incongruity in the thought-process of the author.

He forewarns the reader in the introductory note that “anyone who makes broad statement about Education is philosophizing and on that account “everyone has his own philosophy”. Such a philosophy is prune to discuss Philosophy rather than education. He confesses that he himself does not belong to this category. For, according to his approach to the subject “Education is a purposive activity, the direction and shape of which are determined by human beliefs – most of them culturally and religiously quite deep – rooted in human psyche.

A teacher with no belief or with no personal assumption is a blind teacher, and unfit for the job”. To illustrate this theme, he delves deep into modern trends of thought gleaning upto-date information on the subject, re-evaluating contending theories, and subsequently sifting out the practicable from the impracticable in modern Education. He is conscientious enough to admit that in our bewildering era when secular humanism (in contrast to religious humanism) actually makes man the measure of all things, we need philosophy of life not for the chosen few but for an ordinary man as well, otherwise the mass-conditioning tendencies in politics shall choke up the roots of man as a living organism. Arguments in such a philosophy and thence in Education, may not prove or demonstrate anything to an average student, nevertheless if these help him to see afresh or rejuvenate interest towards a new vista of thought, the teacher has achieved his aim. How is that possible? Professor Reid begins the reply from the very definition of Philosophy and says that a philosopher, being presumably the lover of wisdom, it is the wisdom that we need, therefore it is not the technique of teaching that should come first, for even an efficient teacher can miseducate; it is the teacher’s personal acumen, culture and innate tendencies that keep, to use the author’s simile, “the wheels of education oiled”.

Postulating these qualities in a teacher, we have further to admit that it is not he alone who guides the immature mind: infact, the society in modern age is equipped with dozens of mechanical devices that contribute towards making or marring the student’s career and these agencies commence impressing the mind long before he is admitted in the school. Thus we see that on the one hand, the assimilative nature of each mind grasps “something which just happens to a person”, while, on the other hand, it is quite possible that the set pattern of Education in each country may not be conducive to the imprints left on the mind in social contact. The worst situation will spring up when the society, the curriculum and the teacher are at variance with one another, regarding their respective assumptions in Education. To overcome such a “triangular tension”, it is the teacher who should come down to the student’s mental level till the student is imperceptibly extricated from an unhealthy environment, organized by the society or the state. In this enterprise, says the author, the teacher must be free as is the case in Great Britain; but the author appears to be quite ignorant of the teacher’s position in numerous Asian countries, where he has often to sell his soul to the devil for placating an officer, or for getting his book prescribed as a text…..

The author clearly distinguishes between “Personality” and Personal Self”, and says that the former, though altogether of a different kind and differentiated in numerous ways, is actually transcended by the “Personal Self”. The innate and inherited characteristics sub-consciously operating upon personality should be accepted as subjectively given, whereas the objective part of the Personal Self will come under Biology and Empirical Psychology. The chief aim of philosophical analysis should be to harmonize the subjective and objective constituents of the Personal Self, and to remove the confusion with least possible irritation, suppression or coercion. The compromising teacher can thus let the children go further in the direction which he believes to be right. As for the definition of “rightness”, the author says that the question of the rightness of an act “arises through its relation to a larger situation in an indefinitely stretching context of life”. This definition being too elastic for application, he later amends it, and says “rightness as experienced is felt by each teacher as part of a larger good to probably a larger number of people”. This is tantamount to saying that it is not necessary that the teacher’s conception of goodness will be ideally good; it may frequently be the least harmful from amongst the evil ones. This type of exposition gives rise to the relativity of rightness that has confused the European Educationists from Michaeveli to Marx. If the author had access to Imam-i-Ghazalli’s religious humanism or Vina Bave’s Sarodaya , he would be spared a lot of his “theorizing”. Nevertheless, the striking note of the book is that it does asseverate that evil is let loose by the purely materialistic pattern of education in Europe, and on this observation, the author has independently come to some conclusions (especially in Ethics) that can retard the crisis in faith generated by pure science in our curriculumn.

As for the concordance of social ideals within the frame work of education, the author has rightly pointed out that either the teacher’s beliefs must be sublime enough to reflect the society’s ideals or the state should couch him before he begins his teaching; of course, without chaining his mind for all times, because extreme and perennial form of state’s directives can often re-emerge in the behavourist assumption that Education is entirely dependent on “conditioning”, wherein the child (or even the teacher) is presumed to be more as an object than as a person. The idea of “shaping” and “moulding” a child strictly according to totalitarian, Nazi or, I should add, extremely nationalistic, patterm, is an idea, which leaves out what may be the most important fact about human nature.

The author has lucidly and thoroughly discussed the topic in the ninth chapter of the book under the title “The Need for Roots—in Humanities and Science”. Pragmatism, with all its dollar-infection, has been subjected to rational criticism; and contemplative and meditative aspects of education are brought forth into a broader perspective. Ethical values which till recent times were deemed only as “social demands” are now re-evaluated, and admitted to be not only the powerful integrating factors in society, but real deterrents to fiendish tendencies especially in psychotic, neurotic and depressive states of a student. The author classifies “value into three categories”: (1)those which are ethically good or bad ; (2)those which are intrinsically higher or lower; and (3) those values that merely satisfy desires or “give pleasure” technically called “fact-value”. In this last category, there is not distinction of good or bad, higher or lower. The teacher has to see that more satisfaction of desire does not evolve into Epicureanism or  Nihilism, nor does this recoil round a perversion that is likely to lead to sadism, or can accelerate the split of personality. In this delicate situation, if the teacher is expected to start, say, with only two maxims, i.e. that moral character is indispensable, and that a sense of responsibility must be developed from the elementary stage of education, he can really be a philosopher, provided he can satisfy all the heterogeneous temperaments in a class; otherwise the conflicting responses to a single stimulus from students will surely distort his appeal and disfigure his image of “character” and “responsibility”.

The most unpleasant exigency will crop up when an extroverted teacher may have to couch the majority of students with an introverted bent of mind or vice-versa. Similarly, the contradictory “output” of educational theories, simultaneously believed by the teacher as “apt”, can surely disintegrate the personality of the student-class, e.g; one school of educationists believes the moral imperatives are socially derived, and related to social needs, while another school asserts that these are underivative and final. The teacher shall have to find out a via media that can stimulate the inquisitive nature of the student rather than block his independent judgement. In effect, the teacher has to harmonize the contending elements by impressing upon the pupil that “it takes all sorts, to make a world”. We may differ here with the author when he feels reluctant to admit some “supreme ordering principle” behind absolute values. It is because of this innate attitude that he seldom makes any reference to the best teachers of the world, i.e, the Founders of all world religions. It is really a pity that European writers on education are often too sluggish to realize that those very precepts which have since time immemorial been taught by Prophets in the east, are now not only hinted at as “principles of education” but taken for guide lines in human behaviour, of course under a new name and after too long an exploration! That is why we find our author too, on the one hand, asserting a statement that does not straightaway fall under analytical or empirical classification and does not deserve to be taken seriously, while, on the other hand, imperceptibly proposing a shift from mechanistic to ethical mode of teaching, besides pinning for such a UNESCO that would regulate teaching on an ideal pattern.

The book makes a good reading despite a bit of dryness in style, generated by the author’s too much love for analytic exposition of the subject.

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