Education Factory and Its Impact on Moral Development

“Recalling the Forgotten: Education and Moral Quest” by Avijit Pathak

By Mukhtar Ahmad Farooqi

THE book Recalling the Forgotten: Education and Moral Quest has been written by  Professor Avijit Pathak who teaches at the centre for the study of social systems, school of Social Sciences JNU. His areas of interest are sociology of modernisation, social theory and sociology of education. In this book, Professor Pathak discusses the emancipatory ideals of education and the need to recall the forgotten wisdom, fight the present pathology and move towards a better future. From school education to higher learning, this book throws light on classification and dissemination of knowledges, texts and practices, pedagogical interventions and creative possibilities for shaping the educational scenario at different levels of education. Commodification of Education and its impact on shaping capitalist ethos in learners, right from the tender age, has been widely discussed in the book.

This book starts with explaining the myriad ways in which capitalist ethos has contributed to the ‘commodification’ of education. Explained in a hermeneutic methodology, the author warns us that under the garb of techno-capitalist modernity, our education system today seems to dwarf our subtle sensibilities which would have otherwise made us be more capable of appreciating the simple joys of ‘everyday life.’ A clear genealogy of his thoughts can be traced to Durkheim’s analysis of anomic social order, Marx’s preoccupation with the ‘estrangement’ beset by bourgeois individualism and the ‘one dimensionality’ of man as espoused by Herbert Marcuse. Still, it ought to be noted that the author seems to be in no mood to enter the age-old philosophical debate between the materialists and idealists.

The work also questions the goals pursued by the educational systems today.  Even though education is still reckoned as a means of socialisation, the desired products of the education factory today are supposed to deliver the license to ‘occupational mobility and material success.’ Quoting heavily from the writings of John Dewey, Rabindranath Tagore, Emile Durkheim and even the Upanishadic, the author hints at a dire need for the rediscovery of what he calls the four core principles of education, namely ‘critical consciousness, inner awakening, aesthetic imagination  and sensitivity to vocation’. The author argues for stemming the tide of the spiritual void that techno-savvy education tends to exacerbate. Such a short vision ignores, what Guha calls, the ‘autonomous domain’ of the individual.

Having detected the symptoms of the disease that afflicts education today, the author does not let his critics dismiss his concerns as mere utopian effusions. The agenda of ‘reflexive pedagogy’ that Pathak so religiously argues for is systematically given a tangible shape in his neatly segmented take on the three core subjects, i.e., Science, Mathematics and Social Sciences. The underlying agenda  or main motive of the author is the insistence that academic discourses today have let their ‘utilitarian’ components overwhelm the ‘cognitive’ ones. There is excessive adoration of selected careers which has nipped at the bud the individual’s ‘inner calling.’ The author therefore, gives the clarion call for an initiative to see beyond textbooks, regimented examination patterns and homogenised aspirations.

To sum up, the author visualises an educational system that unshackles itself from the ‘delinguistified steering media of money and power.’ It visualizes a culture of learning capable of contributing to the making of a spiritually elevated/ecologically sensitive/egalitarian society with philosophic contemplation, dialogic interaction and sociological reflection.

This book is a must for all educationists, academicians, philosophers, students, university and college faculty as it will help them in honing critical thinking skills and inquisitiveness. Moreover, this book will guide educators in inculcating moral values that are lacking in our young generation as commodification of education, despite hollow sloganeering of societal development by educational institutions across the country, has a direct impact on moral development.

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