BASIC AIM OF ALL EDUCATION
Even at sub-human (lower animal) level education’s basic aim is imposing on the individual the common habits and values of the group it is a member of and adding to it adequate knowledge and skills wrapped in a strong and benevolent character.
In every group there is a hierarchy (humorously called a ‘pecking order’) which each individual must learn about and respect although fighting for a higher position is another matter. Secondly and often tied to the first are a set of rituals almost about everything, from hunting and feeding to reproducing and attending a social function. By way of an exampleand in the case of reproduction many mammalian species have polygamous family structure where a dominant male has the exclusive right to sire the young generations until replaced by another male, often by force. Any males who want to steal a wife even for once from the patriarch’s harem risks execution if caught- a form of anti- adultery law. Often suckling babies are cross-suckled as well as cared for among lactating females thus creating a communal nursery. These are forms of sub-human civilization because civilization means the art of living cooperatively in a community thanks to a set of rules and values basically shared by all. Some species are more civilized than others- lions do well as communities (called a pride) while their closely related cousins tigers cannot.
Which shows that the ability to civilize is genetically determined and a small difference in genetics as between lions and tigers is enough to secure or rule out civilized (socially cohesive) behaviour. We may extend this to human individuals; raised within the same community with the same education individuals’ civility vary from a psychopath’s dangerous solitariness to a jolly and popular man-about-town’s. Which means selective breeding is as important in the betterment of men as in animals and today’s Western promiscuity is not helping. Additionally the type and quality of education applied to each individual contributes to the civilized skills of each.
We see these very sharply when we compare a private school often in a prosperous suburb and another in a depraved inner city area. In the first the teachers in general look happier and fuller of energy and enthusiasm than those at the inner city school. In the prosperous private urban school discipline is more strict yet far easier to impose; pupils are usually both more contented and respectful and sometimes as correctly-behaving as military cadets. In fact such schools descend from the past’s elitist institutions like the
AND THIS DEFINES THE MAIN AIM OF EDUCATION- BULDING UP THE BEST AND STRONGEST POSSIBLE CHARACTER IN THE CITIZEN without which any knowledge or skills gained can only be abused. And the Messenger of Allah sws said as much “I have not been sent but to completely build up the noblest elements of character (in you)”. His only addition to it was his command to us “Seek knowledge even unto
HISTORY OF WESTERN EDUCATION
Although they mostly learned from the Near Eastern civilizations the civilization of the Greeks is regarded as part of the Western and its ancestor. At its golden age and at least initially centred in
As a result a Greek gentleman was not only a ‘philosopher’ of sorts (as very knowledgeable people were called) but also a good athlete. The nearest modern equivalent of classical Greek education may be the military. A cadet is not only trained in all sorts of academic subjects from history and mathematics to psychology and strategy but also subjected to athletic disciplines and even ascetic practices of sorts. He is rewarded or punished in graphic ways and expected to show both unquestioning obedience to seniors and original initiative in trying situations- two apparently incompatible situations. That is why poorly educated nations (which most Muslims ones are) need be and are often ruled by either absolute monarchs or military dictators (Normally princes are given military education and training). These two get the best all-round education while the rest are either stuffed with stale and stereotyped madrassa teaching (mostly based on parrotizing ages old texts) or poor imitations of the Western technical-based schools.
Obscurantism is the opposite of ‘enlightenment’. An obscurantist education insists on keeping instruction to the theological and the mythological on the one hand and legalistic and the ritualistic on the other. It has limited use of logic (defending the religion) but otherwise is quite willing to swallow anything claimed to be part of religion however palpably it may clash with common sense. Seeking illuminating interpretations to myths and entertaining critical and flexible attitudes towards the illogical are seen by the Church as heresy and blasphemy, intensely censured and even more intensely punished. This novel mind-set of the West has lasted so long and left such a flaw in the Western mind that almost all of its modern ideologies are equally dogmatic in conception and censorious as well as vengeful in policy. For example when Marx and Engels formulated the Communist ideology it was not so much taken by its votaries as a tentative system of social and economic theses (open to debate and most probably also at least partly disprovable) but as a new dogma to fill the gaping hole left by the fallen Christianity.
As a result the Marxist party became the new church banning the study of any other teachings except for the purpose of refuting them and censuring deviations or opposition as severely as the Christian church would the heretics and punishing such deviants as barbarously as the Christian church. For more than 70 years the Sovet Science officially endorsed only scientific discoveries which sat well with the Marxist ideology and poo-pooed those which looked contradicting it- like the favoured Lamarckian evolution theory against the Darwinian. Persecuting free thinking and debate in a wholly Medieval spirit in the 20th century was the norm in both the Nazi Germany and the
All these are the legacies of the Medieval obscurantism surviving into our age disguised in a cloak of modern liberality. Its customers are the more excitable and rebellious youth and those who cannot grow up despite their years. These immatures want everything in black and white and cannot cope with uncertainty. They CRAVE for dogmas and itch for fanatical action. They are the natural clients of all demagogues and the instantly recruitables of all mass trouble makers. The West is very prone to this.
Having set all these we do not mean that neither Christianity nor the modern Western ideologies inheriting its weaknesses have had no good in them. All seem to be born of some charitable or humane motive but derailed on account of some incurable-looking narrowness of vision and fanaticism of a misguided intellect. Each, even Communism achieved some good depending on what they replaced but overall remained narrow and savagely both aggressive and defensive.
So, we have the Western education a mixture of all the influences which informed the Western mind- the half-enlightened and racist and pagan Greek influence, the mainly obscurantist and dogmatic Christianity and the relentless economic drive and social drift the Industrial Revolution set into motion. This deserves a section to itself and is next.
THE MOMENTOUS EFFECTS OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
This greatest revolution of the modern times was a natural consequence of the great geographical discoveries from middle- Renaissance times (late 15th century) which opened up great prospects and profits for the Western economies. As wealth flooded in from the colonies the urban middle classes (bourgeoisie or ‘burgers’) who had already began to replace the serfs as the more productive section of population got a mighty boost. The new riches demanded luxuries for their owners to buy and therefore arts, crafts and finance became the new lucrative professions. Theatres and operas flourished and architecture became secular and hedonistic to accommodate the whims of the noveau rich. By a lucky ‘coincidence’ it was at this time that the culture and science of Islamdom and the wealth of the colonies were flowing into the West at the same time. As one bread and the other the butter the Europeans could butter their breads at last. The new wealth made the spreading and exploitation of the new science possible.
Fisrt to profit was chemistry and medicine followed by mechanics and transport. Both marine and land transportation began to make progress and by mid 16th century (when the Muslim power was evening out and beginning its decline under the Ottomans) the ocean-going ships as well as wheeled transport in Europe were leaving behind anything the Muslim world could put up- i.e., the rather small if nimble Mediterranean sailing ships or the camel caravan. Wheeled transport had never been popular in the East because the dry climate and long distances between natural stations dictated the camel as the best unit of transport.
As wealth and technological know-how rapidly rose the first major breakthrough was one which would give another mighty boost to all culture and know-how- the mass production of books and leaflets- the printing press. This was an improvement on the ancient Chinese way of block printing and consisted of revolutionizing it by introducing the movable metal type by Gutenberg in mid 15th century. The range and number of books shot up phenomenally while book prices crashed. Suddenly everybody could afford books and literacy increased and public libraries shot up everywhere. It was more than the equivalent of today’s proliferation of electronic communications and within two centuries made the West the most fertile part of the world in the spread of knowledge and ideas and the proliferation of discoveries and inventions, often with profitable practical application. The intellectual became the new elite and both the nobility and the clergy felt that they had to take them seriously and appease them increasingly. Their criticism was anxiously feared and grudgingly and secretly admired even when criticised or rejected. The days for both nobility and clergy were numbered.
The other new elites were the industrial bourgeoisie. These were the natural allies of the intellectuals whom they patronized. The funds and favours so heaped on the intellectuals and the demands made by intensifying competition between the producers of goods motivated these newly learned men to invent more effective ways of production. The first beneficiary of these new industrial ways was the textile industry. New highly mechanized looms reduced the industrialists’ need for hand labour and shot up the production speed and crashed the costs and therefore the prices. Suddenly more people were able to clothe themselves far more cheaply than any time before. The direction of flow of textiles had been always from east to west but now it was reversed. It was the Muslims now who began to buy textiles from the west and scale down their own production of them. They simply could not compete. This first instalment of industrial revolution therefore added another element to the already under way decline of Muslim economy which had shrank from its former volume when it had lost its overland trade routes from
By the 18th century another technological breakthrough arrived- the steam power. Soon the textile plants and later the mines were energized by steam power and it barely took another century or so to make steam as the power behind both land and sea transport. In the meantime steam was fast becoming the driving force of all industrial production and the populations released by the abolition of serfdom were being absorbed into this new industry to form the ‘proletariat’ of the towns. Their lot under their new bosses the industrial bourgeoisie was almost as bad as under their feudal lords but in the long run they also had to be pampered and sort of liberated, because as the majority their increased buying power was in the interests of the manufacturers who employed them. As the proletariat rose their fitness for political action also rose. The intelligentsia (class of the intellectuals, namely academicians, philosophers and writers) who had already added the bourgeoisie into the political equation now advocated the enfranchisement of the proletariat as well. This last participant in the modern democracy arrived there only partially and fitfully and never became the force it is now until after the Second World War.
Its increasing strength came from the trade union movement which challenged and modified the behaviour of the capitalist and eroded the status of the nobility and the clergy. It was all these social and socio-psychological changes that sculpted the modern secular education, making it jobs and economics oriented and anti-tradition to both a salutary and detrimental degree. Full and free public education as well as health service for all members of the Western society were becoming the norm and the spread of literacy and knowledge coupled with human and democratic rights helped to make the Western societies whose welfare and fortunes could draw upon as many brains as their adult populations contained.
All in all, the Industrial Revolution made the West a massive net exporter of goods and services to the rest of the world thereby creating a massive trade surplus and consequently mass prosperity for them which advantages still seem unassailable. The wealth improved the education and health of these societies which in turn raised their economic prospects. In other words a virtuous circle is in operation in the Western societies and only the likes of
But these social and economic developments have not been pure blessings. By destroying many good civilizing elements the old values provided it also caused to its beneficiaries a lot of harm in the form of self-abuse and loss of meaning and increasing despair in their lives. They must indulge their senses more and more to keep their sanity and accept more and more degradation in the hands of each other. Compulsive resorting to drugs and sex are only two of the new plagues and are already ruining many lives and depressing many spirits.
THE CRUX OF THE MATTER IN HUMAN MENTATION
Human spiritual and moral attitudes have always swung like a pendulum between two extreme positions tarrying more at mid points than the end ones but often closer to one than the other. An erratically decreasing minority believed in and tried to practice extremest possible ascetism compatible with mere survival and this extreme was regarded a worthy ideal in monastic cults of both Buddhism and Christianity and less prevalently and reputably among a minority of Sufis. Today it is all but dead in almost all traditions. The other extreme, again believed practiced by a minority is as ancient as the ascetic ideal. Some Greek philosophical cults defended that “before the spirit can attain enlightenment all senses of the flesh must be exhausted in their sensual possibilities- unbridled indulgence of the senses is both liberating and enlightening. Of course in practice only the first part of the equation worked.
In all cultures the ascetic minority was represented by the extremely spiritual minded while the indulgers were the unjustly prosperous like the political usurpers and the landed nobility as well as the economic upstarts who found too much power and assets in their hands to resist a temptation about exploring the gustatory possibilities of their transient existence. These possibilities extended from honest and direct indulgence of carnal pleasures like eating and sex to vile and vicious exploration of the suffering possible in others. As the indulger watched others shocked in mortal terror and writhe in excruciating pain he appreciated his pleasures even more. For that reason the need for a contrasting yardstick! Romans watched Christians torn to pieces by lions and tyrants watched their opponents tortured with the same satisfaction. Yet there is no doubt that both extremes are very wrong indeed. Somewhere in the middle there has to be a golden mean, Islam famously eulogized and sought this while the modern secular education lost sight of the problem and swung a bit too close towards indulgence.
MODERN SECULAR WESTERN EDUCATION
Technically this education is tuned to preparing the youth for filling defined job vacancies and almost nothing else. Spiritually speaking it recognizes no spirit but that of indulgence of the senses within the ever-widening bounds of law, which, thanks to its slowly and clumsily electorate-pandering anxieties is making less and less moral demands on its creators and users. We see the two most conspicuous examples of this relaxation of moral scruples in the fields of sex and drugs. Both are departments of the cult of the body and in the absence of pious scruples they are increasingly claiming more and more slaving worshippers to the delight of their commercializers and contrabandists. These two cults are inexorably filtering down the generations and are now threatening to be acceptable even at the age level of primary schools. In fact in all pre-adult schools sexual education is now mandatory and its contents explicit. Not only that but deviant trends like homosexuality are often being promoted under one pretext or another while the adults are fighting for or against a lowering of the age of consent in all forms of sexual preferences.
Drugs are not far behind. As if alcohol and tobacco have not already been playing enough havoc with people’s lives young and old alike now even more dangerous drugs like heroin, krak or ecstasy are being considered for legalization. Cannabis has already made big advances in that direction and soon may find itself gracing shop shelves and creating more dirty income to the national treasury.
Wasteful consumption is the third pillar of the modern hedonistic culture and the public education is also helping that.
In a typical Western public school we see teachers cut down to size and demoralized in front of and often also despised by their pupils unless the school is in a prosperous area with more traditional views among its residents. In the socially
Who are responsible for this philosophy? A brotherhood of hard-leftists who are more connected to each other by a packing instinct than organizational structures although the latter are there for sure. Almost all teaching union leaderships are as hard left as other labour syndicates and this leadership consistently benefits from members apathy against attending meetings and voting. Only a fraction of all members ever attend an Annual General Meeting for example and the field remains for the occupation of the hard left-faithful who easily retain their strangulating hold on power year in year out. And these are uniformly anti-tradition and pro-playing God for a brave new world to allow a more tradition-allowing education to prevail. The more moderate teachers do allow some traditions to hold sway in the classrooms thanks to their numerical strength but the ground is constantly being eroded from under them by the new laws and policies insinuated into the system by the hard left faction wolfing around the system at all levels. So, it is no wonder that recently in a public secondary schools the pupils were made to act in an explicitly sexual school drama production in which many disgusted parents and embarrassed pupils had to watch scenes of sexual activity including the gay and…. purely orgasmic (can say no more). The school was multiply criticized but stuck to their guns and got away with it.
Now we must realize that there is a direct relationship between a-moralization of education and crime. The rewards of crime for a hedonist are only too tempting and once persuaded that the highest good in life is the unbridled indulgence of the senses and social fragmentation headed by the disintegration of e ily ties and parental control, the anonymity these two provide for the young individual combined with the almost too much opportunity makes criminal indulgence of the senses an unmissable fortune. Hence the hectic drug peddling and use often by the same person and theft, burglary, shop-lifting, prostitution and rape most of which go undetected and unreported while those done so hardly come to justice for one reason or another. Add to this the monumental waste culture cultivated by the big industrial corporations among the public through relentless advertisement and the full bankrupting bill of the effects of modern western education come into view. All these against a background of the degradation and brutalisation and often starvation of at least half of the world’s population.
THE CONSTANT DUMBING DOWN (AND BESTIALIZING) OF CURRICULA
One of the central policies of modern education has been an effort to make the curricula narrower in range and shallower in treatment. Until the end of the Second World War the classical secondary education, especially in the Continent boasted of subjects like philosophy, astronomy, geology, psychology and sociology and latin was routine. Classics and often religious studies were also taught with the result that the more able students ‘graduated’ from secondary education at about 18 were more or less the modern equivalents of the graduates of Greek lukion which was the name of the comprehensive school run by the great Aristotle.
Hence the French term for its modern version, lycee. The lycee was represented in
Today’s education on the contrary works more like a desperate incubator to turn out modern proletariat fast to fill the pigeonholes of industrial jobs and to cut things short and prevent ‘waste’ calculators and computers are replacing trained and seasoned brains. In other words, the modern graduate is made a blind computer operator which spares the use of his brain which brain than remains almost an animal brain incapable of analysing complex situations without computers. This is the one aspect of the dumbing down. The other aspect is the patronizing simplification and technicalization of subjects; For example even English History is given very patchily with absolutely no effort to make the student proud with his or her heritage and more time is used to launch him or her on detective scenarios (like an archaeologist’s constructing a picture from bits of discovered artefacts) which should more properly belong to the university level. Not that thinking skills are unnecessary- but thinking in the absence of enough knowledge on a subject can be very misleading and also thinking on historical method alone can be no substitute for appreciating history and being inspired by its great moments.
THIS SPIRITUAL ASPECT IS PERSISTENTLY IGNORED AND DANGEROUSLY NEGLECTED. New citizens are following their computers in operational modes and are being dehumanised and computerized instead!
But this is not the case with the elites. Any survivors from nobility (like in England) as well as the rich and powerful classes do not send their children to public schools for a proletariat education but to private schools which retain almost all the merits of the classical education and add on them the full requirements of a computerized age. Then it is no wonder that most successful citizens like elected politicians, national media stars, highest earning writers and artists, upper echelons of multinational corporations etc. come from these elite classes which represent no more than 5 % of the population. Only truly exceptional geniuses from the lower classes can make to where the mediocre sons and daughters of the elites can land effortlessly and this represents a massive waste of talent which is a pity and shame.
Islam’s answer to all this non-sense and impudence is balance, moderation and equal chances for all.
To start with, the senses must only be moderately indulged and within a range of moral sanctions and social responsibilities all of which can best and more realistically dictated by the very best in man’s deeper heart- The Most Wise and Merciful God. Not political parties, not trade unions, not free-lancing writers and philosophers but inspired prophets and their sagacious and saintly interpreters among the public are seen as entitled to guide the rest. If they are additionally great writers, accomplished scientists and philosophers or trade union leaders so much the better. Not that this rest has no right to teach and inspire. They indeed do. But these rights are not wantonly and profanely implemented thanks to a amoral if not immoral education. Both the intellectual and spiritual elites of the Muslims and their respondents the whole community must be educated to consider each other with conscientious and pious objectivity and realism. In other words each Muslim has some inalienable egalitarian and democratic rights and cannot be talked down by anybody acting haughtily and dictatorially. This is so fundamental to Islam that not only we find the first khaliphs after the Prophet sws but the Prophet sws himself and EVEN ALLAH eager to hear and accommodate the views and feelings of the community. In the Book of Allah there are several examples of commandments being modified in response to popular reaction and the Prophet sws did even more in that direction. Which means in real Islam lines of communications are open between all levels of Being and mutual accommodation in full swing (We shall have verbal examples).
An Islamic education therefore is based on Godliness which by its own nature includes an egalitarian democratic ethos (with sensible qualifications of course) on the one hand and the training of all-rounders as the educational objective on the other. The Muslim citizen is supposed to be endowed not only with knowledge and skills enabling him to earn a decent living and leading a healthy life without wasting resources or destroying the environment but also all the piety and character traits enabling him to mix well with the rest and conduct himself charitably and endearingly towards all. Amen.