Friday, December 25, 2009

Three Stories to make One point

In this post I want to emphasize that values can be rooted in children, not by giving them sermons on morality, but by setting good examples of conduct.

Butch O'Hare was one of the World War II hero . He was a fighter pilot deputized on an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific. One day while returning to the mother ship from flying sortie he saw a squadron of Japanese Zeroes speeding their way toward the American fleet. The American fighters were gone on a mission and the fleet was all defenseless. He had to somehow divert Japanese fighters from reaching the defenseless American ship. Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes and entered into air fight, firing at as many planes as possible until finally all his ammunition was spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the Zeroes, trying to at least clip off a wing or tail, in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly. He was desperate to do anything he could to keep them from reaching the American ships. Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron moved off in another direction. Deeply relieved, Butch O'Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier. The film from the camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch's daring attempt to protect his fleet. He was recognized as a hero and given one of the America’s highest military honors. And today, O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this brave man.

Now, let me share  another story with you.

There was a man in Chicago called Easy Eddie. At that time, Al Capone a mafia virtually owned the city. Capone wasn't famous for anything heroic. Easy Eddie was Capone's lawyer. He was very good in his profession of legal maneuvering and that kept Big Al out of jail for a long time. Capone paid Eddie very well and gave him a huge fenced mansion with all of the conveniences of the day. Eddie lived the high life and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him.
Eddy did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddy saw to it that his young son had the best of everything; clothes, cars, and a good education. Nothing was withheld, as price was no object. Despite his indirect involvement with organized crime, Eddie tried to teach his son right from wrong and to rise above his own sordid life. He wanted him to be a better man than he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things that Eddie couldn't give his son. Two things that Eddie sacrificed to the Capone mafia mob that he could not pass on to his beloved son , one a good name and second  a good example.
One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Offering his son a good name was far more important than all the riches he could lavish on him. He decided to rectify all the wrong that he had done by testifying against the mafia. He knew that the cost would be great but he desperately wanted to clean up his tarnished name and offer his son some semblance of integrity. He wanted to be an example to his son to give him a good name. Within the year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago street. He had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer at the greatest price he would ever pay.

Now you must be thinking, what do these two stories have to do with one another?

Well, you see, Butch O'Hare was Easy Eddie's son.

I was reading an article written on Sunita Williams and I was deeply impressed by the way her father Dr. Deepak Pandya transferred the true Indian values in his children. Children learn by examples .The deeds and conduct of parents and teachers leave an everlasting impression on a child’s mind.
Our present day culture is one of overabundance. It is a challenging task to teach children to be content and composed when parents themselves are running a race of “instant gratification" and yearning for more, more and more. The root problem is many parents in compensation for their time, believe in giving more materialistic things and many teachers believe that they have done enough if they have put in lot of information. Let us accept that, by suffering comes wisdom, let these young minds be brought to the helm of questions and let them experience and find the answers for themselves. Give them time and informed guidance rather than making everything so simple for them. Another story to express the point .
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further.
So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.
Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.
What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon. Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us.We would not be as strong as what we could have been. We could never fly!

I can’t think of more appropriate words than those of Ralph Tyler Flewelling who said “Some values are... like sugar on the doughnut, legitimate, desirable, but insufficient, apart from the doughnut itself. We need substance as well as frosting."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Educate for sensitivity besides knowledge

Introduction: In this post I have tried to elaborate that knowledge has little value if it does not teach us sensitivity towards fellow human, environment and emotions of other people. Besides, I am advocating that the aim of education should be to initiate thought and encourage curiosity rather than just providing answers .

What is education? In technical sense, Wikipedia defines it as the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills and values from one generation to another. To me, in a broader sense it means, harmonious development of   physical, mental, moral , and social dimensions associated with life and  educating someone else symbolizes an effort to create  the desire in another human being to be a whole and meaningful person  .

The aim of Education is to develop a love for learning that remains throughout a lifetime . Sadly, the word education is now limited to academic and technical development that is orientated  to train a human to get a job with fat salary. The result and destination  has come to mean so much, that  in journey,  we fail to learn how to process the accumulated knowledge .Education fails to  teach us how to make use of acquired knowledge creatively to become a better human and better citizen. It fails to teach us how to react rationally and how to accept things on the basis of reason . It has led to formations of opinion that are not based on thoughts. How correct was Charlote Bronte who wrote “Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among rocks. What dominates in contrast today is  theory, which  declares that “everything from the neck down is minimum wage. Therefore, we have to develop everything from the neck up”.

A casual observation, of the manner in which, an average youth of country talks, drives and reacts is enough to let one know that education has failed us in every possible sense. An observant look at the manner in which primary class children and in contrast senior class children, proceed to their classes after school assembly might tell you , what I mean.

But, The aim of this post is not to elaborate about the state we are in .The issue is what do we do to better this situation ? We , specially the educators and parents have to be self critical in analyzing why the things are the way they are ? In words of Carl Jung : "If there is anything we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves." As a teacher and  parent  I have a few ideas that I would like to share.

1.More than words it is the meaning that matters: Let us not limit the ambit of subject ,what I mean can be better explained with example , while teaching concept of circular motion and deriving the formula for banking of roads one can very easily show that why taking a fast or a sharp turn is dangerous and a small talk on importance on adhering to traffic rules for safety of self and others can always be done without disturbing the rhythm. A lecture on thermodynamics can well be merged with global warming and ecology . let us accept that a student these days is not prepared for sermons we should learn to  combine sense with the rhetoric
2.Be a benign dictator :  I may sound old fashioned but I think the children are too young to decide about what is good or bad for them. As a parent it is a responsibility to teach our children  the acceptable code of conduct in a civilized society . A school of thought advocates becoming friends with your offspring and students but I think one should be friendly without becoming friends. One has to draw the line and firmly come down on whatever is not acceptable.It is appalling to see teachers promoting and accepting mediocrity to be popular with naive minds .It is assertion, not aggression or submission that holds the key, an authoritative teacher cannot connect with students and a submissive teacher, it seems, is always trying to win some  popularity contest.
3.Nurture your children: every baby that comes into this world is like an angel, pure and innocent .It is the responsibility of every parent to preserve that innocence in the child. A responsible parent has to know the difference between pampering and loving.The thing a child deserve most is your quality time.  Home is the first school of every child and  mother the first teacher. Influence of parents and their acts leave ever lasting impressions on minds of children .all of us know about famous scientist Thomas Edison who gave us electric bulb and phonograph was categorized as dumb and was rejected by school . It was the commitment of her mother who refused to accept this judgment and taught him at home.On the other hand a mother to obsessed with drugs and violence gave the world a most pathetic serial killer named Henry Lee Lucas. I think the last statement of serial killer Tedd Bundy before the firing squad says it all “Killers like me are no different from  your children and  your husbands , you continue to spoil their childhood and you will continue preparing killers like me.”
4. Encourage expression : In my classes I generally ask students to tell me their understanding of what is taught to them, from layman’s point of view. How will they explain the taught concept to a person who has no knowledge of physics in five simple lines .This is to make sure they understand the meaning rather than  just going through the rituals of manipulating the symbols to derive the formula. I firmly believe that it is the thought that separates a human from a trained animal and there is a drastic need to to encourage that. It is so disappointing  that there are hardly any contributors whenever a significant topic is taken for discussion  on internet forums and radio .One should learn to show feelings because suppressing them is like suppressing truth. Martin Luther King so rightly said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. This leitmotif  “Nothing is going to change” in young minds is so wrong.  The fact is things change and they change drastically when minds and hands revolt.
5. Bring the human angle to education: Education for what ? This world does not need more "successful"  people .What it needs are more 'sensitive" people who also believe in putting their  thoughts into action in their own small ways.   What world desperately needs are more peacemakers,  poets, painters ,teachers and lovers of humanity  . It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane and , these needs have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.

These are just a few things that I could  think of I would appreciate if you, the enlighten reader, can educate me a bit more on this.


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