Many of the ills plaguing the world—oppressive dictatorships, state-sponsored terrorism and corrupt politicians—can all be traced to oppression, suppression and denial originating from the modern educational system which has failed to create healthy minds
“A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us”: Ralph Waldo Emerson
Education, higher or lower, should have the prime goal of creating healthy minds in society in addition, of course, to making comfortable careers. Unfortunately, today the sole aim of our present education system seems to be to make careers, the higher the pay the better. Smart people might not be educated in that sense but they are smarter all the same. Rabindranath Tagore, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, and Dhirubhai Ambani were smart—but were not the products of this kind of miseducation! Parents, teachers, “educationists”, (so-called because they own educational institutions) educational administrators, as also the governments of the day, along with the brainwashed children today, want education only to make better careers. In the knowledge society of today nobody thinks. Thinking seems to be a distinct disadvantage in the present set-up! This looks good on the face of it but, in the long run, this could prove to be a dangerous game.
There is a new malady, born in the west, against which Europeans have already woken up to fight. That disease is called “Wall Street Greed.” That name does not tell the whole story. The “Wall Street Greed” might have effectively destroyed the American economy lately, thanks to Lehman Brothers and their ilk. What has gone unnoticed, though, is the larger universal effect of corporate greed in general which has spread its tentacles to all areas of human existence. It has invaded the sacred temples of education, science, research, governance, judiciary, the medical care establishment, the media and all other spheres of day-to-day existence. Poverty being the mother of all illnesses, the poor in the world today pay for their poverty with their lives, thanks to this corporate greed. The latter was born out of the philosophy of Bernard Mandeville, who was Adam Smith’s teacher in some sense. Mandeville proclaimed that “in corporate philosophy what matters is only profit, irrespective of consequences.” (Italics mine).
Mandeville goes on to show in his Fable of the bees that a society possessed of all the virtues (blessed with content and honesty) falling into apathy and utter paralysis. “The absence of self-love is the death of progress. The so-called higher virtues are mere hypocrisy, and arise from the selfish desire to be superior to the brutes. The moral virtues are the political offspring which flattery begot upon pride.” Similarly he arrives at the great paradox that “private vices are public benefits”. Among other things, Mandeville argues that the basest and vilest behaviours produce positive economic effects. “A libertine, for example, is a vicious character, and yet his spending will employ tailors, servants, perfumers, cooks, prostitutes. These persons, in turn, will employ bakers, carpenters, and the like. Therefore, the rapaciousness and violence of the base passions of the libertine benefit society in general.” Although Mandeville was unpopular in his time for his views, today’s corporate world seems to be venerating him with one difference though. Today’s private vice does not translate into public good, which was the essence of Mandeville’s teaching.
The noble professions of medicine, law and scientific enquiry have ceased to be what they ought to be. The medical profession of the early 20th century in London was assessed to be a bunch of “incompetent, corrupt and nepotistic” humans who resembled a stinking pus-filled abscess on society, wrote a young MP and a physician, Thomas Wakeley in 1823. To set it right and let out that bad pus, he started a medical science journal with the name of the surgical instrument to drain pus-The Lancet. The journal has had a chequered career of nearly 190 years to date. Around the same time another great brain, a dramatist, Sir George Bernard Shaw, wrote a satirical drama, The Doctors’ Dilemma, which forced the star performers of the day, like Sir Arbuthnot Lane, out of business! Surprisingly, if one were to replace those star performers of London of 1823 by today’s star performers anywhere in the world including India, the drama would get greater kudos.
A recent audit by a medical journalist/historian has thrown up more surprising data. Hillary Butler, writing in the famous British Medical Journal, feels that the “nepotistic, incompetent, corrupt” bunch of 1823 has been replaced by a “Corporate Monstrosity,” today which would cut any Wakeley at his knees! Many, if not all, ills of society today could be traced to the faulty educational philosophy followed by the globalisation concept of the post-Second World War world. Terrorism, wars around the globe, white collar crime, irrational consumerism, disease mongering, drug peddling of both legal and illegal drugs, rampant fraud in research, intellectual terrorism, corruption in all the watchdog bodies ranging from the World Bank, IMF, WHO to national watchdog bodies, dangerous dictatorships, state-sponsored terrorism and corrupt politicians could all be traced to oppression, suppression and denial originating from the educational system failing to make healthy minds (health defined as “enthusiasm to work and enthusiasm to be compassionate”) as their main motto!
With the advent of the Cold War era, western education, even in the UK was slowly tilting towards the US model. Been to America (BTA) was considered an additional qualification for all top posts in the UK. Colonial countries in Asia and Africa, naturally, followed suit. Even India, despite our hoary excellent educational base which had attracted the best European brains in the past, was bending over backwards to fall in line with the American thinking in this area. The eastern block led by USSR followed a different path but, many great brains there were behind bars anyway in the pre-Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika period!
With the fall of the Berlin wall and the advent of the new economic liberalisation era in India after 1991, there has been a renewed emphasis in following the US model here. With European and American Universities starving for rich paying students, especially after the 9/11 tragedy which brought in a drastic fall in rich west Asian students gravitating to US and Europe for higher education, all those countries focused their attention on India to supply their needs what with the demographic predictions throwing up the possibilities of more of the 700-800 million young men and women looking for higher education in India in the next four to five decades. With a concurrent fall in the numbers of the younger generation in the west, the rush has become acute. Australia, USA, UK and European countries are selling their education like they sell their silicon chips! With the advent of the new era of young peoples’ exchange, thanks to the multitude of newer sweat-shops and body-shopping establishments in India, there is renewed awakening in the minds of young Indians about the hassle-free life in the west!
While there are both good and bad things in any system, especially the educational system, the time has come for us take stock of those fallouts, as our government is too keen to keep our doors wide open for foreign universities to step in and reap the harvest. The simplistic argument is that India will not be in a position to offer (free) higher education to all the needy in the future. Even private-public partnerships, much touted, seem to have run into roadblocks already. Some heads in the government are biased against home-baked education and feel that a foreign brand is better. In this cacophony the worst sufferer is Indian primary education. Unless and until we set that right, our higher education, built on that faulty foundation, could collapse any day. The “PROBE” report on primary education in India, commissioned by the GOI in 1997, shows that our primary education is in a real mess. I strongly feel that primary education of quality is the one that lays the foundation for making healthy minds, which is the essence of all education.
Taxpayers’ money should be fruitfully utilised to make primary (elementary, middle and high school) education not just compulsory and free but also effective and fruitful. Higher education should be paid for by the recipient, rich pay for it, meritorious get scholarships, and the poor get interest-free loans from a newly created Educational Development Bank. License and permit raj must end giving place to “quality” controlling the standards of institutions. It should be a buyers’ market and not sellers market as of now where quality is given a go-by.
Inclusive education for a country like India:
India is a very rich country with the largest world population of the poorest of the poor existing along with the superrich; the former are, of course, in a large majority. Nearly 67 million children in India have a peculiar disease, Nutritional Immune Deficiency Syndrome, (NIDS) which is deadlier than AIDS. While the whole world population of AIDS is just about 33 million about which there seems to be so much interest among the public and the medical profession, NIDS is not even mentioned in textbooks in medical school! Those children die in hundreds daily. The question of their going to school does not arise. Even if they did they would not be able to go any further as they have inherited a small hippocampus major, the part of the brain vital for memory, recall, creativity and learning. The reason for that defect is again poverty in their mothers when they were pregnant. Since the first trimester of pregnancy is when all the human organs are formed in the foetus inside the womb, if the mother suffers from malnutrition, organs are poorly made and they produce permanent damage in the offspring later. If we want inclusive education in India we have to tackle poverty at a war footing. Nutritional midday meals for pregnant mothers are a must—much more important than midday meals for children!
A business called education:
That will also put an end to this pernicious belief among greedy industrial honchos that education is a multibillion dollar industry which they think they can grab and make profits along with social respectability! Their unhealthy mind is the fruit of our present higher education they received both in India and abroad, especially our new breed of business managers who are the ardent followers of Mandeville. Even in the National Health System (NHS) of the UK, the hospital managers seem to have damaged the system so badly that the powers-that-be are having second thoughts about new NHS reforms. Teaching business management in isolation without teaching social philosophy, social conscience, moral responsibility and business humanism will bring forth a set of unscrupulous greedy sharks who would market unethical business tricks of the trade. While it is true that education is a mind-sharpening business, it is definitely not a money-spinning business.
Downside of elite education:
Let us look at the downside of elite education. I can never do better than this young sharp brain of an associate professor of English at Yale, William Dereswiecz, in his classical paper, Disadvantages of Elite Education in the journal, American Scholar. He is the victim of such education himself right from day one in elite private schools through two decades in Harvard and Yale and many other Ivy League institutions. William was not talking of the usual “curricula or the culture wars, the closing or opening of the American mind, political correctness, canon formation, or what have you.” He was talking about the “unspoken and unsaid things in normal educational parlance such as the private and affluent public ‘feeder’ schools”, the ever-growing para-structure of tutors and test-prep courses and enrichment programs, the whole admissions frenzy and everything that leads up to and away from it. Before, after, and around the elite college classroom, a constellation of values is ceaselessly inculcated. As globalisation sharpens economic insecurity, we are increasingly committing ourselves—as students, as parents, as a society—to a vast apparatus of educational advantage. With so many resources devoted to the business of elite academics and so many people scrambling for the limited space at the top of the ladder, it is worth asking what exactly it is you get in the end—what it is we all get, because the elite students of today, as their institutions never tire of reminding them, are the leaders of tomorrow.”
The glaring disadvantages of elite education are that it removes one from the stark reality of life in this world. The student does not have touch with the most important problem of life—poverty. Students from such schools are uncomfortable in the company of the poor and people coming from ‘non-elite’ schools. The former are fed that they are the best and those institutions especially the Ivy League try and see that their students get the A grade all the time. If one were to audit the average grading, GPA used to be around 2.6 in most institutions. Now most government institutions in the USA have an average of 3 and private ones of 3.6! If a student in a State college gets A grade it is true “A” as s/he has no avenues to make it to A otherwise at any rate, as happens in Ivy League where As could be manipulated. Elite schools create an atmosphere where greed gets generated in the student’s mind. Students are reminded that they are the best and they are the leaders of the future. Many of these leaders are not in touch with reality. One example he quotes are Al Gore and John Kerry from Harvard and Yale. Both are smart, intelligent, and successful but have been miserable failures with the electorate. I can quote the innate electoral wisdom of people like George Bush in the USA or Lallu Prasad Yadav in India, neither of them is from Ivy League.
In life also we try and give A grade to some people in preference to others. One example is the fat pay packets that the top managers of some private companies get. In the industry they are “A” graders. If one had a trained healthy mind during his/her education he/she would have realised that it is unethical, even downright sinful, to receive a pay packet which is more than hundred thousand times the pay of the lowest-paid employee of the same organisation. Both are born alike and both will die alike. The only difference is the different opportunities they had in their early educational career—one coming from the Ivy League where he got in because of what William describes above, in addition to his affluence in society. This gap between the haves and the have-nots that has been growing wider by the day, thanks to unhealthy educational system, is at the root of many social ills—noblesse oblige (nobility obliges).
We have had the IITs created by the brains of an American University Consortium which has helped create a new class of Indians who pride themselves to be superior to others vis-à-vis their pay packets at campus selection lists. It is a shame that even the institutions pride themselves by advertising the offer of pay packets for their alumni as synonymous with the quality of education that they impart. I would be happy to know in which field IITs have taken knowledge forward in India during their existence. “Knowledge advances not by repeating known facts, but by refuting false dogmas.” With that definition of Karl Popper the only research which is worth its salt is refutative research. I know of no such work being done by our IITs which could set the River Ganges on fire.
There was a time, a couple of decades ago; when universities thought that they would be better off getting themselves tagged on to some industry for mutual benefit and for better funding of research etc. Within a very short span of time such arranged marriages ran into rough weather. It was soon realized that corporate greed started manipulating research activities to such an extent that genuine research flew out of university widows! In the UK many such marriages have ended in agreed divorce without alimony payments, though! The grip of the vested interests on science research is still worrying. They manipulate textbook writing to research grant distribution and research publications in “leading” journals and soup up data to suit their business even today! This is worrying—to say the least.
In conclusion, one could take the best of both the worlds and make a new system that incorporates the positives, bereft of the disadvantages of either for future education in India. Foreign universities will, of course, be most welcome as they would give a tough competition to our universities to come up to survive in the midst of such healthy competition. But we must not forget that universities exist only to make healthy minds. Careers are secondary in university education. Career based vocational education at the end of good primary education at High School level must be encouraged to lessen the unnecessary burden on universities. It is necessary to emphasise that education is not a money-spinning business lest all our efforts to give our country a new ethical “healthy mind making” educational system to prepare our youth to be healthy world citizens of tomorrow, should go down the drain as happened in the past.
“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”
(The author has MD, FRCP, FRCPE, FRCPG, FRCPI, FACC, FAMS qualifications. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2010. He is Editor-in-Chief, The Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes; Chairman, State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt. of Bihar, Patna; Former Prof. of Cardiology, The Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London; Affiliate Prof. of Human Health, Northern Colorado University and Retd Vice Chancellor, Manipal University. His website is www.bmhegde.com).
Industry body says ‘self-regulation’ is not sufficient. After the RTI Act has been used to improve transparency and functioning of government entities, attention turns towards the media for amendment to bring these TV channels under the ambit of the Act
Media and Entertainment Council of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) has proposed that ‘aggressive’ news channels must be brought under a public body and made accountable under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
A press release says, “It is desirable to introduce appropriate checks and balances so that freedom and democracy are given real meanings and not misused. The way forward is co-regulation—rather than self-regulation—backed by a well-defined law.” Secretary general DS Rawat said, “Self-regulation is the norm that has high values and noble objectives. But in the context of modern-day broadcasting where we witness coming up of many regional and national channels, self-regulation may not be sufficient.”
Terming the provisions in programming and advertising codes under the Cable Act and News Broadcasters Association’s code of ethics as ‘insufficient and incomprehensive’, Mr Rawat has urged for “more clarity through elaborate stakeholder consultations.” ASSOCHAM also says that the proposed legislative framework does not recognise the existing reality of social media as means of broadcasting; which must be taken in consideration.
“The need of the hour requires an independent regulatory authority providing guidelines so that a broadcaster is restrained from actions leading to any disaster. The Content Code and Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill does not cover legal interests of consumers. Privacy rights and protection of relevant stakeholders have also not been given appropriate attention,” said Mr Rawat.
The Content Code and Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill, 2006, has been widely criticised as a draconian measure, and for excluding public consultation on the process. Many attempts have been made to attempt to amend it and increase regulations on media content, but they have been met with severe public backlash.
Reportedly, Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister Ambika Soni is under consistent and heavy pressure to conciliate or control 'disobedient' television news channels; which according to the UPA government, is responsible for the ongoing national crisis.
Currently the Indian television industry has over 600 channels (about 150 of them news-based) and is estimated to clock revenues of Rs32,000 crore by the year-end with 14% growth over 2010.
Apex exporters body Federation of Indian Export Organisation said the country’s shipments to new markets in Africa, Latin America and Asia are on the rise, which has helped India maintain the export growth momentum
New Delhi: India’s exports grew by 36.3% on an annual basis to $24.8 billion in September 2011, demonstrating impressive year-on-year expansion despite a slowdown in the US and Europe, reports PTI.
In September 2010, the country’s outbound shipments were valued at $18.2 billion.
India’s imports also registered growth in September, rising by 17.2% in comparison to the corresponding period of the previous year to $34.5 billion, leaving a trade deficit of $9.7 billion, the commerce ministry today said.
Though down from the 44.2% growth rate recorded in August, the rise in exports in September can be considered robust, given the economic woes in the US and the debt crisis in Europe. The US and Europe are the two biggest markets for Indian merchandise, accounting for about 30% of total shipments.
Commerce secretary Rahul Khullar has said that total exports in the current fiscal may reach $290-$300 billion.
During the April-September period, India’s exports grew by 52% to $160 billion from $105.2 billion in the same period last year.
During the first half of this fiscal, the sectors that registered healthy growth include engineering (103%), petroleum and oil lubricants (PoL) (53%), gems and jewellery (23%), ready-made garments (32%), marine products (48%) and drugs (33%).
Apex exporters body Federation of Indian Export Organisation (FIEO) said the country’s shipments to new markets in Africa, Latin America and Asia are on the rise, which has helped India maintain the export growth momentum.
“We are getting good orders from the new markets,” Kush Suri, a leading dry fruit exporter said.
During April-September 2011, India’s imports expanded by 32.4% to $233.5 billion. The trade gap stood at $73.4 billion for the half-year.
Oil imports grew by 14.62% to $9.2 billion in September, while non-oil imports rose by 18.17% to $25.3 billion during the month.
During the first half of this fiscal, oil imports grew by 42.39% to $70.34 billion from $49.4 billion in the year-ago period.
Non-oil imports were valued at $163.1 billion, an increase of 28.52% from $126.95 billion in April-September 2010-11.