Let me say at the outset that education has single-handedly pushed humanity into a vicious cycle where we’re going round and round in circles that are stacked on top of each other. By this definition we should be high enough to watch even the Everest look alarmingly up as we merrily trot on our circular path. But no, the circle at a lower level fuses with the one that is on top of it and so even after thousands of years of existence we’re where we were.

‘But listen, isn’t education all about learning?’ asked a friend.

‘Sir, what do you intend to learn by going round and round the same cycle of life and death?’

This friend looked at me and then walked away murmuring, ‘He should have studied harder when he was in college.’ This friend didn’t stop at that but added, ‘…and you’ve spelled idiots wrongly. The word starts with an I.’

I said, ‘That’s right. Go ahead and claim it. The word is all yours. Ediots anyway is educated idiots. And I’ll prove this to you.’

Well, now that was a challenge and I decided to select a few statements made by a few great philosophers and thinkers… and see if what they said about education is correct or not.

‘Education is the movement from darkness to light.’ – Allan Bloom 

Now I can see a lot of you, my readers nodding their heads and saying, ‘Bloom is correct. Education helps us walk away from ignorance and be enlightened.’ That’s a whole sentence full of crap, you see. Let me tell you why. Have you seen a tiger ever go to school or college?

But then I’m sure that some tiger at some point of time must have heard something similar to what Allan Bloom said and then thought, ‘Ha! Now I know what makes humans superior! They step out from the darkness into the light.’ And saying this he must have confidently stepped out from the safety of his thicket and into the open only to get shot by a hunter. This is precisely why the animals that survive best have the best camouflage and prefer to remain in the darkness of life.

So what I’d go for are the virtues of remaining in the dark. Remain in the dark and live. Look at our newspapers… they’re forever pulling out secrets from their dark vaults and bringing them out in the glare. What does all this light do to us? It makes us all more miserable. If this is what being educated to going to do to me, I’d prefer to remain without it. And anyway, I don’t want to step out of my bushes of comfort and face a hunter’s bullet. I prefer to remain a tiger that lives.

‘You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.’ – Conrad Hall 

Come on, if playing second fiddle is what education is going to offer me, I am not going to accept it. Imagine remaining a student forever… but the question isn’t about my remaining a student. I’d like to know who the masters are?

Specky had reached home and was standing reading what I was writing. She said, ‘That’s simple. Masters are also students forever.’

I said, ‘And we’re all moving forwards always. Right? So if moving forward is the issue, why can’t I do it without an education?’

‘Education chalks out a path for you,’ she said with a triumphant smile.

‘Aha! Now I don’t paths. I like to walk alone and create paths. Therefore, I don’t need an education.’

‘You may keep going in circles,’ she tried to reason with me.

I showed her a globe and said, ‘I don’t know what you mean. You’re anyway going to go round. And I won’t ever walk on a path that I had created… I’ll just change my direction before that happens and go on discovering virgin ground.’

Look at God… he creates millions of living beings on our planet. He chooses a different path every time or we’d be miserable clones bumping into each other by this time. Just start doing things the way you want to do them and stop aping. Education, according to how Conrad puts it, is all about doing things as the master does. And I just don’t buy this.

‘Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.’ – John Dewey 

I’m sure you’ve never heard of the bird who loved to read books. This bird here loved hopping through the open windows of large libraries and read newspapers that fluttered on the reading stands or books that were left open by careless students. One day as this bird was immersed in a book that talked about life and death, a cat looked at her curiously from her perch. It was the job of this cat to go around and close books with a kick of her paw. The cat soft-padded down from her perch, came stealthily from behind and snapped the unwary bird in her jaws.

The bird was so deeply immersed in the debate in the book that it took her a few moments to realise what had happened. Then she whined, ‘Leave me dear cat. I’ll help you solve your problems for free all my life.’

The cat simply ate her, burped, and murmured, ‘I’ve just eaten an educated bird. Wow! Let me go out and brag!’

Now tell me, could education be life for that bird? If it cannot give a bird a life, what do you expect from it?

‘The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.’ – Plutarch

If Plutarch were alive today, he’d know the kind of dangerous stuff he had written. He would probably have rushed to Pinky Chauhan to convince her not to set herself on fire and to live. He may even have revised his statement to read: ‘Fill not your mind and kindle it not.’

Students all over the world are literally on fire… they’re all either demonstrating or organising strikes or getting immolated or just being radical and anti-establishment. Wonderful things… these are facets that change humanity and inspire us all to take life a few rungs up. But don’t even dare to relate all this with education because they happen only in places where schools and colleges are not doing what they were asked to do. Which is good. Which is why there is a bit of sanity left in humanity. So long as our schools and colleges refuse to educate us we will keep producing fiery thoughts that will revolutionise life. So we need education but we want it to play truant all the time. For our sake. For sake of humanity. For the sake of life.

‘Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.’ – Albert Einstein 

I love this quote because it simplifies my job. Go to a college or a school and the most common complaint is: ‘The course is too wide and there are just too many books prescribed. We hate the education system. Down with it!’ are they wrong? No, not at all. You see, even Einstein agrees that too many things to read is going to transform us into unthinking Dodos… so I’m not surprised to see them strutting up and down the corridors of power all the time.

Only Dodos think books make them powerful. They keep thinking all the time and look at what the UPA government did to our country… not a single wise decision made in years and we had all educated ones from the world’s best universities at the top. They were all trapped into the ‘lazy habits of thinking’ whereas what the country needed is people who will get things done. To prove my point I will allow you to compare the legal erudition of Kapil Sibal with the practical and intuitive approach of Smriti Irani. Now you tell me if education does anyone any good.

‘A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.’ – Theodore Roosevelt 

Roosevelt actually hit the nail on the head when he said what he said… and we all how the university crowd governing our country has gone ahead and got into the heart of the juiciest of scams. If it were not for our uncouth and loud-mouthed news anchors and the grammar-killing unpunctuated reporters, we’d have gone bankrupt by now.

The choice is obviously yours. Educated yourself and rob your own future generations or adopt a life that shuns this villainous thing called education.

‘Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.’ – Anthony J. D’Angelo

I agree that passion and growth go together. Look at foodies all over the world and you’ll know why our stores have begun stocking over-sized clothes. There are happy smiles connected to gorging delicacies and growth is simply a by-product. What plays a spoiler in this happy party is learning. The more you learn about junk food and cholesterols and arterial plaques, the more misery you will gift yourself.

So Anthony J D’Angelo was right only for the part where he connected passion and growth, and the moment he brought learning into it, he simply did the unforgivable. He allowed education to come in and massacre the fun out of passion and growth.

Now it is up to you. Choose passion and growth or go ahead and start learning and getting educated. The latter will get you only lettuce leaves and some boiled veggies for your meals. And if you want your life to remain spiced and full of the bubbly energy of tasty morsels, forget education.

‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ – Nelson Mandela 

Let me put it this way: Do you want to be a rat in the open gutter or a mouse in the lab? The mouse in the lab slogs and learns all the time and gets fed feta cheese and bits of left-over burgers and thinks he is happy. After all what are a few injections that prick you only for a few seconds and no more? The men in white coats are ever so friendly and even throw in cream biscuits once in a while.

Now peep into the life of a gutter rat. His life is the life of the main protagonist in a thriller… danger lurks everywhere and he needs to discover life with every step. He fights for food. He intuitively knows where he would meet the best female rat. His moments pulsate with the organic music of raw life. Every evening he looks at the setting sun and thanks the Lord… and every morning he is up with the proverbial lark and excitement just tumbles in. There are no men in white coats offering him cream biscuits in exchange for a prick in the bum… on the contrary he has learned to scare them away with the most villainous snarl. He is an artiste of par excellence.

The rat in the gutter creates his own world as he wants it to be… whereas the mouse in lab has got himself into a world of education where he is learning tricks that no one in the mouse world knows or cares about. The mouse in the lab is indeed a vehicle that may change a few things in the world… but most of them die without even knowing what they lived for. The gutter rat cannot even spell education but knows all there is to know about the world and lives his life because he battles for it. So my dear Nelson Mandela ji, I hope you were thinking of the kind of education that I am talking about. The sort of lessons that one learns by counting the scars after each battle…

‘Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.’ – Martin Luther King Jr. 

Well, of course it is. But then who will define what true education is all about? It is, I believe, what a marooned man imbibes from the way animals behave and the way plants grow. He knows then what the effect of the full moon will be on the tides and how it might change the shoreline. He knows when it is time to pick a fruit and which mushrooms are not the sort anyone ever eats. He watches the animals and fishes hunt for all that is palatable and derives his lessons. He learns from observation.

Someone has rightly said that it is better to learn all that they don’t teach you at schools, colleges, and universities. Now if that is how you want to define education, I’m all for it.

An empty mind or an open mind

Education is what I adopt when I unlearn all that the books wanted and tried to stuff into me. After all, if I want to write about Spain, the best thing is to travel and go there and live with them. You know more about Sangria and Gaudi’s idiosyncratic architecture, Catalonian culture and how it is very different from anything that is Spanish… but only when you go there. Reading about all this in an online post written by another tourist may give you only a fraction of the whole truth as it matters to you. We all tend to interpret everything our own way and our mind sees the truth the way it wishes to see… these aspects are quite different for each of us and so when you come face to face with an experience it is by far better to have an open mind that isn’t cluttered with third party factoids. To that extent, an empty mind adds value to an open mind. Education has no role in this kind of learning.


Indispire Edition 34… on Indiblogger

Indispire Edition 34_education_October 2014

Indispire Edition 34_education_October 2014



Arvind Passey
13 October 2014