The Need for a Moral Education | Kunal Agrawal
Human beings treat each other differently either because of how Mother Nature made us or because of the society we live in. The differences attributable to Mother Nature are gender, skin colour, height, physical build, and other physical features, whereas the differences attributable to society are far more complex, including citizenship, region, religion, caste, sub-caste, language spoken, and other man-made classifications.
While some of the differences attributable to Mother Nature serve purpose, like having different size clothes for the various physical build, the differences attributable to the society can either categorize its people or unnecessarily divide them.
The latter, man-made categorizations, may have had some historical basis and some purpose, such as allocation of work depending on one’s aptitude or talent. However, some of them are interpreted in a manner, which leads to fragmentation, exacerbating the differences among the people and adversely impacting the society.
The adverse impacts of fragmentation, such as caste-based discrimination, is varied (violence, etc.) and it has been inflicting the human beings for centuries. History books are rife with stories of unjust forms discrimination, but also of civil movements and wars against such discrimination.
While we have made a lot of progress over time, there are still problems we face. The caste-based discrimination in India, for example, is proof that we still have more work to do. A simple search on the Internet will yield a lot of results on how to tackle the problem of discrimination but very few will discuss about how to end it completely. It is like treating the symptoms of the disease vs. curing the disease.
While coming up with laws to punish acts of discrimination or extending special benefits to the oppressed people do serve short term purpose, but in the long run, they have not been able to cure the disease. If we want to cure this problem, we must look at its origin. By origin, I don’t mean the historical origin but the origin of the problem in the minds of the people. This is because, this problem is not innate in their minds, and nobody is born with the mind filled with discrimination, prejudice, or violence against others. People start discriminating because of what they observe or learn from others in the society. Hence, to solve this problem, we need to educate every community about equality. We must keep reminding all that each one is born equal.
Everybody knows that we all have a human body and have the same blood flowing in our veins. Nature has not made us different in this aspect. But what we end up doing, is finding differences among ourselves, and forming rigid systems like castes, etc. The idea is not to abolish these groups, but to educate its people to look at the innate equality among humans and start treating each other alike and respect each other.
While it may seem impractical to educate grownups or adults, it is worth giving a shot. Even if the adults are not educated, it can very well be done with children, who are the upcoming generation, because their minds are like an empty book yet to be written. If we inculcate the ideas of fairness, meritocracy, and equality from the tender age of say, 5-7 years and, to extend common decency and respect to all, regardless of differentiating factors, then we can create the base for a truly better world. Such teachings must be repeated regularly, at short intervals and merely telling them to treat others as equals is not going to help, for this has been going on in schools for decades and forgotten.
Depending on their age, children are also required to be explained about the problems caused by such aforementioned injustice and its impact on the society, so that they can appreciate the purpose of their teaching and understand it in the right perspective. A detailed year by year, value-based course must be developed, taking into consideration the development of the mind of a child, as he/she grow over the years. The teachers too must be trained for teaching such courses in schools. Such a course will not be time consuming if incorporated into the syllabus and will not disturb the teaching schedule.
When I mention about a value-based education to be imparted at a young age, what we need to work towards, is creating responsible humans, who are not merely focused on their personal or individual wellbeing and growth but that of all, where they are taught to think beyond themselves and not simply have a self-centric or a selfish outlook. Raising selfish individuals means focusing on one’s own development, which may even be at the cost of jeopardizing others’ interests, eventually leading to unrest and further to agitation and violence, thus resulting in disharmony in the society.
It is the younger generation and the youth that will go on to be the lawmakers and administrators, who will in time to come, run various industries and be big decision makers, influencers, etc. and if the children, who have a strong foundation of values of oneness amongst them, take the lead, the world will surely be a better place to live in.
We need to realize that we are where we are, at least for the most part, because of what we were taught, good or bad. Hence, if we want the world to be a better place, it must start with education; our only non-violent means of raising rational and responsible humans that can benefit mankind.
If such a course is taught continuously for years, without the option of opting out of it, then within a couple of decades, we should be living in a world with far less injustice. As this education is going to be a continuous process, it will have to continue for generations, to make sure that we don’t end up in the same situation once again.