Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Can Education Lead to Moral and Ethical Decay?

Javaid examines the dilemma facing the contemporary society in Kashmir

(Professor Javaid Iqbal Bhat, 30, was born in Anantnag. He completed his Bachelor's degree from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar, and his M.A. and M. Phil. from the Centre for English Studies in the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was nominated for the President of India Gold Medal for the highest Final Grade Point Average (FGPA) in the Masters Programme, and got Distinction for his M. Phil. dissertation on Salman Rushdie's "Shalimar the Clown." He currently teaches as a permanent faculty in the Post Graduate Department of English at the South Campus of the University of Kashmir.)

Ethics and Education

Kashmir is sitting on the cusp of acceptance in the field of education. The map has already been drawn out, our region and population was missing. Not long back acceptance was rarely heard, and cusp-what is that? The only way neurons connected to literacy and education were awakened was when in the Morning Assemblies of schools question was tossed; which state of India has the highest literacy rate?

The answer Kerala was preceded by a stupid self demeaning giggle and followed by, how much? And hundred percent alerted both ears of the shocked listeners. Hundred percent?! Interiorly the voices knocking hard were; how much then is the literacy rate here? And why that much only? The search for answers naturally induced a sweet sleep as the passage was made through the ‘musical notes’ of the conflict, and a host of other (usual) excuses. (By the way ten cheers for one who said we live in a paradise of excuses. Excusistan, he might have said with a bit of hint.)

Finally, though the acceptance and recognition is near. The clouds are receding, and light has come to shine on the roofs of schools. From a flimsy percentage hovering in the region between thirty and forty, the rate of literacy has nearly doubled. Earlier the “literate” label was more or less limited to the landed, clerical gentry and their blue eyed wards. With the redistribution of land and the widespread diffusion of scriptures, the label too saw a vertical and horizontal expansion across class and caste divides. No less significant role in this regard was performed by the missionary schools, and the diverse school networks functioning under various persuasions. That is why the percentage of literates has risen sharply to around sixty five percent. As per the National Sample Survey the figure for 2008 and 2009 might be far higher than above. Something around seventy five percent. This is also because “93 percent of the population of Jammu and Kashmir has access to a school within the range of one kilometer,” as per the Director of School Education.

Broadly, the sweeping shift from a half hearted movement towards the institutes which return the members of a community with the “literate” tag to a full blooded embrace of the institutional framework should be linked with the spirit of liberalization.(Also in that is hidden the story of the degraded teacher, and his profession. Money entered in a big way after the onset of liberalization. He saw himself bound by compulsions of alary as a next door clerk hoarded sackfuls.) That unleashed the freedom of choice with the help of a market that knew few rules other than its own. Nevertheless the acceptance border has been breached. The state can proudly count herself as one of the frontline states in the sector of education. The density of English medium schools is more than most of the other states of India. Fine to this extent. But has this bourgeoning rise been consistent with the growth of ethical component? In other words does Kashmir sit on the cusp of ethical acceptance?

Why am I asking this question? Remember, to begin with, the use here is being made of ethics and not morality. For morality is specific, ethics is inclined towards ‘general’. Morality is particular; ethics is oriented towards the abstract. Morality is exclusive while as ethics is inclusive. Hence ethics and not the rigid, fixed morality. This ‘common minimum’ constituting the ethics has always found a good company with education. From Plato’s idealistic romance to our own age education has chosen to sit close to the appeal of ethics. Even the Latin origin of education i.e. educare means “to guide”, “to train.” This is especially so in our society where the ethical demand on education has never ceased to grow weak. Remove ethics and education becomes the sum total of isolated, disjointed mechanical acts. The blood is squeezed out and nerves throb with air. That is precisely the case in the paradigm of our huge leap in the field of education. More the number of schools even more is the deschooling with reference to the fundamental ethics. Crime far from being the exception is the norm. Crookedness is the reigning currency in the officialdom. Education is now another name for assimilating the skills of mean short cuts. Of ruining the system from within. How fast you can turn the tables (leave alone the technique used. Those questions pester the illiterates!) and earn the pearls of glory and reputation to be subsequently flaunted before the family, friends and relatives, and of course the “losers” and unlettered wayfarers, is the gripping preoccupation. That makes so many ask whether illiteracy and uneducatedness was not far pleasing than the stinking cesspool of education? To what avail is education when it cannot impart bare minimum of good behavior? Less aware one is, lesser still is the chance of refined manipulation of the system. This is not a futile intervention, given the deep ethical decomposition surrounding us from all sides. If the encirclement of pessimism is stopped there, then there is a reason to ask why the ethical dimension is so narrow as to evoke plain rejection of the pattern of education.

The thing is that ethics does not work on spontaneous principles. It needs to be activated, operated and implemented. Similarly education on her side cannot work independently to improve the ethical content of the society. The connecting element between the two is the due process of law. Such a due process of law in line with the core infrastructure of education and the commonly shared ethical framework can lend meaning and purpose to words like order and discipline. When freed from the “burden” of punishment arising from the rule of law, ethics and education are subjected to individual interpretations. Fracturing the trinity of Law, Ethics and Education into mutually exclusive spheres is a sure way leading inside the realm of anxiety and confusion.

So the point is clear. Education is a gift, not a guarantee. It is a parcel holding the promise of a good future but not a prize that should carry away the mind into cartwheels of giddy pomp and show. It is not an automatic ticket leading to the affirmation and consolidation of basic ethical principles. It has to coalesce with other areas to deliver in a meaningful manner. It is no good having seventy percent literacy and thirty percent order and discipline (and may be, if you will, ten per cent goodness).The other way round is then far more savorable. And something which ought to be emphatically encouraged. For education and intelligence are poor substitutes for goodness, charity and kindness. Had education and intelligence on her own packed human beings with humane qualities then Hitler’s Final Solution would not have been written by people holding doctoral degrees. It has to be necessarily beefed up by a sound ethical and judicial system.

No comments: