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RENCANA

New Straits Time 07 April 2001

Tabletalk from London
Education is the art of being happy
By Yunus Raiss

IT came to me as a mild surprise the other day when I was in a vacant mood to realise that while geography, history, economics, even philosophy can have a past of their own, education exists only in the present or in the future. Granted, educational practice can have a past, but the real value of education is life today and life tomorrow.

It is the emotional intelligence that determines the quality of life. Education is for the living, not for the dead. The dead may speak from their graves about their money, power or spirituality, but they can't be called educated, for they are dead.

Education only concerns itself with the art of living. It is a synergy of the heart, the mind, and the body in the living environment. If the synergy leads to a proper balance in one's emotional, mental and physical well-being, then one can be said to have had a good education.

You do not necessarily have to go to schools or universities to get educated to become adept at managing your life. The poorest and the least gifted too can learn and lead a well-ordered meaningful life that gives him or her a fulfilling role in life.

Places such as nursery schools, madrasahs, monasteries, the University of Malaya, MIT, all provide training for educating oneself to have a good life. You do not need to know Shakespeare or Einstein's Theory of Relativity to mould a life that suits you and your means to give you a useful place in society. But make sure while there you learn how to live among your people.

Everyone can have a good heart, the young, the old, the poor and the village idiot. The heart gives us true equality: We can all be happy, kind, helpful and generous in our own ways.

We can learn from experience to think with our hearts, to behave more kindly and generously. All men and women are equal in their feelings. The declaration of Human Rights should have proclaimed this.

We may think differently, or dress differently, or look different, even eat different food, but we feel alike. All men are born equal in their feelings.

Education is best felt: it radiates like the qualities of mercy and grace, bathing all those around it in its aura of heavenliness. We can see it, we can feel it, we can appreciate it. "A thing of beauty," said Keats, "is a joy forever."

When education is heard or seen as intellectual aggression, it can't really be education. It may be knowledge and power acquired for dominion over others, but not the education of a cultured person.

To be educated one has to have learnt to live and work with happiness and work for happiness for all. It is the height of civilisation to present joy and beauty to the world, to temper the harsh realities of life.

Teachers make the process of learning a joy that is seen and felt by all, learner and teacher alike. To be educated to be educated (sic) one must become receptive to good influences and inspirations, shunning evil in all forms. To be educated to educate others is the ultimate story of the good life of the good man.

Learn to live, live to learn, was a wise man's motto whose grounds Shakespeare raided to poach deer in the 16th century.

Training without education is enslaving man as a machine to be manipulated. When you are educated, you are no slave. You think well, you feel well, you treat others well. Education gives one the ability of sculpting fine art out of the rawness of life.

Education shows you rare heights of beauty and kindness. Knowledge without education is either drudgery or it is used for cruelty to others. The kindly light must guide kindly.

Imagine yourself all alone in a desert with a bounty of things but with no

people to talk to or share your things with. Man's worth is among his kind. Things do not fulfil your inner needs. "Education! Education! Education!" was the slogan of the Labour Government in their 1997 Manifesto.

I wonder what they understood by the word. Was it merely a spin? Perhaps Education to them meant bricks and mortar, for the curriculum and the teachers and their philosophies have changed little.

Is there still a place left for real education in today's world? We appreciate good manners and humanity, but seem to be shy to say that we need good people, not just material success. We need courage to shape our society, but not by cudgel or revolution. Greatness grows by gradualism. Keep the revolutionaries out of the classroom!

 

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