"To improve is change; to be perfect is change often"
- Winston Churchill
The human brain, which oversees all bodily functions, including that of the human mind, is not a single computer, as we are made to understand. There are many computers, some of which might be dormant at some stage in life only to be awakened when the right time and circumstances arrive. One could be good in one area but will have many other potentialities that are dormant. Consequently, one can not and should not be written off if s/he is not good at some time in some areas. This happens in schools where teachers tend to label students as good and bad depending on their active computer at that stage. Some of those people might be brilliant in later life and might achieve great feats. Tagore, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and many others of their ilk belonged to that category.
Learning has to be life long if one wants to keep up with the world. Professionals should understand this better. A doctor, by the time he graduates, finds out that the stuff he learnt from his books and teachers has changed substantially. If he does not try to keep on learning he will be thrown out of the stream. Life itself is a ceaseless change till death by definition. Anything that does not change becomes a religion which is static. Science changes so fast that many of us get left out. Versatile minds can keep up and tell the world about the changes. I was reading that beautiful book by an Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at the A & M University in Austin Texas, Professor John OM Bockris, The New Paradigm, which tells us how the whole foundation of modern western science has changed! The Big Bang, The Relativity theory, Thermodynamic rules, Solid state physics, and most of Chemistry have changed out of recognition. The book also shows how flawed is the celebrated Darwin's Theory of evolution.
The man who has worked hard in this area of multiple intelligences is Professor Howard Gardner of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who was in India recently. His work, though specialised in the field of psychology, seems to have changed the way we teach young children in school. When we follow his method, which I hope will be the future of primary education, education will be more child centric and not teacher centric; changing with each child based on her/his needs.
Gardner has identified five levels of mind in humans. Ayurveda has described five levels of the human mind graphically-manas, budhi, chitta, purusha and Ishwara. Gardner's five minds are-the disciplined mind which works hard in acquiring knowledge and mastering some techniques through study and rigorous practice. We see this mind in many illustrated doctors who excel in one field using one or two techniques, calling themselves as sub-specialists. Many teachers nurture this kind of mind labeling them as brilliant students etc. These people have a tunnel vision focusing on what they learnt at school and what they get to study after that in a formal way. Vested interests take advantage of that kind of mind to manipulate them with their hidden agendas. One good example is how the medical education from A to Z is under the control of the vested interests starting from textbooks in medical school to conferences in later life. These disciplined minds are a menace to any progress in knowledge.
The synthetic mind is the second category that is good at putting available facts together. One good example is the mind of Darwin. In his long journey he collected many facts and tried to put them together to weave his Theory of Evolution. However, he seems to have been ignorant of the many other aspects of evolution that he did not have access to, to take a holistic view. Lamarck, on the other hand, had a larger picture and came to opposite conclusions even before Darwin. Time has proven Lamarck to be more accurate than Darwin although hard core Darwinists still want to sell his ideas to make money. This also has a greater moral value. While the world can only run on co-operation and camaraderie, Darwin taught about competition and the survival of the fittest. This unhealthy competition might be at the root of all human ills today. Competing with oneself is excellence and productive but not competing with others which is only mediocrity.
Creative mind is the third category of Gardner. This is the ideal mind for any professional, nay any one. This mind allows one to go beyond the known arena and take knowledge forwards in the area as suggested by Karl Popper who years ago had said that “knowledge advances NOT by repeating known facts but, by refuting false dogmas.” Refutation takes lot of courage and grit. It is at times dangerous as it might threaten the livelihood of many people in society. If one has a creative mind s/he gets only derision from the majority. It is only a microscopic minority that could appreciate a creative mind. Real education should strive to build creative minds in society.
I suggest that all vocational colleges like the professional colleges etc should take in students who have first graduated from a real University that teaches liberal education like humanities, arts and the like as a precondition to get into vocational training. Such people would be able to look critically at what is taught in the vocational institutions. They would be able to think for themselves to be attentive to their own minds unlike the disciplined mind which is filled with thoughts from others. It is only the creative mind that could make a quantum leap by suggesting a shift in our thinking paradigm. However, it should be noted that a creative mind that could make a paradigm shift should have an exhaustive knowledge of what is already known in the area, which, in itself, is not very easy.
The next one, the respectful mind, is a higher level where the mind realizes to respect others and their views in society. This brings about social tranquility and could avoid all kinds of misunderstandings in the name of religion, region, race, creed, caste, language etc to bring man and man together as one large family-Vasudai Eva Kutumbakam. Respectful mind needs to know a lot more outwith what the schools and colleges teach to reach a level where one becomes attuned to the inner voice of human cells, of which there are 50-100 trillion in all inside us. Each cell has its mind in the cell wall. The cells live happily loving one another. That is the philosophy of social living when individuals live like their cells, loving one another.
Gardner’s highest level of mind is the ethical mind. I think it will be every difficult to cultivate this level. Any mind that could be ethical can not do anything that is illegal. What is ethical is always legal but what is legal need not be ethical. The ethical mind gives one the directions to live out various roles that one plays in society ethically. Human beings have to wear many caps during their sojourn through life-child, adolescence, adult or grahastha, parent, husband, wife, son or daughter, guardian, elder, and finally vaanaprastha- but they need to do justice to all those roles. Highly ethical minds can do that without much effort. To have such minds would make this world a happier place to live in!
Our educational system which, methinks, is at the root of all our present ills, needs to have a paradigm shift. Binary system needs to be adopted at higher education levels-one stream concentrating on vocational training to make wealthy careers while the other stream of liberal education should strive to make healthy minds. Vocational training should have the foundation of liberal education. Earlier we do it the better. Primary education must be totally revamped to get the best out of the child instead of stuffing the child with useless facts and information. On line evaluation must replace the end year rote learning examinations. In conclusion, it is the mind that can make or break any society or nation. Even wars are born in the minds of men and not in the battlefields. May sanity prevail.
“To leave the world a bit better ...to know that one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson