Intelligence from Three Idiots

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Three Idiots is a good movie at least for one reason – it questions sensible audiences about the purpose of education. The most interesting character, for me, is the principal of the college – rightly nicknamed Virus – who thinks education is nothing but academic excellence, which is proven to be wrong. Probably those who presume that an educational institute is just a centre of higher learning, a factory that turns a human being into a machine, do have a virus right in their mind.

Most of the educational institutes in India presume that a topper is one who can accumulate maximum information, like dates and events of the past and who is who. Friends, is education just cramming of minds with technical details that have nothing to do with the person? If so, is there a difference between an industry that crafts machines and an educational institute that creates engineers and doctors?

The irony is that a working machine is a blessing to society while an educated human often has become a beast. Theodore Roosevelt, the twenty sixth president of the US, rightly analyzed the reason by saying, “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” And this concurs with the statement of Swami Vivekananda, the great Indian reformer, “The education which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of lion … is it worth the name?”

A sculptor knows the shape he/she wants to carve out of the marble block and a painter knows the picture he/she wants to create on the piece of paper but a teacher often does not know what is the purpose and goal of teaching. The disgusting fact is that many would say “it is my livelihood.”

Therefore, even after graduating from a university many students remain as meaningless marble blocks and they sing “mera jeevan khora khagaz” (my life is an empty page) – they neither know their purpose nor have a goal. Therefore the present generation fears not the unschooled but the so called educated and trained idiot – where an idiot is the one who can relate neither to the future nor to the surroundings.

The word “university” suggests that it is a place where unity exists amidst diversity – amidst the diversity of faculties there should be a unity of purpose. It has to be a fellowship of sciences and society of truth seekers who believe that cooperation is the only means to have a synoptic view of the whole and to experience the meaning and satisfaction of life.

Thus, the ability to cooperate with others is the first test of education. Secondly, irrespective of the faculty of study, a university student should know in a general way the value, meaning, purpose and dignity of human life. What is that unifying faculty that can pass the two tests?  The value, meaning and purpose of a product and its relation with other co-products comes from its producer. Thus the unifying faculty that gives purpose and meaning to an individual is theology – the study of the creator God.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, one of the influential scholars of comparative religion, and the second president of India, whose birthday is celebrated as “Teachers’ day”, said, “The purpose of education is not merely the acquiring of skills or information but the initiation into higher life, initiation into a world which transcends the world of space and time…”Solomon, the wisest man, concludes his autobiography, which surveys everything under the sun as meaningless, with this advice, “Remember your creator in the days of your youth…” (Ecclesiastes 12: 1).

Paul, a scholar in his own field, writes to the intellectual Romans, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20).

Our education should lead us to our creator God and should enlighten us on our responsibility towards our neighbor and the world at large. Probably you are an educated person who has acquired skill, knowledge and information but do you know your purpose, value, dignity and responsibility. This comes only when the horizontal link with the transcendent God is established.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, The Foundation of Civilization: Ideas and Ideals, (Hyderabad: Orient Books, 1997) 26.

Intelligence From The Three Idiots

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Edward Kuntam