When I was in primary school, I had great regard for our Telugu teacher Mr. Murthy - Mr. Murthy, the funny, intelligent and sensible teacher of all. He always had witty one liners and quirky comeback lines that I use on people till date. I often found myself admiring his insight into life.
One day, he wrote a quote on the black board which read "The end of Education is Character." I was in sixth grade and the word character didn't mean anything profound to me. One day I watched a tear jerker Telugu movie aired on Doordarshan and wondered why the leading lady would not accept the silent-admirer colleague who comes to her rescue when her abusive husband and her lover who promises her to bail her out of the situation ditch her. I asked my mom "Why doesn't she accept his love and live happily ever after?" My mom replied in the voice of a true, blue blooded Indian woman that the integrity of the Heroine's character loses its charm if she accepts and goes away with anyone that crosses her way! Of course, at eleven, it didn't make any sense to me as to why the story should end on a sad note when this lady finally finds a man that loves her for who she is. But the word 'character' loomed loud and big in my head.
So - is character suffering when you can be happy? Is character about making the right choices, saying the right words and doing the right things to make yourself and the people around you happy? Why did the know all Mr. Murthy say that the end of Education is Character? These were a few questions that crossed my ever inquisitive pre-teen mind.
So, back to education, whose end I am about to discuss with my august company - the world wide web. I had a conversation with someone this afternoon and we discussed a problem another person we both know is having bringing up her kid who is being spoilt rotten by her hubby. The hubby - the sweetest, most sensible guy you'd ever meet does all the right things for his family and does too much of what he perceives as right things for his daughter - by giving in to her every request, demand and order. It seems he even teaches her the right stuff - takes interest in her academics and inculcates in her a reading habit probably to help her find her way to an Ivy league school in future. From how grave the child's behavioural problem appears, I told my friend I was speaking to that no matter where the child goes to study and no matter what degree she brings home - if her perspective is not in check, she'll be miserable the way she is being brought up.
I have seem smarty pants who are quiet immature in day to day situations and high school drop outs who sound more mature and learned than your average Phd professor. So, what is education all about and how are educated lot going to fare better than their uneducated brothers and sisters? Will attending a prestigious school change the way you think? Will it put your perspective in place, will it make you more sensible, more sensitive? I Believe not!
Education does not end where 4.0 GPAs begin. It does not end when Certificates of Merits are awarded in fancy graduation ceremonies. It certainly doesn't with a big fat paycheck. In fact, it only begins there. True education should offer us lessons about perspective, about arranging our priorities, about perception of right from wrong. True education should teach us how to carry ourselves, how to say the right words, how to treat people below us, how to stand firm and tall in the face of hindrances, how to respect others for what and who they are and how to live our lives in a way that positively impacts us and the people around us. All that perhaps sum up into the single word Mr. Murthy used a couple of decades ago. A word that concludes education. A word spelled "Character"