When we think ‘education’, what is it that we are really referring to? What does it amount to? The number of years spent in acquiring degrees? All those years of slogging having come to fruition? A certain status? Fulfilling others’ expectations? Or is it finally about our own perception of what we have amounted to? While for each person it could mean one or all of the above, there is more to it. The aspect of education that is intangible, inconspicuous even; that which shapes our thinking, attitudes, and hence actions – cultural education. One of the most vital yet heavily undermined aspects of education, cultural education is the key to progress in all realms of life. A society’s need for growth and development in the real sense of the word, can only be fulfilled through a gradual process of cultural evolution.
All social concerns staring at us today are rooted in a lack of cultural sensitivity. Whether it is religious strife or gender discrimination, untouchability or lynching, human sacrifice or child marriage, every one of these ills exposes a people desperately in need of cultural sensitisation.
A lot gets spoken and written about the need for change so as to eliminate the social maladies that ail us as a society. But what we perhaps fail to recognize is that a change in the collective psyche of a people can occur only with a shift in perspective. For instance, we talk about diversity but how comfortable we are when forced to interact with anyone or anything different than us? The moment there is something unfamiliar in our environment, we bring our guards up and weapons out.
Contradicting this pattern, we often find ourselves culture-proud. But are we clear on what this ‘culture’ comprises? To break it down to the simplest terms, a society rich in culture is one that exhibits sensitivity towards others, tolerance for beliefs different than ours and one that puts a premium on the dignity and respect for each individual. Herein lies the formula to a peaceful society – one that does not indulge in frequent bloodbath – both literally and verbally.
What we need to ask ourselves is if the education we are encouraging our future generations to aspire for, is what it takes to live in this world, more importantly, live happily and contribute to others’ happiness? Do we need to consider dimensions of education that have so far been laying low? Shouldn’t our young be given opportunities for a more wholesome education which is more than a few degrees and cushy jobs?
Shouldn’t we have a real chance at living life through an education that tears open the cloak of conditioning and frills of pretense?