Posts Tagged With: Karaj

The Old Educational System and Intellectual Training

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Mostly, our old educational system was such. You can see that individuals—whether because of lack of talent or because of defects in training and teaching—are exactly like tape recorders in relation to the facts they have learned. One studied a textbook diligently and meticulously, memorizing it from lesson to lesson, taking notes and learning from it. Later, he became a teacher, for example, and wanted to teach the same lessons. He studied and learned from the teacher whatever was [written] in the said book—its glosses and commentaries. He can perfectly answer whatever you ask about this textbook and its glosses and commentaries. Just make a little twist in your question and he would be dumb-founded. What he knows are only these “heard” (masmū‘) facts, and if another subject is presented in a different context and he wants to make certain conclusions on the basis of what he knows, he cannot do so. In fact, I have seen people who, in a certain context, made conclusions which were contrary to what they had learned in a different setting. As such, you can see that each of them is a learned person (ālim), yet his mind is ignorant (jāhil). He is learned but his mind is that of an ignorant. He is a scholar; that is, he has learned many things; he knows many pieces of information, but once you pose a question which is beyond the ambit of what he [explicitly] knows, you can see that you are facing a totally ignorant fellow. As it appears, an absolute ignoramus is at center stage.

The diviner and the king

There is a parable—of course, it is fictitious—of a diviner and geomancer who taught divination and geomancy to his son. He himself was receiving good pay from the royal court. He taught his son this knowledge so that he could occupy the post after him. One day, he introduced his son to the king. The king wanted to test him. He held an egg in his hands and asked the diviner’s son to guess what he was holding. The diviner’s son tried many times but failed to make the right guess. So, the king gave him a clue, saying: “Its center is yellow and its sides are white.” Something came to the mind of the aspiring diviner, and he said, “It is a millstone whose center is filled with carrots!” The king got furious, and summoned his father and said, “After all this, what is this knowledge you have taught him?” The father said, “I taught [him] my knowledge very well but he lacks intellect.” The first part of his answer was about his knowledge [he imparted to his son] while the second part [which he compared to his knowledge] was about his son’s lack of intelligence as manifested by his failure to realize that a millstone is too big to be concealed by hands. Human reason has to have [the ability to make] this judgment.

This is a popular story and so far I have heard it from many people. It is narrated that a foreigner came to Karaj[1] one day and met a villager. This villager used to give very substantial and excellent answers. He would give very good answer to every question the foreigner had. Then, the foreigner asked him, “How did you come to know all these facts?” The villager said, “Since I am illiterate, I am thinking.” This answer is very meaningful. That is, “What the literate says is what he knows but what I say is the product of my thinking and reflection. And thinking is far better than literacy.”

This is the issue—that there must be growth of intellectual or rational personality in individuals and in society. It means that the power to analyze and scrutinize issues must be developed.[2] This is a basic concern. That is, exactly in this training and education in schools, the teacher’s duty is beyond teaching the child. Teachers must do something to develop the students’ analytical power and not only to fill their minds with facts and pieces of information. In fact, if there is too much pressure to fill the mind with facts, the mind becomes dull.

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Notes:

[1] Karaj: a city situated 20 km west of Tehran, at the foothills of the Alborz Mountains. [Trans.]

[2] Presently, it is not my concern whether Islam says so or not. Our inference is that this is the very point which Islam says about the intellect.

Training and Education in Islam(An excerpt from Murtada Mutahhari, TRAINING AND EDUCATION IN ISLAM, trans. Mansoor Limba (Tehran: IHCS and ABU, 2011), pp. 15-16.)

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