The Teacher and the Taught
?.. by Mir Wazir Khan
The Aga Khan Education Service, Chitral organized Teachers Recognition Days to acknowledge the service of teachers and to reemphasize their important role in society.
In the recorded history of mankind teacher has wielded important status in the society. Prophets, saints and sages were primarily teachers communicating and interpreting to the people the divine messages. History of religions says that man has never lived without a prophet. At all times, religions and cultures brought by the prophets have provided a model of society for the people to live their lives. The most overarching message given by the prophets to the people has been the message of thinking, pondering, reflection and contemplation about the world and the relation of man and the world. The prophets formed and shaped human thought and taught humanity lessons of ethics and social relationship.
Islam has placed the greatest emphasis on the importance of teacher and education than any other religion or civilization. The first word of the first Revelation to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) commences with Iqra ( an exhortation to ?read?). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has said that ?he has been send as a teacher to humanity?. Seeking knowledge has been obligated on both men and women by Islam. It has been commanded in a hadith that a believer should travel as far as China to acquire knowledge. Islam instructs believer to render utmost sacrifices for getting education and knowledge. It is the faculty of intellect and reasoning in human and the ability and proclivity of human towards education and learning that distinguishes them from other species. When education and seeking of knowledge has such an importance in Islam then the one—the teacher?who imparts the education and knowledge becomes the most sought-after person of sanctity. Therefore, a teacher is someone who virtually makes or breaks a society by shaping human minds. All our technological and civilizational progress is practically the result of the contribution of teachers in different epochs and ages. It is a teacher who produces teacher, visionary, thinker, philosopher, scientist, engineer, economist and administrators for diverse fields of education, development, administration and management.
It is the teacher who provides nourishment to minds and shapes the general mentality of a nation and society negatively or positively. A good teacher would certainly raise good students, who in turn, will become conscious and conscientious minds carrying out different vital roles for realizing peace, progress and prosperity in their societies. A bodily or clinical ailment generally requires two types of treatments. The best treatment is considered to be care and prevention in the first place so that the ailment should not enter and affect human body in the first place. If an ailment affects the body at all, then the second step is treatment and medication. Much in the same way, there are three ways of tackling the ailments and disputes in society. The one is through teacher and education; the second is through law and penalty and the third is through application of brute force. Through a good teacher and holistic education the mental, psychological, sociological and spiritual standards and levels of a society is raised to a point where people willingly abide the laws of the land and morals and ethos of the society. In such a society, crimes such as bribery, corruption, violence, and power projection by networks of interest groups rarely happen. The high level of awareness among the people enables them to shun such bad traits as ostentation, arrogance, cunningness, extravaganza, injustice, tyranny and cruelty. A good education is certain to inculcate in people the habits of simplicity, honesty, cooperation, compassion, chivalry, magnanimity and caring and sharing. If a teacher is successful in molding such a society then such a society becomes the home of all and all become members or citizens of that society knitted into a communion of fraternity and brotherhood.
Socrates refused exile and escape and took poison saying that exile and escape would be against the law of my land and I would not violate the laws of my land no matter how much the laws are perverse and hostile to my ideas. Socrates would have died a natural death a few years later but his abiding of the law and his acceptance of the execution through poison, among his other merits and virtues, have immortalized him and he is idolized even in the present age 2400 years after his death. But these values and principles are like an apparition and a distant dream in the prevailing consumer age where, due to total materialism, we are slave to the tools, equipment and instruments of our own making. Education is slowly becoming a commodity mostly available to those who can compete and pay. The benefits of science and technological progress in the improvement of living conditions cannot be denied. But the condition of the world would have been much better if the technology has been used more equitably and judiciously for people?s welfare instead of inventions and spending on deadly armaments. A teacher polished a genius and a genius invented nuclear power. But how much of that invention is utilized by statesmen and global leaders for the benefit of humanity is largely determined by their education and grooming by their teachers. Education, in short, is what a teacher is. A good teacher is a curriculum, a textbook, a content and a methodology— all in one.
Since ages have passed by and we are now light-years away from that kind of teacher and education of the Socratic era; so the second best choice is application of the laws of the land without fear or favor for curbing violations of law when and where it is necessitated. Here again the role of a teacher becomes crucial in giving to the society good quality manpower to run executive, judiciary and the legislative branches of a government. A well-educated legislative member will always legislate for the good of the people; good administrators and managers under the executive would implement the laws and policies of the land in such a way as to ameliorate the condition of the people and a good judiciary will ensure adjudication in accordance with laws of the land and in line with merit and transparency. Chaos and conflicts and arbitrary use of power will be checked. Society will be at peace with itself and there will be peace and progress for all. Tacitus, famous Roman senator and historian said more than two thousand years ago about rule of law thus: ?there is no better way of making laws effective than applying them to highly placed persons?. Presently, no society is in the first category where laws are needed the least. While some nations are in the category where laws are generally applied without fear or favor. Unfortunately, majority of the countries in the world are mostly in third category where laws are needed the most but these are seldom respected or applied evenly and without fear or favor. Use of force still remain the norm as society lack spirit of both self-consciousness and the mentality and temperament to obey the laws. Such societies needed the best teachers the most and it is also in those societies that the teachers encounter the hardest challenges in their struggle for positive changes.
There is no wrong in theologies and if there is any problem it is with the teacher and the method of teaching and interpretation. Christianity teaches humility and meekness and exhorts a Christian to offer the other side of the face to the one whose has slapped him/her on the other. It emphasis on pardon and forgiveness. Almost all powerful countries of the world are Christian countries. However how much the governments and powerful citizens of those countries are heeding to the teachings of Christianity! Buddhism is a pacifist religion which believes in peace and pacifism at all cost and compassion is its cornerstone. Myanmar or Burma is a Buddhist country. The cruelty and ruthlessness unleashed on Rohingia Muslim minority and their forcible eviction from their homes and lands is totally against the teachings of Buddhism but who cares. Islam stands for peace and security and the Holy Quran has commanded that ?killing of one innocent person is similar to a killing of entire humanity?. The emphasis of Islam on righteous public conduct, noble and virtuous character and lawful earning has been enormous but these are not fully inculcated and internalized by Muslims of all sects. Judaism, being a divine religion, never taught about the supremacy of Jewish race or for the need of an exclusive separate homeland for them forcibly occupying the lands of others. But the militarism of Israel and Jewry has placed the entire Middle East in great pain. So much about other faith systems. It is here that the importance of teacher further increases in that how he presents both religious and secular education to the students and what kind of a mindset and mentality he is going to shape in society! Had important world universities in Europe and North America taught in accordance with the fundamental principles of prophetic traditions, the world would not have seen the kind of poverty, conflicts, dead and destruction that it is undergoing now.
In the prevailing educational dispensation, the teaching of religions- Islamic Studies/ Islamiyat or other religious studies– are considered an easy subject of less importance. I feel that teaching of Social Sciences and Humanities and particularly disciplines of divinity and religious studies are more crucial, difficult and important than teaching of Natural Sciences. Once a theory for the invention of a tool or equipment such as a machine or a rocket is successfully completed then it could be repeated in the same way by future scientist for hundreds of years without conflict and quarrels. If the invention is not successful it wouldn?t create discord and disharmony in society. It would be left there and new experimentation will be done. Things are done through theory and experimentation with chances of disputation being minimal. In the study of Humanities and Religious Studies, errors and misrepresentations are likely to create big discord and setbacks pushing societies hundreds of years back. Again, Natural Sciences deal with production and means of production mostly focusing material needs of humanity. On the other hand, Social Sciences and Religious Studies deal with spiritual, sociologically and institution-building needs of the society with changing times which are more crucial than the former. So it is important that due importance is given to these disciplines by giving extra incentives to the teachers. Teachers should also display due care and diligence while teaching these subjects so that spiritual and sociological progress of societies are not disturbed. Famous German philosopher Nietzsche has said that ?the surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently?. A good teacher, a good school and a functional and relevant educational system is the most important bulwark against instabilities. In the midst of total confusion, only security forces cannot do the job of peace and security in the manner of firefighting if the teacher and education fails to produce tolerant and enlightened citizens.
The role and importance of teacher is vital in making or breaking societies. On occasions of Teachers? Days and while discussing the role of education everybody speaks about the dignified role of a teacher. Teaching is declared to be a prophetic profession. But unfortunately, ground realities show contradictions. Wealthy businessmen, landed aristocrats, bureaucrats, engineers, doctors, and other professionals generally would not prefer their children becoming teachers. Teaching profession is taken to be the last option and joining this profession is mostly not by design but by default. Here we have to think that why it is so and where the problem lies. Is it the society and the system which failed in giving respect, proper remuneration and recognition to the teachers for their services; for teachers being humans do need respect, recognition and decent remuneration for dignified living? Or is it the teachers who have to work hard to gain more professionalism and aptitude for the profession to reach the desired dignified status? I think work has to start simultaneously from both ends so that people consider teaching as their profession of choice and society is transformed resultantly. Sanctimoniousness of the profession of teaching and poverty of teachers cannot coexist together for long without discouraging good talents from entering the profession of teaching! .. Mir Wazir Khan, Awi, Chitral 02 Oct 2018