This is an earlier education paper that received traction in Pakistani forums and newspapers, as well as some prominent scholars.
Insaf for our Children
A Radical Policy Paper for the PTI
18 March, 2012
Author: Meinhaj Hussain
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“If you have actually read this paper and the supporting works, there is no way that you will ever look at education the same way again.”
2. Pakistani Education Today
3. The Great Mistake – A Historical Perspective of the Degeneration of Islamic Education Systems
4. The Advent of Mass Schooling
5. Moving Our Children to the World of Ideas
6. Open Source Learning
7. Importance of K-12 Education
Insaf for our Children
A Radical Policy Paper for the PTI
Education is considered a critical and important factor for improving the condition of Pakistan and Imran Khan has already shown with Namal College how he can make a difference in this field. All hopes are that the PTI will drastically improve the condition of education in Pakistan, a step only possible through insaf and eliminating corruption. There are many experts on education available to the PTI and who are more than willing to help establish a Pakistan built on insaf. The purpose of this paper is to outline some key and lesser known aspects that may provide a different insight to the traditional.
For one, when we talk about education today and how beneficial it is to the people we are making some fundamental assumptions and these may require a closer look. Firstly, what we are talking about is not education per se, but education as conceived originally in the Prussian state around the 1820s. This form of education spread throughout Europe and eventually to the United States with Horace Mann’s “Seventh Annual Report” to the Massachusetts Board of Education. It thereafter became the world standard of “education”, in fact we shall call it Mass Schooling for the purposes of this paper.
Secondly, we are implying that this form of education is a universal and untainted “good” that must be accepted. This results in Mass Schooling being essentially a form of un-Islamic “religion” built on blind faith. In my reading of the educational programs and questions of reform throughout the Muslim world, these key fundamental questions are never raised and perhaps never even known. We are too busy trying to copy the circuit board without knowing what the board actually does.
Because of this gap in knowledge, some of the assertions made in this paper will seem questionable. I do not have the space to provide every evidence for every single startling assertion, but to those who want to inspect the arguments further, I would highly recommend Weapons of Mass Instruction, a book by an American schoolteacher John Taylor Gatto who taught 30 years in public schools before resigning from teaching during the year he was named New York State's official “Teacher of the Year”. He then spent 22 more years tirelessly talking about the problems of the present schooling system that has been replicated worldwide. He has travelled three million miles to lecture on the subject and his earlier book, Dumbing Us Down, has sold over 100,000 copies. Weapons of Mass Instruction should be sufficient but should any further recommendations be needed, I would be more than happy to oblige. Let us however, now first start with, briefly, what Pakistan presently has.
2. Pakistani Education Today
There are three kinds of education that are being handed out to Pakistanis today. One created for the elite involving foreign-language, often English. This system is based on a Western education model. The education lacks any real substance in Islam, but instead replaces this with a history, philosophy and social science that propagate a world-view centered on the ascendancy of Western civilization. Evolution is taught as fact, served with fanciful diagrams of half man and half animals. And the conspicuous absence of Allah imprints an implicit denial. This education provides a secular view of the world from a Western perspective and the subservience and abject inferiority of our own civilization. The system is the essential fountain from which the secular elite of Pakistan have fed and grown on.
From being dressed in Western attire at a young age every morning, sometimes tie and coat included, our children are being brainwashed into accepting an alien culture and serve to be transformed into an elite that neither understands nor respects its culture and roots and instead is in awe of the Western civilization. These elites then serve as the agents of the foreign power in keeping control over the country, a new and sophisticated form of vassalage, yet vassalage to the same or greater degree than ever before.
The second form of education is the diametric opposite – madrasah education given to the lower classes where the Quran is recited and memorized but without comprehension, reflection and analysis. People still are devoted to the Quran, but their love of the book is not one of reflection and understanding, but of formalistic and ritualistic reading, learning by heart and a complicated science of pronunciation. What are produced are people who can recite, memorize and obey commands, but neither understands Islam, their active role in Islam, or their position in the greater scheme of things.
The third form of education is government sourced and involves a heavy dose of rote learning similar to the madrasahs, but just enough practical curriculum to be able to function in various jobs and roles that any state and economy inevitably needs. These typically serve the middle classes.
Our education system is broken and astoundingly there is no government that is willing to fix it. For the 60+ years Pakistan has been without any fundamental rethink of what the British left her with. How can we create an improved state of affairs when the fundamental building block of the system – the Pakistani Individual - is not educated, aware and enlightened but brainwashed to believe their inferiority? As with any system: garbage in, garbage out.
3. The Great Mistake – A Historical Perspective of the Degeneration of Islamic Education Systems
Our present education crisis did not start now; our particular garbage has taken considerable time to rot and perhaps coincides with our decline. Brother Mahathir Muhamad points out in his blog CheDet that in the 15th century we decided to separate worldly knowledge from religious knowledge and focus on the latter#. It was this that he attributes as a key element to our downfall.
Perhaps the issue started even earlier when the Asharite School started using reason and logic only defensively and Imam Ghazali debated those influenced by Greek philosophers. However, the victory seemed one not only against the philosophers but against the use of reason and logic itself. Thus, the doors of ijtihad were closed and Muslims moved increasingly to taqlid, or imitation. Logic was carted off to be used only defensively in support of established theology. Ibn Khaldun in Al Muqadimah sheds much light upon the use of logic by what he describes as “recent scholars”:
“In time, the science of logic spread in Islam. People studied it. They made a distinction between it and the philosophical sciences, in that logic was merely a norm and yardstick for arguments and served to probe the arguments of the (philosophical sciences) as well as (those of) all other (disciplines).
“(Scholars) studied the basic premises the earlier theologians had established. They refuted most of them with the help of arguments leading them to (a different opinion). Many of these were derived from philosophical discussions of physics and metaphysics. When they probed them with the yardstick of logic, it showed that they were applicable only to those (other disciplines and not to theology, but) they did not believe that if the argument were wrong, the thing proven (by the arguments) was also wrong. This approach differed in its technical terminology from the older one. It was called “the school of recent scholars”. Their approach often included refutation of the philosophers where the (opinions of the) latter differed from the articles of faith, because, in most respects, there is a relationship between the opinions of the innovators and the opinions of the philosophers.
“The first (scholar) to write in accordance with the new theological approach was al-Ghazzali. He was followed by the imam Ibn al-Khatib. A large number of scholars followed in their steps and adhered to their tradition.
“The later scholars were very intent upon meddling with philosophical works. The subjects of the two disciplines (theology and philosophy) were thus confused by them. They thought that there was one and the same (subject) in both disciplines, because the problems of each discipline were similar.
“The theologians most often deduced the existence and attributes of the Creator from the existing things and their conditions. As a rule, this was their line of argument. The physical bodies form part of the existing things, and they are the subject of the philosophical study of physics. However, the philosophical study of them differs from the theological. The philosophers study bodies in so far as they move or are stationary. The theologians, on the other hand, study them in so far as they serve as an argument for the Maker.
“In the same way, the philosophical study of metaphysics studies existence as such and what it requires for its essence. The theological study (of metaphysics) on the other hand, is concerned with the existentia, in so far as they serve as argument for Him who causes existence.
“In general, to the theologians, the object of theology is (to find out) how the articles of faith which the religious law has laid down as correct, can be proven with the help of logical arguments, so that innovations may be repulsed and doubts and misgivings concerning the articles of faith be removed.
“If one considers how this discipline originated and how scholarly discussion was incorporated within it step by step, and how, during that process, scholars always assumed the correctness of the articles of faith and paraded proofs and arguments (in their defence), one will realize that the character of the subject of this discipline is as we have established it, and one will realize that (the discipline) cannot go beyond it. However, the two approaches have been mixed up by recent scholars. The problems of theology have been confused with those of philosophy. This has gone so far that the one discipline is no longer distinguishable from the other.” (underlining is superimposed)
Further along in his book, he confirms that this mixing of the two is fatally wrong and a mistake:
“The only thing that caused the theologians to use rational arguments was the discussions of heretics who opposed the early Muslim articles of faith with speculative innovations. Thus, they had to refute these heretics with the same kind of arguments. This situation called for using speculative arguments and checking on the early Muslim articles of faith with these arguments.
“The verification or rejection of physical and metaphysical problems, on the other hand, is not part of the subject of speculative theology and does not belong to the same kind of speculations as those of the theologians. This may be known, so that one may be able to distinguish between the two disciplines, as they have been confused in the works of recent scholars. The truth is that they are different from each other in their respective subjects and problems. This situation called for using speculative arguments and checking on the early Muslim articles of faith with these arguments.
“The verification or rejection of physical and metaphysical problems, on the other hand, is not part of the subject of speculative theology and does not belong to the same kind of speculations as those of the theologians. This should be known, so that one may be able to distinguish between the two disciplines, as they have been confused in the works of recent scholars. The truth is that they are different from each other in their respective subjects and problems.
“The confusion arose from the sameness of the topics discussed. The argumentation of the theologians thus came to look as though it were inaugurating a search for faith through (rational) evidence. This is not so. (Speculative theology) merely wants to refute heretics.”
Thus, logic was confused, pushed aside by the political success of the theologians and philosophy itself removed to a portion merely of speculative theology.
The consequence of this was manifold, and like a dynamo through history, knocked down many pillars. Firstly, education increasingly discounted the teaching of logic, and subjects such as mathematics that develop that critical element of the brain. Instead, we started to focus on memorization. Secondly, our valuation of knowledge changed and this caused what we earlier described from Dr. Mahathir Muhamad as the separation of knowledge. With the end to ijtihad and an education that eliminated from the bud the intellectual capacity of the Ummah, the Muslim mind was chained, collared and imprisoned.
Mysticism aided this process, and it is interesting that it was also Al Ghazali who instituted the legitimacy of this practice. It was as if the traditional theologians and the mystics worked as a tag team to create a new artificial consensus. Describing the Sufi practice, Ibn Khaldun notes:
“The Sufis are very much concerned with achieving this great joy through having the soul achieve that kind of perception. They attempt to kill the bodily powers and perceptions through exercise, and even the thinking power of the brain. In this way, the soul is to achieve the perception that comes to it from its own essence, when all the disturbances and hindrances caused by the body are removed. (The Sufis) thus achieve inexpressible joy and pleasure.”
“The arguments and proofs belong in the category of corporeal perceptions, because they are produced by the powers of the brain, which are imagination, thinking, and memory. The first thing we are concerned with when we want to attain this kind of perception is to kill all these powers of the brain, because they object to such (perception) and work against it.”
Together, they perpetrated a static view of the world, an end to ijtihad and the beginning of taqlid, and created an education system that perpetrated this system. Centuries later, from the intellectual stupor of the Ummah, we can only guess that these great geniuses succeeded! Dissent was seen as an enemy, and the intellect was seen as the cause of the dissent. What better way than to create zombies to hold the Ummah in a perpetual state of conformity, and keep the world in a perpetual static relic of the past? But the rest of the world moved on unfortunately for the Ummah.
Social-psychological diseases often manifest themselves in very peculiar ways. Confucianism erred towards perfectionism and, over the centuries showed itself in the degenerate form of Chinese foot binding; it was believed that women having small feet was a desirable quality and Chinese families started putting children into small wooden shoes that they would be forced to wear. It was said that every small feet required a bucket of tears. Thus a philosophical-theological error manifested itself in a ghastly manner that was clearly visible to the Chinese. For Muslims however, we cannot see the damage we are doing to our children, yet it is far more profound than the foot of those poor Chinese girls; for a brain is far more part of being human than a foot could ever be.
There is in fact one case where the full manifestation of this stranglehold on the intellect became clearly visible; in Pakistan there is a Sufi shrine where people go to pray for various desirables to the dead “saint”. In one such shrine, known as Dawlay Shah, people sometimes go to ask for children, in case they have fertility problems. Perhaps they have not heard about fertility clinics. If the couple then have children, they are supposed to give their first born to the shrine. The child’s head is supposedly put inside a metal helmet-like enclosure and the child grows up with a small brain. Such small-brained individuals are then used to serve the shrine, begging and doing other income-generating activities. They are then known as Dawlay Shah dey Chuhay or Dawlay Shah’s rats.
How else did this great blunder come about? Malek Bennabi in his book The Question of Ideas in the Muslim World points out that the impetus to the mysticism mentioned above came from a Muslim society that reacted to an increasingly materialist order within itself by an increasing indulgence in the rejection of the material. So the Sufis originally where attempting to balance an original imbalance in society. One pole of extremism attracted the other, and destroyed the middle way. The subordination of reason and logic and the mysticism that thus established a foothold has had cascading consequences upon our society. Muslim society has been trapped between the two poles of materialism and mysticism ever since.
Today we can see the results before us; the materialism-mysticism polarization and the anti-logic religious tendencies invariably leads to secularism, whose very core is the separation of “religious” and “secular” knowledge, to give each polarized group its own domain. Long before the bayonets of the British showed up to force this separation upon us, we stabbed ourselves with our own blades.
4. The Advent of Mass Schooling
As we noted in the beginning of this paper, the present global education system we are calling “Mass Schooling”, started in Prussia and spread throughout Europe and thereby to the colonies of the Europeans and the United States, becoming a world standard to mimic by a progression of lesser nations. The system was designed to create a stable workforce that is technically competent to the degree required (and no more) and willing to sell their labour for wages. The system was also designed to provide mass consumerism to buy the products that centralized industrial mass production was designed to create.
We earlier left of in 1843, when Horace Mann helped propagate the system from Europe to the United States. This is the same Horace Mann who explicitly states that school is the best jail – “a jail you sentence the mind to is harder to escape than any iron bars”. Orestes Brownson was publicly denouncing what he termed as the Prussianization of American schools as far back as the 1840s. Adam Smith’s publisher, William Playfair, noted that “proper” schooling teaches “negatively” and only allows the poor “to read sufficiently well to understand what they do read”. That if they were educated any better, the “ladders of privilege” would collapse and the children of the elite would not be able to hold their privileged positions. Even further back in history, a similar policy was pursued in China called "The Policy of Keeping People Dumb”.
Perhaps one of the most influential people of the 20th Century, James Conant was president of Harvard for twenty years, WWI poison-gas specialist, WWII executive of the atomic bomb project, high commissioner of the American zone in Germany after WWII, among other laurels. Gatto notes that Conant was one of the key individuals who brought Prussian Mass Schooling to its full bloom. In The Child, the Parent and the State, he noted that the modern school today was the result of a “revolution” between 1905 and 1930. He directs readers in his book to Principles of Secondary Education (1918) by Alexander Inglis where “one saw this revolution through the eyes of the revolutionary”.
Inglis, after whom Gatto notes that an honour lecture in Harvard is named, makes it clear in his book that the purpose of this modern education was to act as a fifth column to the democratic rise of the lower classes who increasingly wanted to play a greater and more Insaf based role. Gatto summarizes Inglis’ views in the following words:
“Modern, industrialized, compulsory schooling was to make a sort of surgical intervention into the prospective unity of these underclasses. Divide children by subject, by age-grading, by constant rankings on tests, and by many other more subtle means, and it was unlikely that the ignorant mass of mankind, separated in childhood, would ever re-integrate into a dangerous whole. Inglis breaks down the purpose - the actual purpose - of modern schooling into six basic functions, anyone of which is enough to curl the hair of those innocent enough to believe the three traditional goals of education listed earlier:
I. The adjustive or adaptive function. Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can't test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things.
2. The integrating function. This might well be called “the conformity function” because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.
3. The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student's proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in “your permanent record” Yes, you do have one.
4. The differentiating function. Once their social role has been “diagnosed” children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits – and not one step further. So much for making kids their personal best.
5. The selective function. This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin's theory of natural selection as applied to what he called “the favored races” In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit – with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments - clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That's what all those little humiliations from first grade onward were intended to do: wash the dirt down the drain.
6. The propaedeutic function. The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.” (Gatto, Weapons of Mass Instruction)
All this is not some conspiracy theory but happened in full public view and is very extensively recorded in history, for those who are willing to spare the time to search. These are policies and decisions made by managers and executives of the West’s education system and as such are documented in their writings and works. Some other big names of the time involved include George Peabody, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.
Space does not allow us to go further to provide evidence, I instead point you to John Gatto and am myself available for those curious to further delve into the evidence. To sum up, the Western education system we seem so enamoured with, has a horror movie back-end and a purpose and meaning that we must understand before we start replicating them wholesale upon the tender minds of our children, so full of potential, dreams, hopes. Even if we were evil enough to do this to our people (and I hope we are not), we must understand that the system is designed for a mass production society and not for the kind of country Pakistan, or much of the Muslim world is.
The West mistakenly believes they are the first to have discovered education as a means of pacifying the people and turning them into a dumbed down human resource, but if the reader has read the section on our legacy of the Islamic education system then we can see a clear parallel. Our system may just have been even more effective; it managed to freeze history, if that is anything to be proud of. So many centuries later the West is now crawling towards a similar end – “The End of History”.
I have described the problems of the Islamic and Western education systems. The situation of Pakistan and the Ummah is aptly stated by Malek Bennabi in the following manner:
The Muslim world today is at a risk of being overwhelmed by the West, at the very moment that the West is in decline. If we seek to follow in the footsteps of Europe, we will always lag behind the West as it has to go through the same steps that the West has already long passed.
With that in mind, let us now look at how we can move our children to the world of ideas, to reach their full potential, instead of turning them into the jackasses Pinocchio and his friends were to be turned into by the circus, i.e. the mass education system.
5. Moving Our Children to the World of Ideas
Bennabi describes the great crisis of civilization as the cultivation of humanity moving from the world of people and objects to the world of ideas. He describes the critical age when our children begin to enter this world of ideas as starting from seven to eight years, as supported by cognitive development theorists such as Piaget and Case. We are doing the greatest harm to our children when we are forcing them to block out the development of the thinking process and instead make them memorize endless texts, whether in our religious schools or our “secular” ones. We may be producing zombies.
It may be that we are forcing our children into boxes out of which they cannot grow, as we earlier noted with the example of Chinese foot binding. Our situation may be worse for we cannot observe by sight the damage that we are doing to our children.
Pity the child whose mind is being raped by being forced to memorize endless text she does not understand. Who is banished from asking questions. Who is taught to detest what was to be loved. And who will face this whether in a madrasa or in the average school. If she is “lucky”, and her parents are wealthy enough to send her to an elite Western school, she would be robbed of her Islam in all but name.
Such children can never have the energy, passion, intellectual strength to make a difference for Pakistan or the Ummah. They have been drained of these in a systematic manner. Severity to our children and strictness in instruction also zaps them from their spirit and energy, that vital power that can make them individuals that can change the world. Ibn Khaldun notes:
“Severe punishment in the course of instruction does harm to the student, especially to little children, because it belongs among (the things that make for a) bad habit. Students, slaves, and servants who are brought up with injustice and (tyrannical) force are overcome by it. It makes them feel oppressed and causes them to lose their energy. It makes them lazy and induces them to lie and be insincere. That is, their outward behavior differs from what they are thinking, because they are afraid that they will have to suffer tyrannical treatment (if they tell the truth). Thus, they are taught deceit and trickery. This becomes their custom and character. They lose the quality that goes with social and political organization and makes people human, namely, (the desire to) protect and defend themselves and their homes, and they become dependent on others. Indeed, their souls become too indolent to (attempt to) acquire the virtues and good character qualities. Thus, they fall short of their potentialities and do not reach the limit of their humanity. As a result, they revert to the stage of “the lowest of the low”.
“That is what happened to every nation that fell under the yoke of tyranny and learned through it the meaning of injustice. One may check this by (observing) any person who is not in control of his own affairs and has no authority on his side to guarantee his (safety). One will thus be able to infer (from the observable facts) that things are (as I have stated). One may look at the Jews and the bad character they have acquired, such that they are described in every region and period as having the quality of khurj, which, according to well-known technical terminology, means "insincerity and trickery." The reason is what we have (just) said.”
How can we create a nation of Insaf when the education system is creating people of “deceit and trickery”, no desire to defend themselves and their homes, who except tyranny and to boot in Pakistan: vote for them! Ibn Khaldun’s words, written so many years ago, ring true as if written for Pakistan today.
“When laws are (enforced) by means of punishment, they completely destroy fortitude, because the use of punishment against someone who cannot defend himself generates in that person a feeling of humiliation that, no doubt, must break his fortitude.
When laws are (intended to serve the purpose of) education and instruction and are applied from childhood on, they have to some degree the same effect, because people then grow up in fear and docility and consequently do not rely on their own fortitude...”
If Pakistan has had one thing, it has been fortitude and a vital energy of character. This is where bending over to the US, allowing drone strikes and accepting the murder of Pakistani citizens and soldiery is so critically damaging to the national psyche. But the education system is also perpetrating this – students at madrassas or secular schools are punished severely by people who have no right to do so, nor are the students treated fairly during such punishments. This injustice or zulm is exactly against the principle of insaf or justice that the PTI stands for. It is creating the greatest damage to our children. Furthermore, Islamic religious education originally did not have this impact. In this regard, Ibn Khaldun notes that:
“It is no argument that the men around Muhammad observed the religious laws, and yet did not experience any diminution of their fortitude, but possessed the greatest possible fortitude. When the Muslims got their religion from Muhammad, the restraining influence came from themselves, as a result of the encouragement and discouragement he gave them in the Quran. It was not a result of technical instruction or scientific education. The laws were the laws and percepts of the religion that they received orally and which their firmly rooted belief in the truth of the articles of faith caused them to observe. Their fortitude remained unabated, and it was not corded by education or authority. Umar said, “Those who are not (disciplined) by the religious law are not educated by God.” Umar’s desire was that everyone should have his restraining influence in himself. His certainty was that Muhammad knew best what is good for mankind.”
Clearly, the pretended orthodoxy of the present religious institutions is in reality a monstrous deviation from Islam. We cannot bring our children into the world of ideas as long as these issues persist. As a basic premise, to think about ideas, one has not to be constantly afraid of whether the religious instructor with the stick will hit you if you break-off to think about what you’re reciting.
6. Open Source Learning
Now that we understand the problems in great detail and had a glimpse of some solutions, let us look at a new paradigm for the education of our children built on what Gatto calls Open Source Learning. Incidentally, this form of learning is very similar to how the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) learned from him. Let us look at a brief comparison of Open Source Learning and Mass Schooling:
|Open Source Learning||Mass Schooling|
|Free market in learning||Monopoly of centralized learning|
|Focus on producing knowledge||Focus on consuming knowledge|
|Students are active initiators||Students as passive receivers|
|Mixed-age and heterogeneous society||Herding children together to keep perpetual or extended childhood|
|Let people manage themselves||Manage populace through habit and obedience training|
|Mistakes as central process of learning (Robert Kiyosaki)||Mistakes are reprimanded severely by grading|
|Let children grow at their own pace (Children want to grow up fast)||Make perpetual children|
|Flexibility and diversity of learning environment||Long-term, cell-block style forced confinement|
|Student's own autonomous learning||Forced learning|
|Sharpen personal feedback loop||Depend on institutional feedback through grades|
|Real life orientation through out-of-class activities||Classroom orientation|
|Personalized curriculum tailored to student||Mass uniform curriculum|
|Family and nature as centers of meaning||School friends & colleagues as centers of meaning|
|Taught by competent adults||Taught by wage teachers|
|Create independent thinkers with self-knowledge and self-control||Produce wage slaves and consumers without sales resistance|
|Encourage imagination||Destroy the imagination capacity of children (Fitche, Spinoza)|
|Teaches the way children learn naturally||Artificial learning counterintuitive to children|
Let us briefly explain a few of these points as brevity does not allow us here to go into all of them. Making mistakes is a central part of learning as it allows an individual to get real feedback and then experiment with correcting his or her actions. Imran Khan for instance, found that his style of bowling was not going to help him be a fast bowler and through his personal feedback loop, he corrected this bowling action, something many experts thought was not possible for him to achieve. This is a perfect example of the open source learning that Imran Khan mastered, knowingly or unknowingly.
Children learn through interaction with others, if these others are predominantly children, they will continue to remain children perpetually. Fifty years ago a man was made at age 13-16, today you have an increasing number of 30 year olds who are still living in childhood. This is a deliberate attempt and Gatto writes:
Dr. Inglis knew that if children could be cloistered with other children, stripped of responsibility and independence, encouraged to develop only the trivializing emotions of greed, envy, jealousy, and fear, they would grow older but never truly grow up. In the 1934 edition of his once well-known book Public Education in the United States, Ellwood P. Cubberley detailed and praised the way the strategy of successive school enlargements had extended childhood by two to six years already, and forced schooling was at that point still quite new. This same Cubberley was an intimate colleague of Dr. Inglis: both were in charge of textbook publishing divisions at Houghton Mifflin - Cubberley as chief of elementary school texts; Inglis of secondary school texts. Cubberley was dean of Stanford's influential School of Education as well, a friendly correspondent of Conant at Harvard.
This serves to not only create a docile and child-like populace that perpetually looks up to authority with child-like reverence, but also a population that is easy to market meaningless consumer products to. Open source learning will seek to keep the environment mixed-age and heterogeneous to enhance children’s ability to learn and grow up, as is natural – a child always seeks to copy his or her elders, sons are frequently seen copying their fathers, this is natural and the way children learn to grow up and must not be artificially inhibited.
It is my belief that Pakistanis survived the full blast of the Mass Schooling system simply because of the dysfunctional nature of schooling in Pakistan and because of cricket. Cricket has taught Pakistanis what the Mass Schooling system has attempted to destroy. An interesting anecdote concerns Dr. Zafar Altaf, one of the key individuals behind Pakistan’s Silent Green Revolution of the 1990s in agriculture and a long-term manager of the Pakistan cricket team. Dr Altaf, under whom I have studied, related to me how he was able to finish his PhD from the London Business School in 18 months, without having any academic background for decades. He noted that his ability to concentrate on the pitch (Dr. Altaf is a former test cricketer) allowed him to focus for long stretches, sometimes 8-18 hours at a time, something his tutors at the London Business School found astonishing. No doubt, it also helped him accomplish his feats at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Let us judge the impact of cricket on Gatto’s Harvard, Cambridge campus brochure for nine qualities that students need to have to deal with the international economy of today:
- The ability to ask hard questions of data, whether from textbooks, authorities, or other "expert" sources. In other words, do we teach dialectics?
- The ability to define problems independently, to avoid slavish dependence on official definitions.
- The ability to scan masses of irrelevant information and to quickly extract from the sludge whatever is useful.
- The ability to conceptualize.
- The ability to reorganize information into new patterns which enable a different perspective than the customary.
- The possession of a mind fluent in moving among different modes of thought: deductive, inductive, heuristic, intuitive, et al.
- Facility in collaboration with a partner, or in teams.
- Skill in the discussion of issues, problems or techniques.
- Skill in rhetoric. Convincing others your course is correct.
Points 7, 8 and 9 are self-evident and needs no further discussion. The Pakistani paradigm of cricket helps point 2, in that street cricket seeks to find innovative ways to look at specific issues. For instance the reverse swing or Saqlain Mustaq’s “dusra” or looked to define the problem of defeating the batsman in a very different way than was conventionally understood in cricket. Such innovations are to be found in a great variety and to diverse degrees in street cricket throughout Pakistan. Point number 1 is shown in the example earlier of Imran Khan’s bowling action, by which Khan, through a dialectic method evolved his action. Many similar processes are constantly taking place in the streets and gullees of Pakistan.
However, cricket is but an ad hoc manner in which Pakistanis are learning what schooling should have helped them learn. The question we come back to is how we can design a schooling system that can actually help rather than hinder our children. How can we implement open source learning? How can we use education to uplift Pakistan? Let us attempt to answer these meaningful questions.
Firstly, we must de-legitimize the system of credentials and certificates. Secondly, we must focus on activity-impact. Thirdly, we need to take the venom out of the poorly mimicked Mass Schooling system. By de-legitimizing the system of credentials and certificates, we mean to say that matriculation and FSC grades should not be the basis for college enrolment. Instead, colleges should have a basic test of mathematics, sciences and language that assess the minimum needed to cope with college-level education. The corridors of privilege and power that cause safarish can then be removed further by choosing randomly (via a computer) from those that pass such a qualification test. All such tests must ensure that they are not repeated with same or similar questions, a problem which perpetuates the route learning tragedy Pakistan so deeply suffers from. People will also not be rejected based on their age – whether it is a 9 year old or a 90 year old. We do not know where talent lies and when they bloom. Certificates and other paperwork need to be delegitimized at every level of the education system.
In focusing on activity-impact, I mean that the government must engage in what is of most importance to the country, with the highest impact. Norman Augustine, one of America’s most distinguished leader in industry, in government, engineer, academic and business leader, who holds 23 honorary degrees and was selected in who's who of American Library of Congress of 50 great Americans, has the following to sum up in a talk titled Re-engineering Engineering about what had the most impact for the United States:
In America it's basic research that creates the new knowledge, then it's engineering that takes that new knowledge and translates it into useful products and services. It's the working together of engineers and business people that takes those products and services then through entrepreneurship, introduces them into the market where they create jobs for other people, not engineers or scientists or business people.
Indeed the race for prosperity today is really a race for leadership in science and engineering. There have been eight different studies that I'm familiar with conducted in recent decades that have indicated that public investment in science and technology produces a societal rate of return of between 20 and 67 percent. There have been a number of other studies that have shown that somewhere between 50 and 85 percent of the growth in gross domestic product in this country in the last half century is attributable to advancements of science engineering. And the Federal Reserve Board concluded that about two thirds of the increase in productivity in this country in the last two decades is attributable to advancements in science and engineering.
This has also been emphasized by many prominent individuals and institutions; including Alan Greenspan and brevity causes me to move on and accept the point that science-engineering is the key sector of importance for Pakistan to take up, and for government to be involved in. Augustine wants innovative, creative engineers, not the route-learned, zombified beings we are churning out. And he notes the dependence of the US in importing such engineers to remotely keep its edge over other nations. Both Augustine and Greenspan note the internal crisis the US is facing in creating a good supply of innovative and creative engineers. If you’ve read the above section on Mass Schooling that is compulsory (by force of the police) in the US, you may know why that may be.
To emphasize science-engineering and technical education, Pakistan needs to focus on creating polytechnics and engineering colleges and universities and then properly funding research and development institutions. Pakistan needs such colleges to provide the best possible and cutting-edge education to create not line-men but the kind of innovative, creative engineers that Augustine wants. Space does not allow us to go into exactly what such a cutting-edge engineering and scientific education should be and on what lines to reform the present, I instead point the reader to a close scrutiny of Norman Augustine’s 16 Laws of Re-engineering Engineering#.
Research and development is a critical element in then utilizing the graduates produced, unless our aim is to send them to the United States where they desperately need such men; it is vital to make sense of the entire Education-R&D-Development cycle. When a nation does not have money for engineers, it makes little sense to produce them in the first place. Managing an effective R&D effort is a very difficult program to master, however, and takes us beyond the scope of this paper. I would suggest a read of his paper on defence policy for more insight on this issue.
The reader will wonder why I am focusing on technical and scientific higher education. Another big portion of higher education is of course the human sciences and the managerial and actuarial sciences. I believe that the managerial and actuarial sciences are well established in Pakistan; Pakistan for instance produces excellent accountants, as does India. Managers are also not built in MBA factories but the best managers are made from practical experience. The problem of the Human sciences is one that the East has been unable to master effectively. Teaching and creating truly effective and competent Human Science graduates is a very complex affair and one well beyond the structural capabilities of public institutions. What ends up happening is creating graduates in the Human Sciences who have no real skills to speak of. I suggest the PTI government simply focuses its meagre resources instead on engineering and the natural sciences.
7. Importance of K-12 Education
A vital and important part of any education to benefit national development is to focus on K-12 education, something spoken of by Ibn Khaldun, who in particular talked about early educational instruction. It is also emphasized by men such as Alan Greenspan who has focused a major portion of his effort in trying to make K-12 education more effective, particularly the kind of education that can produce good scientists and engineers. Gatto notes some important aspects that an education should be able to accomplish. He calls it the Real Learning Index. These include:
- Adding value
To this we add a 9th – ethical and Islamic values. These nine points should form the basis of any real education system. It is with great surprise that we sometimes find individuals supposedly religious but have very poor ethical and moral applied practice. This theme is endemic and a systematic problem, the evidence of the latter being that it is present across the Islamic Ummah and not just a characteristic of Pakistani society. Perhaps the main problem lies in a distortion of the original practice of how Islam was taught; during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the sahaba, students would read a portion of a surah, reflect upon it, apply it, and lastly memorize it. Today, we have skipped all the steps except the last, destroying the value of our faith and turning it into a meaningless prattle. This has to be corrected both at the schools and at the madrassas. And in one stroke we can create an Islamic renaissance, insh’Allah.
Bringing proper Islam and replacing the mullahs at the local madrassas will take a lot of grit and determination to achieve, with “liberal” and US-backed groups trying to manipulate such reform to further their purposes, and at the same time ultra-backward groups trying to hold on to what they have. The best way to deal with this is to create a genuine committee of world-renowned scholars and Muslims. Men like Nouman Ali Khan, an American of Pakistani origin, respected by all groups and sects (at least the major ones). Men like Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) who single-handedly built the best Muslim educational school-chain in the UK, so much so that the demand for a place in his schools outstrips the supply. Men like Zakir Naik, who has done similar education projects in India and whose stature and argumentation can shut any dissenting voices. Some other names include Dr. Totonji (a founder of the MSA), Hamza Yusuf, Yusuf Estes, Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Hakim Murad, Abdur Raheem Green. Yes, they are from diverse backgrounds and this will make them possibly fight with each other, but as long as the platform is given, they should be fully capable of (insh’Allah) hashing out a compromise, which in theory should create the best, most balanced plan. Real consensus is always hard to build, but the payoffs are equally potent.
The big secret about education is that it is not trying to achieve some immense greatness; it is really about stopping damage and damage control. We need to ensure that the Chinese foot binding equivalent of brain damage on our children does not continue. We need to ensure that children are given proper schooling where they are encouraged to think, reason, understand, discuss and apply effectively and practically, whether it is the Quran or the sciences.
The earlier the age, the more critical the damage done and conversely, the more powerful and effective the impact of the education can be. The first aspect to learn for a child is language, whether PTI decides that include Urdu, English, Arabic or even C++. Mathematics is the language of engineering and also must be taught, perhaps immediately after conventional language(s). The important aspect here is not to make children hate school and be taught language through painful classroom lessons in grammar and syntax. The progression and manner of early education is captured by Ibn Khaldun in the following words:
“In his Rihlah, Judge Abu Bakr b. al-'Arabi made a remarkable statement about instruction, which retains (the best of) the old, and presents (some good) new features. He placed instruction in Arabic and poetry ahead of all the other sciences, as in the Spanish method, since, he said, "poetry is the archive of the Arabs. Poetry and Arabic philology should be taught first because of the (existing) corruption of the language. From there, the (student) should go on to arithmetic and study it assiduously, until he knows its basic norms. He should then go on to the study of the Qur'an, because with his (previous) preparation, it will be easy for him." (Ibn al-'Arabi) continued: "How thoughtless are our compatriots in that they teach children the Qur'an when they are first starting out. They read things they do not understand and work hard at something that is not as important for them as other matters." He concluded: "The student should study successively the principles of Islam, the principles of jurisprudence, disputation, and then the Prophetic traditions and the sciences connected with them." He also forbade teaching two disciplines at the same time, save to the student with a good mind and sufficient energy.”
Now, I am not certain if I want my children to study principles of jurisprudence, but the general lay-of-the-land that Judge Al-Arabi sketches seems astute and an effective early education. Certainly, poetry, rhymes and songs can work to make language so much more meaningful and fun for children, and mathematics is critical to develop a logical and analytical mind, not to mention its critical importance to the sciences and engineering.
The last point to be raised is that the children’s development should be seen more holistically, and focuses on Mind, Body and Spirit. Education should not merely be about the first, but be about each of them in balance.
With that we end our paper on Insaf for our Children, with the hope that the paper insh’Allah is in some way helpful to create a new Pakistan under the leadership of Imran Khan and the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf. I have no doubt that if you have actually read this paper and the supporting works, there is no way that you will ever look at education the same way again.