Reader : In the whole of our discussion, you have not demonstrated the necessity for education; we always complain of its absence among us. We notice a movement for compulsory education in our country. The Maharaja Gaekwar has introduced it in his territories. Every eye is directed towards them. We bless the Maharaja for it. Is all this effort then of no use?
Editor : If we consider our civilization to be the highest, I have
regretfully to say that much of the effort you have described is of no
use. The motive of the Maharaja and other great leaders who have been
working in this direction is perfectly pure. They, therefore,
undoubtedly deserve great praise. But we cannot conceal from ourselves
the result that likely to flow from their effort.
What is the meaning of education? It simply means a knowledge of
letters. It is merely an instrument, and an instrument may be well used
or abused. The same instrument that may be used to cure a patient may be
used to take his life, and so may a knowledge of letters. We daily
observe that many men abuse it and very few make good use of it; and if
this is a correct statement, we have proved that more harm has been done
by it than good.
The ordinary meaning of education is a knowledge of letters. To teach
boys reading, writing and arithmetic is called primary education. A
peasant earns his bread honestly. He has ordinary knowledge of the
world. He knows fairly well how he should behave towards his parents,
his wife, his children and his fellow villagers. He understands and
observes the rules of morality But he cannot write his own name. What do
you propose to do by giving him a knowledge of letters ? Will you add an
inch to his happiness? Do you wish to make him discontented with his
cottage or his lot? And even if you want to do that, he will not need
such an education. Carried away by the flood of western thought we came
to the conclusion, without weighing pros and cons, that we
should give this kind of education to the people.
Now let us take higher education. I have learned Geography, Astronomy,
Algebra, Geometry, etc. What of that ? In what way have. I benefited
myself or those around me? Why have I learned these things ? Professor
Huxley has thus defined education: "That man I think has had a liberal
education who has been so trained in youth that his body is the ready
servant of his will and does with ease and pleasure all the work that as
a mechanism it is capable of; whose intellect is a clear, cold, logic
engine with all its parts of equal strength and in smooth working
order... whose mind is stored with a knowledge of the fundamental truths
of nature... whose passions are trained to come to heel by a vigorous
will, the servant of a tender conscience... who has learnt to hate all
vileness and to respect others as himself. Such a one and no other, I
conceive, has had a liberal education, for he is in harmony with nature.
He will make the best of her and she of him."
If this is true education, I must emphatically say that the sciences I
have enumerated above I have never been able to use for controlling my
senses. Therefore, whether you take elementary education or higher
education, it is not required for the main thing. It does not make men
of us. It does not enable us to do our duty.
Reader : If that is so, I shall have to ask you - another question. What
enables you to tell all these things to me? If you had not received
higher education, how would you have been able to explain to me the
things that you have?
Editor : You have spoken well. But my answer is simple: I do not for one
moment believe that my life would have been wasted, had I not received
higher or lower education. Nor do I consider that I necessarily serve
because I speak. But I do desire to serve and in endeavouring to fulfill
that desire, I make use of the education I have received. And, if I am
making good use of it, even then it is not for the millions, but I can
use it only for such as you, and this supports my contention. Both you
and I have come under the bane of what is mainly false education. I
claim to have become free from its ill effect, and I am trying to give
you the benefit of my experience and in doing so, I am demonstrating the
rottenness of this education.
Moreover, I have not run down a knowledge of letters in all
circumstances. All I have now shown is that we must not make of it a
fetish. It is not our Kamadhuk. In its place it can be of use and
it has its place when we have brought our senses under subjection and
put our ethics on a firm foundation. And then, if we feel inclined to
receive that education, we may make good use of it. As an ornament it is
likely to sit well on us. It now follows that it is not necessary to
make this education compulsory. Our ancient school system is enough.
Character-building has the first place in it and that is primary
education. A building erected on that foundation will last.
Reader : Do I then understand that you do not consider English education
necessary for obtaining Home Rule?
Editor: My answer is yes and no. To give millions a knowledge of English is to
enslave them. The foundation that Macaulay laid of education has
enslaved us. I do not suggest that he has any such intention, but that
has been the result. Is it not a sad commentary that we should have to
speak of Home Rule in a foreign tongue?
And it is worthy of note that the systems which the Europeans have
discarded are the systems in vogue among us. Their learned men
continually make changes. We ignorantly adhere to their cast-off
systems. They are trying each division to improve its own status. Wales
is a small portion of England. Great efforts are being made to revive a
knowledge of Welsh among Welshmen. The English Chancellor, Mr. Llyod
George is taking a leading part in the movement to make Welsh children
speak Welsh. And what is our condition? We write to each other in faulty
English, and from this even our M.A.s are not free; our best thoughts
are expressed in English; the proceedings of our Congress are conducted
in English; our best newspapers are printed in English. If this state of
things continues for a long time, posterity will—it is my firm
opinion—condemn and curse us.
It is worth noting that, by receiving English education, we have
enslaved the nation. Hypocrisy, tryanny, etc., have increased;
English-knowing Indians have not hesitated to cheat and strike terror
into the people. Now, if we are doing anything for the people at all, we
are paying only a portion of the debt due to them.
Is it not a painful thing that, if I want to go to a court of justice, I
must employ the English language as a medium, that when I become a
barrister, I may not speak my mother tongue and that someone else should
have to translate to me from my own language? Is not this absolutely
absurd? Is it not a sign of slavery? Am I to blame the English for it or
myself? It is we, the English-knowing Indians, that have enslaved India.
The curse of the nation will rest not upon the English but upon us.
I have told you that my answer to your last question is both yes and no. I
have explained to you why it is yes. I shall now explain why it is no.
We are so much beset by the disease of civilization, that we cannot
altogether do without English-education. Those who have already received
it may make good use of it wherever necessary. In our dealings with the
English people, in our dealings with our own people, when we can only
correspond with them through that language, and for the purpose of
knowing how disgusted they (the English) have themselves become with
their civilization we may use or learn English, as the case may be.
Those who have studied English will have to teach morality to their
progeny through their mother tongue and to teach them another Indian
language; but when they have grown up, they may learn English, the
ultimate aim being that we should not need it. The object of making
money thereby should be eschewed. Even in learning English to such a
limited extent we shall have to consider what we should learn through it
and what we should not. It will be necessary to know what sciences we
should learn. A little thought should show you that immediately we cease
to care for English degrees, the rulers will prick up their ears.
Reader : Then what education shall we give?
Editor : This has been somewhat considered above, but we will consider
it a little more. I think that we have to improve all our languages.
What subjects we should learn through them need not be elaborated here.
Those English books which are valuable, we should translate into the
various Indian languages. We should abandon the pretension of learning
many sciences. Religious, that is ethical, education will occupy the
first place. Every cultured Indian will know in addition to his own
provincial language, if a Hindu, Sanskrit; if a Mahomedan, Arabic; if a
Parsee, Persian; and all, Hindi. Some Hindus should know Arabic and
Persian; some Mahomedans and Parsees, Sanskrit. Several Northerners and
Westerners should learn Tamil. A universal language for India should be
Hindi, with the option of writing it in Persian or Nagari characters. In
order that the Hindus and the Mahomedans may have closer relations, it
is necessary to know both the characters. And, if we can do this, we can
drive the English language out of the field in a short time. All this is
necessary for us, slaves. Through our slavery the nation has been
enslaved, and it will be free with our freedom.
Reader : The question of religious education is very difficult.
Editor : Yet we cannot do without it. India will never be godless. Rank
atheism cannot flourish in this land. The task is indeed difficult. My
head begins to turn as I think of religious education. Our religious
teachers are hypocritical and selfish; they will have to be approached.
The Mullas, the Dasturs and the Brahmins hold the key in their hands,
but if they will not have the good sense, the energy that we have
derived from English education will have to be devoted to religious
education. This is not very difficult. Only the fringe of the ocean has
been polluted and it is those who are within the fringe who alone need
cleansing. We who come under this category can even cleanse ourselves
because my remarks do not apply to the millions. In order to restore
India to its pristine condition, we have to return to it. In our own
civilization there will naturally be progress, retrogression, reforms,
and reactions; but one effort is required, and that is to drive out
Western civilization. All else will follow.