Friday, October 15, 2010

What should one choose, if one has to choose between memory and intelligence



It is the same problem, the same question, phrased differently. Society is authoritarian; the church is authoritarian; the educational system is authoritarian. They all say, ”Whatever we say is right and you need not question it. You have simply to follow.”

And there are problems, for example in the educational system... I have been a student, I have been a professor, and I know that for the best part of life a person is being ruined by authoritarian people in the schools, in the colleges, in the universities. I was expelled from many colleges for the simple reason that I could not accept any authoritarianism. I said, ”You prove it and I am ready to accept it. But without proving it, without giving right arguments for it, without making it a rational statement, I am not going to accept it.”

And I was fighting in every subject, because in every subject the teachers were simply lecturing. Students were taking notes, because all that was needed was to repeat in the examination papers what the teachers had been telling them. And the better you repeat, exactly like a parrot, the more credit you get. Small things they were in difficulty to prove, and it became embarrassing to them. Every day it was a question... Anything they would say, I would stand up immediately – and I was asking relevant questions – ”On what grounds...?”

For example, one of the professors who was teaching me religions made the statement that the VEDAS – the Hindu holy scriptures – were written by God. I had to stand up. I said, ”I object. In the first place you have not been able to prove the existence of God. In the second place, now you are saying that these books, which are full of rubbish, are written by God. Have you ever looked into the VEDAS?” I asked him, ”Have you ever read from the first page to the last page?” There are four VEDAS, big volumes. ”I have brought all the four with me, and at random I can open and read, and let the whole class decide whether this is a statement which God could have written.”

The VEDAS are full of prayers. Now, God cannot pray; to whom will he be praying? And prayers for such stupid things that it is simply ridiculous to say that they are written by God. One Brahmin is praying, ”I have been continuously doing all the rituals, living according to the scriptures and you have still not given me a child. Give me a child; that will be a proof that my prayers have been heard.” I asked him, ”How could God have written this passage? It is written by someone and addressed to God, but it cannot be written by God himself. And if this is the situation of God, then that poor fellow should not be bothered about it. God is asking about a child from somebody else, so why should we not ask from the same source? Why should we bother this poor fellow?”

Their only answer finally was that every college would reject me. The principal would say, ”We are sorry. We know you are right, but we have to run the college. You will destroy the whole institution. Professors are threatening to resign, students are saying that you don’t allow the professors to teach, because on a single point every day the whole period is lost. Eight months have passed and the course will not be finished in the coming two months if the same thing continues. ”They have come here to pass examinations; they are not interested in truth, they are not interested in the validity of any statement. Their only reason to be here is to get a certificate. And you are a strange fellow – you don’t seem to be interested in certificates.” I said, ”I am not interested at all in certificates. What will I do with the certificates of these people who don’t know anything? I cannot think of these people as my examiners. The day you give me the certificate, I will tear it up immediately before you – because these people can’t answer.”

But the whole system is geared in that way. When I became a professor myself, I had to make a new arrangement. The arrangement was that in each forty-minute period, twenty minutes I would teach the syllabus as it is written in the books, and twenty minutes I would criticize it. My students said, ”We will go mad.” I said, ”That is your problem – but I cannot leave these statements without criticism. You can choose; when your examination comes you can choose to write whichever you want. If you want to fail, choose my part. If you want to pass, choose the first part. I am making it clear; I am not deceiving anybody – but I cannot go on deceiving you by teaching you something which I think is absolutely wrong.”

The vice-chancellor finally had to call me, and he said to me, ”This is a strange type of teaching. I have been receiving every day reports that half the time you teach the syllabus and half the time you have your arguments, which destroy the whole thing that you have taught them. So they come as empty as they had gone in... in fact in more of a mess!” I said, ”I’m not worried about anybody. What have they done with me all these years when I was a student? I was expelled from one college and then another. And you can come one day and listen to whether I am doing any injustice to the prescribed course. When I teach the prescribed course, I do it as totally as possible, to make it clear.”

He came one day and he listened, and after twenty minutes he said, ”That is really great. I had been also a student of philosophy, but nobody has ever told me this way.” I said, ”This is only half the talk. You just wait, because now I am going to destroy it completely, step by step.” And when I destroyed it completely he said, ”My God! Now I can understand what the poor students are reporting to me. You are not supposed to be a professor in this structure of education. I can understand that what you are doing is absolutely honest, but this system does not create people of intelligence; this system only creates people of good memory – and that’s what is needed. We need clerks, we need stationmasters, we need postmasters – and these people don’t need intelligence, they need a good memory.”

I said, ”In other words you need computers, not men. If this is your educational system, then sooner or later you are going to replace men with computers” – and that’s what they are doing. Everywhere they are replacing important positions with computers, because computers are more reliable; they are just memory, no intelligence. Man, however repressed, has a certain intelligence.

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