Weekend Readings: Renaissance of India

Here are a few links. The first one is on Sri Aurobindo, a giant of a renaissance man. Then a few on education.

Sri Aurobindo is little understood or even read in India today. I think this is going to change in the next couple of decades.

Jagmohan, a former governor of J&K and a former Union minister, writes in The Asian Age about the vision outlined by Sri Aurobindo a hundred years ago.

Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that Sanatan Dharm is designed to uplift the entire human race and not merely the Hindus: “What is this religion which we call Sanatan, eternal. It is the Hindu religion only because the Hindu nation has kept it… But it is not circumscribed by the confines of a single country. That which we call the Hindu religion is really the eternal religion because it is the universal religion which embraces all others”.

On to education. The NY Times has a feature on the Equity Project. [Hat tip: Vishnu Sreekanth.]

The school, called the Equity Project, is premised on the theory that excellent teachers — and not revolutionary technology, talented principals or small class size — are the critical ingredient for success.

Glad to see that it is being recognized that great teachers make a great school. But great teachers — like great pianists, singers, golfers, writers, painters, thinkers, ad infinitum — are in short supply. You could build a few great schools by attracting all the great teachers but you cannot scale this model. What you could do is to make these few great teachers virtually available to a very large number of students and do so cheaply because of the economies of scale that technology provides.

While on the subject of education, here’s Don Tapscott on “The Impending Demise of the University” at Edge.org. [Hat tip: Yuvaraj Galada.] He “is looking at the challenges the digital revolution poses to the fundamental aspects of the University.”

“Universities are finally losing their monopoly on higher learning”, he writes. “There is fundamental challenge to the foundational modus operandi of the University — the model of pedagogy. Specifically, there is a widening gap between the model of learning offered by many big universities and the natural way that young people who have grown up digital best learn.”

As it happens, Sean at Cosmic Variance had explored the question “Will the Internet Replace Universities?” back in early April.

. . . there is a long-established bargain at big research universities that could conceivably come unraveled at the hands of the internet. Namely: it is research and scholarship that attracts the faculty and establishes the academic reputation of a school, but it is teaching that brings in students and tuition dollars. This is not an arrangement based entirely on avarice; the top research schools bring in a lot more money from grants and gifts than they do from student tuitions. But it reflects a deep philosophical split, that might signal an underlying instability: from within academia, the purpose of the university is seen as the production of new scholarship; from outside academia, the purpose of universities is seen as the teaching of students.

Finally an interview with Howard Gardner at strategy+business. [Registration required. Free.]

. . . Professor Gardner, who is co-director of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the school’s John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor in Cognition and Education, developed the concept of multiple intelligences.

. . .

Professor Gardner’s theories of multiple intelligences have formed the basis for reforms in education and teaching. The aim of Project Zero is to bring the theory of multiple intelligences into the classroom through new curricula, tests and assessment devices.

For his work, Professor Gardner has received many awards, including a MacArthur Prize, often called a “genius grant.”

The importance of Professor Gardner’s theories, which are spelled out in 18 books, is not, however, limited to education; they also have widespread business implications. According to Professor Gardner, knowledge of multiple intelligences can help companies build better teams, solve problems and make decisions more effectively. Knowledge of multiple intelligences also plays a role in leadership and in developing the right leaders for the right tasks and times.

Have a good weekend.

Categories: Random Draws

2 replies

  1. Excellent post! All very interesting links, of topical interest. Am looking forward to a good weekend. Thanks!


  2. But great teachers — like great pianists, singers, golfers, writers, painters, thinkers, ad infinitum — are in short supply.


    I disagree. There is no teacher greater than life and the universe. As the Sikhs say with reverence, there is only one wonderful teacher WaheGuru. As is mentioned in the Upanishads, Guru Brahman Guru Maheswarah meaning not only that a teacher is equivalent to the supreme reality (or the supreme personification of reality), but also that the supreme reality is the teacher.

    All teachers are mere projections of the ultimate reality which is the true teacher.

    I don’t consider that to have such a projection, you need to have a human teacher. It could be a disparate network of varied individuals and knowledge can be transmitted through interactions via such a network.

    By the way, Shree Aurobindo is one of the true philosophical greats of our century. He has tried to explain the Advaita principle in the terminology of Biblical and western philosophy. The fundamental difference of Indian philosophy is the participatory nature of the individual in the conception of Brahmān. As the Upanishads say, Aham Brahmāsmi (I am Brahman) and Prajnānam Brahmān (awareness is Brahman). These are very powerful thoughts and very radical with respect to western philosophy. There was a jesuit priest named Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who conceptualized what is known as Omega Point to give a representation to this idea. One of the people impressed by this idea was Issac Asimov who penned a story. This principle is also one of the fundamental alternative theories in cosmology, known as the Participatory Anthropic Principle as conceptualized by Dr. John Wheeler. Shree Aurobindo has linked the Advaita philosophy to the theory of evolution, thereby inspiring Pierre Teilhard.


%d bloggers like this: