EDUCATION WITHOUT CHARACTER AND MORALS: A CASE OF PARALYSIS OF THE MIND
The prevalent problems of corruption and delinquency confronting contemporary societies, especially in Nigeria, are horrendous. Violence, dishonesty, and the downplaying of the value of justice and truth have become commonplace in our society. Unfortunately, most of these problems are often stimulated by acclaimed “learned persons.” Paradoxically, some of our ancestors, though devoid of the sophisticated academic learning that we enjoy today, lived truthful and harmonious lives. In their days, people could keep their belongings and travel; later, when they returned, they would still find them there.
Thus, the crux of the matter is that, despite the high-level academic qualifications (FSLC-PhD) with distinctions obtained by so many people, there seems to be a serious lack of good character and morals amongst them. Does it mean that people living in this era are all different people with corrupt and paralyzed minds? Or does it mean our direct parents did not take the pains to give us a good parental upbringing that is saturated with moral values, which they received, or are we resistant to their teachings?
As a sequel to the above perplexing questions, effort would be made in this work to explore the rationale behind the problems mentioned above and then proffer possible solutions on how our education system should be restructured so that people would not only acquire academic excellence but also be imbued with moral rectitude during the course of their academic pursuits, since education devoid of character and morals renders the mind paralyzed and deformed.
Definition of key Terms:
Etymologically, the word “education” is derived from the Latin word “educare” meaning to bring up, train, or rear, and also from the gerund word “educatio” meaning “a breeding, rearing, or bringing up.” It is the gradual process of acquiring knowledge or the result of a good upbringing, especially knowledge of correct social behavior. The word “moral” comes from a Latin root “moralis” meaning “goodness or manners.” It is concerned with the principles of right and wrong or conforming to standards of behavior and character for a person in society. The word “character” is derived from the Greek word carakthr, meaning “engraved mark,” or internal disposition, which constitutes part of a person’s moral identity and distinguishes them from others. It can be measured in virtues like honesty, patience, truthfulness, kindness, and the like.
The Goals and Objectives of Education
Education has two objectives: academic learning and the formation of character. For Plato, the ideal aim of education is the liberal training of the human mind and character so as to move them from darkness to light and to develop in a child the qualities of mind and character that most fully express the ideal of human nature (Morrow 1960:297). Similarly, the aim of education is geared towards self-realization, enhancing human relationships, economic efficiency, and civic responsibility; to develop the ability to think rationally and the ability to have respect for human persons, as well as grow in insight apropos of ethical values (Okafor 2006:132–136). Hutchin R.M. also opined that the goal of education is to provide for the perfection of man’s rational and spiritual faculties, which sets him apart from other animals.
Therefore, the primary aim of education is to enable the child to assimilate moral and cultural values as well as foster growth and development for personal maturity and self-discipline. The secondary aim is the acquisition of the skills and knowledge necessary for playing useful roles in society. If people are deprived of these opportunities, they are no less than animals, unfortunately born as humans, because education is not just for human success; it must include the truths of our faith, so that in the end, the child becomes a reputable personality.
An Overview of Paralyzed Education System and its Causality
The advent of technology has made some people aware of several ways to carry out illegal activities. The more most of them acquire academic qualifications, the more they are involved in the biggest scams. One of my lecturers once made an allusion to a boy whom he said was “only intelligent in books.” He has only a book education without good character and morals. By that, he meant that the person in question has good retentive memory in academics but lacks good character. According to him, the boy is self-centric, disrespectful, proud, aggressive, snobbish, and involved in internet money laundering.
Of course, he is the best academic student, with distinctions in all his results. But is academic excellence the sole reason we go to school? According to Theodore Roosevelt, to educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society. This means imparting skills to a person without passing on the requisite morals to make good use of the knowledge will be harmful for society.
Undoubtedly, the lack of character and moral education in our society is becoming increasingly apparent. Our current education system is filled with sophisticated knowledge that prides itself on academic excellence and degree conferment, with little or no room for the application of moral values in its teaching, and not much emphasis is being given to our character-building process. Some of these problems arise in our homes because most of our parents seldom give their children training based on moral principles. Even those who acquire these principles, are often negatively influenced by immoral people in society, and thus join the bandwagon. Almost every day, there is an increase in crime rates: juvenile delinquency, sexual assault, robbery, kidnapping, terrorism, banditry, etc.
Corruption and Moral Decay: The Menace of Academic Dishonesty in Our Education System
Academic dishonesty has also been the bane of some of our schools. Some of our lecturers are morally bankrupt and cannot bequeath moral principles to their students; their interest is only in making money. Sometimes, they hardly award higher or more appropriate marks to students without bribes (sorting), and mostly ladies become victims of sexual assaults in this regard. Some of the students who patronize these lecturers later graduate and become nuisances in society, unable to defend their certificates or give sensible judgments, while those who could not comply would continue to fail that course and thus become frustrated.
Consequently, these individuals may automatically become wicked themselves, either by joining cultism in order to avenge their cause or by becoming dropouts, who may later culminate into high-profile criminals, bandits, kidnappers, or terrorists. This is one of the reasons why Sathya Sai Baba said that, “The end of education is character, and virtue makes education worthwhile, which is a sign of an educated person. Politics without principles, education without humanity, and commerce without morality are not only useless, but positively dangerous (Character – True end of education, November 20, 2001).”
The Erosion of Moral Values in the Face of Modern Consumerism and Information Revolution
The rise of consumerism in the modern world and the information revolution have brought about the degeneration of moral values in society. Previously, traders were honest and afraid to sell inferior goods to their customers; even technicians were very sincere when repairing their customer’s equipment, but currently, the reverse seems almost true. One may say that each generation is faced with challenges relative to its epoch. Of course, that is true, but the high rate of corrupt minds in our era is very outrageous. In a bid to avoid the quick-rich syndrome, some people become mischievous and dishonest.
For instance, someone’s vehicle might develop a little problem, which may not even take much money; some mechanics would magnify the fault, and at times they may remove other functional parts from the vehicle and then request that the owner buy new ones while presenting old parts, which they retrieved from another vehicle, as the damages. They may possibly put inferior parts in, which would spoil quickly, and then charge the person higher afterwards. Many other examples abound, just to mention a few.
Only those whose minds have been paralyzed without morals would display such abhorrent behaviors and the likes mentioned above; “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:10). In the thoughts of Martin Luther King, Jr., he maintained that “education without morals is like a ship without a compass, merely wandering nowhere. It is not enough to have the power of concentration; we must have worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. Hence, an entrepreneur, a political leader, a doctor, a teacher, or whosoever is devoid of moral values is just like a robot; a cankerworm in society.”
Moral and Character Formation in Education
In the past, informal learning was the major form of education. The homes served as the vehicles for such training. Virtually all aspects of daily life were taught in the home, such as moral instructions, cultural patterns, historical events, and spiritual guidance, by parents to children on an informal level. A prime example of this is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 where parents are exhorted to teach the commandments of God to their children and discuss them throughout the day. Another biblical injunction to parents has it thus: “Train children in the right way, and when they become old, they will not stray” (Proverbs 22:6).
Parents must be acknowledged as the first educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. It devolves on parents to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others that a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children (Familiaris Consortio, November 22, 1981, no. 36). In addition, conscious efforts should be made in this endeavor to delineate the content of its broad contours from a religious standpoint.
Subsequently, formal education, which involves the learning and acquisition of intellectual skills in different areas of academic specialization through the teachers in school, should be made available for the children, which also must be imbued with moral instructions.
Meanwhile, the training should not be done by the application of force or harshness; it has to be done gently so as to discover and enhance the peculiar bent of the genius of each person, since knowledge that is acquired under force or compulsion has no hold on the mind. With these modes of learning, the students would become rectitudinous, responsible, and reputable human beings in society, able to make the right judgments.
Thus, their consciences would be adequately formed, always making reference to all they learned, which acts as a springboard for their behavior (Proverbs 4:13). This is what holistic education is all about: a blend of academic and intellectual excellence and worthiness in character. It is not enough to know the truth; we must love it, say it, sacrifice for it, and live by it (Cf. John 8:31-32). Hence, for anyone to be given an honorary award, he or she must be worthy in character and in learning.
The Panaceas to Lack of Proper Education: The Church’s Teaching.
The development of the children’s personalities is the most excellent task of the parents, and the state has the right to enforce an educational standard appropriate to the needs of the community and its culture. Only thus will children be able to make a decent living and be useful members of the community and not a burden to it (Peschke 1996: 592–598). True education, therefore, is directed towards the formation of the human person in view of his final end and the good of society.
Children should be helped to harmoniously develop their physical, moral, and intellectual qualities. They should be trained to gradually acquire a more perfect sense of responsibility in the proper development of their own lives by constant effort and in pursuit of liberty, overcoming obstacles with unwavering courage and perseverance (Vatican II, Gravissimum Educationis, no.1).
According to St. Pope John Paul II, the education of the moral conscience, which makes every human being capable of judging and discerning the proper ways to achieve self-realization according to his or her original truth, thus becomes a pressing requirement that cannot be renounced (Familiaris Consortio, no. 8). The resulting dereliction of the eternal principles of an objective morality that educates conscience and ennobles every department and organization of life is a sin against the destiny of a nation, a sin whose bitter fruit will poison future generations (Cf. Pope Pius XI, Encycl. Mit Brennender Sorge, March 14, 1937, no. 29).
Thus, any education that forgot or, worse still, deliberately neglected to direct the eyes and hearts of the youth would be an injustice to the youth, an injustice against the inalienable duties and rights of the Christian family, and an excess to which a check must be opposed, even in the interests of the people and of the state itself (Cf. Pope Pius XII, Encycl. Summi Pontificatus, October 20, 1939, no. 67).
From the foregoing, it is obvious that education without good character and morals will engender paralysis of the mind. For it is difficult to acquire adequate knowledge that would enhance the development of a given society without morals; otherwise, there would be problems in the society. Holistic education must involve both the acquisition of academic knowledge and the formation of character; they must go hand in hand. Effective moral education should be an integral part of the curriculum, not taught as a separate subject. Classroom rules should be based on the principles of good character, and teachers should model good character for the students to observe through hands-on service activities that contribute to the school, the community, and society in general.
Our education system should strive to develop student’s intrinsic motivation and commitment to do what is right. Therefore, all school teachers, priests, counselors, civil workers from all facets of life, traders, and bus drivers must be involved in this learning process by discussing and sharing responsibility for character education. If it is to have any effect, the reeducation of mankind must be, above all things, religious. Hence, it must proceed from Christ as its indispensable foundation, be actuated by justice, and be crowned by charity (Cf. Pope Pius XII, Encycl. Summi Pontificatus, no. 83).
Finally, the acquisition of knowledge or skills without acceptable moral values and discipline is meaningless since discipline is an essential part of purposeful education, and without it, our society would continue to be in a decadent or comatose state.
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.