Alternative Education - Valuesby Monica ThaparEach one of us must identify the values we want to live by. We need to take the time to know ourselvesand penetrate layers of conditioning to arrive at our true selvesValue education is education in values and education towards the inculcation of values. Implicit in thisdefinition is the conviction that value education is a universal phenomenon intrinsic to all learning andeducation, whether at home or in an institution. It is not. Neither teaches us to be critical thinkers or toregard ourselves as proactive beings in relation to ourselves, ourcommunity and humanity at large.Unwittingly and through habit we accept most things handed out to us by the media, the government andthe polity. Unfortunately when there is so much talk about individual capabilities and potentialities, there isso little confidence on the part of the individual about his own power to make a difference. Oureducational system is of little help. We are not trained to be proactive thinkers because we are told solittle of the life values that are the basis forcreative thinking.What really is education? It is not literacy, nor information. Education is a systematic attempt towardshuman learning. All learning is subjective and self-related. Educational activity starts with the individual—Who am I? Where am I going? Where have I come from? It is only with an understanding of the Self thatwe can begin to understand our relationships with others and the environment.Knowledge should not be made remote from individual reality and irrelevant to the individual. Knowledgecan never be learned. Knowledge is the fruit of experience and experience is the sensation of theindividual. Individual experience is an internal happening and is the function of awareness. And one of theprocesses of knowing ourselves, of raising our awareness, is to be able to identify and clarify our values.Education in values is essential in helping each one of us directly encounter the values that we hold,understand them completely, so that we may order our relationships to the environment that lies outsideus. Once we are clear about values we shall be better able to sift and control information of the naturalworld, make wise choices and be creative in our mental processes.Know thyself is what each of us needs to do, yet modern life moves at such a pace that we seldom takethe time to examine ourselves. We become strangers to our own selves. We follow the dictates of othersblindly. Why should any debate be left to a few experts? Why is not critical thinking an integral part ofeveryday life? It must be so if we are to create a sane society.For this to happen we must be equipped to examine our values. These are our internal guideposts. Muchof the great literature of the world—from Bhagavad Gita to Socrates to Hamlet—has dwelled on valuechoices and moral dilemmas that are bound to occur when your values are clearly defined. Values doconflict. Making value choices is not easy, but it is this very thing we must confront and make part of ourlives if we are to be truly creative human beings. Moral dilemmas are only possible for those who havestrongly held principles and it is through these moral dilemmas that new and revolutionary thoughtprocesses emerge and character develops.Value conflicts are the strongest test of character. Yet, today, moral dilemmas are considered a waste oftime, a domain for losers. Ultimately we declare all value assertions unscientific and relative, hence
dispensable. We do not realize that value conflict is healthy, necessary and by eliminating it we are alsoerasing all conviction. Confucius once said: "If a man carefully cultivates values in his conduct, he maystill err a little but he wont be far from the standard of truth."It is time to clarify these values that we speak of. It is up to each one of us to determine the society we willcreate by deciding upon the values we will emphasize today. But first, let us be clear about the categoriesof values. These are three-universal, cultural or ethnic and individual or personal values.UNIVERSAL VALUESFreedom consists not in refusing to recognize anything above us, but in respecting something which is above us; forby respecting it, we raise ourselves to it, and, by our very acknowledgement, prove that we bear within ourselveswhat is higher, and are worthy to be on a level with it.—Goethe Universal values reveal the essence of the human condition. These arise out of thefundamental questions-Who am I? What is my essence? Who am I when I remove myself from my socialand cultural environment? Is there anything in me that cannot be explained by heredity, environment andsociety?It is universal values that indicate the essence of the human condition. It is through universalvalues that we link ourselves with humanity and the cosmos, it is through these that all barriers of time,place and ethnicity are eliminated.These values are not manifest. They must be experienced, as one experiences a sunrise, the beauty of aflower, as one experiences joy, pleasure, bliss, awe, serenity. These values cannot be contained bywords. That the Upanishads and the Bible have remained relevant today as they were centuries ago, tellsus that at the core, there are some constants in human condition, that time has not changed. That we arestill moved by the wonder of the Taj Mahal, the music of Mozart, the life of Hamlet, the perennialphilosophy of the Bhagavad Gita speaks volumes about the mystery and timelessness of universalvalues.Universal values can be experienced as life, joy, brotherhood, love, compassion, service, bliss, truth andeternity.CULTURAL VALUESIf you see in any given situation only what everybody else can see, you can be said to be so much a representative ofyour culture that you are a victim of it.
—S.I. Hayakawa Cultural values are the social values of the day. They are specific totime and place and can be used just as much as misused. These values are concerned with right andwrong, good and bad, customs and behavior. They are meant to maintain social order.Cultural values are speculative and there is nothing wrong with speculating. But it becomes wrong whenspeculation becomes truth, when opinion becomes fact and when prejudice becomes the cause.When cultural values are elevated to the status of universal values, there is the risk of intolerance,oppression, demagoguery, brutality and aggression. A cultural value may serve a function in a particularsituation and circumstance, but in no way can it be seen as the only or the best way of doing things. Aspoon can serve the function of lifting food but so can a fork, a knife, a spatula or bare fingers. A culturalvalue similarly has limited relevance and the fact that it serves a particular function in a given societydoes not imply that it is the only or best way of doing so.When seen in this light, cultural values have the advantage of becoming a source of insight into a timeand society. Creative development of ideas often emerges out of an interaction of differentculturalvalues and an understanding and respect for differences. Much of what we find exciting and interestinghas in fact come from a meeting of cultures. The Renaissance came about from a meeting of the ancientGreek and medieval European cultures. Jazz is African-European music and the AmericanTranscendentalists studied the Indian Vedas and Upanishads. The East heavily influenced writers suchas Aldous Huxley, Somerset Maugham and Carl Jung. Gandhi drew inspiration from Tolstoy, and MartinLuther King Jr. was in turn, deeply affected by Gandhi.If all one knows is ones own culture, there is narcissism. The study of other cultures gives us a widerframe of reference. And the study of other cultures is through its sacred (poetic, mythic, religious)traditions and not only through studying history.Cultural values are reflected in language, ethics, social hierarchy, aesthetics, education, law, economics,philosophy and social institutions of every kind.INDIVIDUAL VALUESThat civilization perishes in which the individual thwarts the revelation of the universal.—Rabindranath Tagore
Individual values are our private principles, the result of individual personality andindividual experiences. Parents, teachers and ones peer group shape individual values. Personalvalues determine the differing reactions of people to similar events. A crisis may dim one personsenthusiasm and land him in depression, while another may be propelled into greater action.Individual values are reflected in individual goals, vows, relationships, commitments and personalpreferences. These are often colored by memories of the past and therefore there are differences in themeaning attributed to a common experience. To one person children denote happiness and strength, toanother they may denote bondage. Individual values are malleable, often contained in a time andmemory warp. They can transform themselves into universal values when you practise awareness andliving in the moment.After clarifying our values, we must determine which of the three are most meaningful for us afterconsidering the relative priority of each category, so that we may be able to confront these andunderstand our own psychological and social conditioning.>Beyond our ego (sense of self) and identity (sense of belonging to a group) that dictates what we know,think, feel and how we act lies the universal identity. Dissonance between ego and identity can createanxiety and alienation but acting upon universal values will not, for here it is authentic action emanatingfrom an authentic Self. Universal values are at the top of the list. The others have their place but it isthrough universal values that we experience a sense of oneness with the human race.Universal values must be our foundation if we are to enjoy a rich, profound and fulfilling life. Ourpersonal and cultural biases limit and distort our perception of the universal wonder that is life. Even asthe hands of a clock are powered from the center that remains ever still, so the universal valuesremainever at the center of human life, no matter where the hands of time are pointing—past, present or future.