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Educational Thoughts of Tagore and Whitehead Revisited

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Item Code: NAZ152
Author: Rita Sinha Dasgupta
Publisher: University of Calcutta
Language: English
Edition: 2010
Pages: 202
Other Details 9.50 X 7.00 inch
Weight 360 gm
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Book Description
Education is the truest image of man, society and the world. It heralds the victory and advancement of tradition and civilization, excellence and devotion to ascent in every direction.

Both Rabindranath Tagore and Alfred North Whitehead, the outstanding educational philosophers of the East and the West, advocate education as a matter of unending quest for man the eternal pilgrim of fullness and perfection, poignancy and dedication.

A critical study of the educational thoughts of Tagore and Whitehead in terms of man, society and the world from diverse essential perspectives like love and joy, creativity and freedom, peace and universal brotherhood of man and so on not only broadens the canvas of dignity and righteousness, serenity and blessedness but also widens the progress of civilization and march for ascent and excellence. In Tagore's philosophy of education, the world of humanism beckons fostering and disseminating the newer identity of man replacing all inner ukase. The continuous and sustained discovery of the mind that cares for the education of empathy and sympathy, unity and universality of what stands for the all-embracing efflorescence of man and society is what he has always advocated and made thrilling experiments. Apart from education of life rather than mere education for life that is rest assured with utilitarian ends-in-view, he shows the undiscovered avenues of self-exploration in terms of self-realization-Sadhana-entwining the enchanting components of humane enlightenment like love, beauty, soul consciousness, realization in action and that of infinity.

Whitehead also directs our attention to the same objectives of education in tune with peace and sympathy, excellence of the individual and the society that welcome ceaseless redefining and revaluating the self as the exponent of altruism. He also advocates like Tagore the role of education for excellence in aesthetic and spiritual sensibilities, which addresses love to be fruitful in service, patience to lightly bear joys and sorrows, victory and defeat, success and futility.

The quest for the universal man by means of education as Tagore has marvelously made in exploring and expanding the sky of the mind-chidakas-prompts and prepares one to be a partner and appreciator of Whitehead whose philosophy of education echoes almost the same vision of the march of man. As the twenty-first century education is confronted and challenged with man lost in men and vice versa, and societies at cross-roads with values, ethos and moorings, it is time now or never to follow the footprints of these two rarest of the rare masterminds.

Education is the social heritage of humans, which forms the very basis of human civilization.

Eminent educationists came into existence in different parts of the world in different periods of history. Inspite of wide spatial and temporal disparities, sometimes identical or similar ideas are reflected in the points of view of two educational thinkers.

Since the first quarter of the twentieth century some researchers in the fields of philosophy, literature, social sciences and education have been engaged in comparative study between thinkers who are separated by distances of space and time. In the mid-twentieth century research activities of this type led to research of another type which can be characterized as study of parallel ideas in the context of developing civilization. The present research falls under the category of "study of parallel ideas between thinkers" separated by distance of space.

The author has brought to light the rich educational ideas of Tagore and Whitehead. The ideas of Tagore's philosophy of education remained unknown to the English-knowing world because most of his writings in this area are in Bengali language.

Whitehead's ideas on education have remained rather obscure till recently because of his terse metaphysical formulations. This study aims at comparing the educational theories of Tagore and Whitehead in lucid English language for the benefit of English-knowing people all over the world.

Rabindranath Tagore and Alfred North Whitehead were contemporaries. Both of them were born in the year 1861. Despite the fact there was no direct contact between them; parallel ideas have been found in their educational views.

The present study also has great heuristic value for the future. Its primary aim is to discover, analyze, and critically evaluate parallel ideas in two men of genius, one representing the Oriental culture, and the other representing the occidental culture. This discovery and intellectual analysis of parallel ideas in these two intellectual stalwarts is likely to prepare the way for East-West understanding in future, and thus strengthen the cause of lasting world order.

Rabindranath Tagore was an eminent thinker of the Eastern culture, who pinned his faith on idealism, humanism, naturalism, and perfectionism. Alfred North Whitehead was a brilliant thinker of the Western culture, whose world-view can be characterized as idealistic, humanistic, and perfectionist. Both of them laid stress on basic goodness, creative upsurge, and freedom in humans, all over the world. Both of them had firm conviction that humankind would progress culturally, and that peace would prevail in the world through effective implementation of the techniques of conflict-resolution. Both of them ardently hoped that an ideal state of human existence can be ushered into existence, in future, through implementation of a policy of holistic creative education.

Tagore and Whitehead have recognized the supreme importance of reason, while they theorized on education. They both realized that a consistent theory of education cannot have irrational ideas in it.

Tagore and Whitehead recognized that integration of Eastern and Western culture is possible, if Oriental and Occidental people pin their faith on reason. Reason in individuals do not separate them; rather, it unites them.

Both Tagore and Whitehead lay stress on cultivation of values through educative process.

In their view, life is search for values; and successful life is attainment of values. Values cannot be understood through scientific analysis and logical reasoning, but rather, through intuitive comprehension. Both Tagore and whitehead maintain that intrinsic values can be grasped through intuitive comprehension.

Both Tagore and Whitehead recognize the fundamental importance of science and values in any educational programmed, from the level of primary education up to the highest academic level of rigorous research. Both .pin their faith on empirical truth, which is obtained through scientific research. Yet, both of them recognize the supreme importance of intrinsic and eternal values, which have been sustaining human existence for centuries. Zest for life, creative upsurge, love, happiness, and peace are some of the perennial values, which humans all over the world have been cherishing from the very dawn of civilization.

Both Tagore and Whitehead recognized the importance of facts and values in any civilized society. In their view, empirical science gives us knowledge of facts and axiology (value theory) gives us knowledge of values. An effective system of education integrates scientific facts with values. Humans deal with actualities in life with the aid of scientifically established truths (i.e., tested facts), and ideals in human existence through moral vision, aesthetic refinement, and religious intuition (i.e. goodness, beauty and truth).

Both Tagore and Whitehead recognize that although humans Jive and move about in the actual world, which is full of difficulties and hopes, they have a strong urge to transcend the hard actualities of life through passionate love for humanity, lasting peace on the global scale and communion with God through religious intuition.

Aim of education, according to both of them is all-round development of personality.

Both of them, therefore, gave emphasis on intellectual, aesthetic, moral and cultural development of an individual. Both Tagore and Whitehead have recognized dignity, freedom and creative potentiality of all human beings. Both of them emphasize the basic goodness in all persons, which can be nurtured and sustained through education. The aim of education according to both is to develop the personality of an individual to the fullest possible extent, along with an over-all development of the society.

Both of them believe in allowing maximum possible freedom to learners during the process of learning. However, both Tagore and whitehead recommend that there must be proper balance between freedom and discipline.

Education is the social heritage of humans, which forms the very basis of human civilization.

The system of education has been changing from time to time, and place to place, in accordance with the social, economic and political needs of the members of a socio-cultural system of a particular geographical region in a particular epoch. An individual is the product of his time, and geographical region. He develops his mental framework, according to the environment, and cultural norms and values of his socio-cultural system.

Eminent educationists came into existence in different parts of the world, and in different periods of history. Their educational philosophies got molded, in accordance with their respective historical backgrounds, cultural traditions, economic conditions, geographical features, political systems and ideologies of their countries. Inspite of wide spatial and temporal disparities, sometimes identical or similar ideas can be found in the educational theorizations of two or more educational thinkers living in two different geographical regions.

In recent years, radical changes have taken place in social, economic and political situations throughout the world because of new discoveries and inventions in the fields of science and technology. Along with the progress, and development in the fields of science and technology, many problems have also emerged. Two world wars had devastating effects on life and property on mass scale. Over and above that, in the technologically advanced societies, human life has become mechanical, leading to the feeling of purposelessness. People, therefore, have lost faith on mere intellectual analysis of social problems. In consequence, great thinkers at present have tried to solve social problems by integrating scientific and religious approaches. They have been trying to lay stress on humanism, higher values of life and unity of humankind.

In the East, Rabindranath Tagore was an eminent poet and philosopher, who threw valuable light on the educational problems, with special reference to Indian cultural situation. In the West, on the other hand, Alfred North Whitehead was an eminent philosopher and scientist, who expressed his ideas on education, with special reference to Western culture.


1.1.1 Rabindranath Tagore's Biography

Rabindranath Tagore was born in Calcutta on 7th May, 1861, when Indian renaissance was in a fairly advanced stage. He belonged to a highly educated, cultured, religious and en-lightened family. His father Debendranath Tagore (1817-1905), an eminent leader of Brahmo Samaj, was a man of highly religious temperament and of a saintly disposition. He was known as 'Maharishi' (Great Saint) for his religious outlook. Krishna Kriplani described him as a man who was 'God- intoxicated';' and his father Prince Dwarkanath Tagore found him to be practicing "Brahmo the whole day".

Rabindranath Tagore was born and brought up in the traditional Indian culture of his family.

Nevertheless, he and his family members were receptive to the covetable values and norms of Western culture. One can, therefore, note in the views and writings of Tagore a synthesis between Eastern and Western cultural values.’ Tagore wrote about himself and his family as follows:

"I was born in what was then the metropolis of British India. My ancestors came floating to Calcutta upon the earliest tide of the fluctuating fortune of the East India Company. The conventional code of life for our family thereupon became a confluence of three cultures: The Hindu, the Mohammedan and the British. My grandfather belonged to the period when an amplitude of dress and courtesy and generous leisure were gradually being clipped and curtailed into Victorian manner, economical in time in ceremonies and in the dignity of personal appearance. This will show that I came to a world in which the modern city-bred spirit of I progress had just begun diving its triumphal car over the luscious green life of our ancient village community."

Though the trampling process was almost complete around me, yet the wailing cry of the past was still lingering over the wreckage."

Tagore lost his mother in his early youth; hence, it was his father's influence and memories, which are amply expressed through his writings.

At the age of five, Rabindranath started reading and writing with his brother Somendranath and nephew Satya. "At last there came a day when Somendra and Satya had to go to school.

Rabindranath was two years younger, and his elders thought that he should stay at home for some time longer. But Rabindranath wanted to go to school because to go to school meant to go out into the big, free outside world. He thought it would be a way of escape from his imprisonment in the house:" However, Tagore soon discovered "school was another prison, much more dreary than home and he named it his 'Andamans' when he worked back on those days.'? Tagore described his school experience in the following words:

"School grabbed the best part of the day, and only fragments of time in the morning and evening slipped through its clutching fingers. As soon as, I entered the class-room, the benches and tables forced themselves rudely on my attention, elbowing and jostling their way into my mind. They were always the same-stiff, cramping, and dead. In the evening, I went home, and the oil lamp in our study room, like a stem signal, summoned me to the preparation of the next day's lessons. There is a kind of grasshopper which takes the color of the withered leaves among which it works unobserved. In like manner, my spirit also shrank and faded among those faded, drab-colored days.

Tagore gave up going to school as it appeared to him lifeless, stiff, cramping, uninteresting and uninspiring. He was taught science, arithmetic, geometry, history, geography, religion, philosophy, music, drawing and Bengali, Sanskrit and English languages at home by private tutors. He was also encouraged to practice wrestling and gymnastics. The intellectual and religious atmosphere of his family. contributed to the sharpening of his intellect and cultural refinement.

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