Whither Adult Education?


There appears to be a concensus among the literati of Sri Lanka that our political disarray and poor governance are largely due to the 'lack of education' of the majority of our political leaders - the entry of ignoramuses into positions that call for vision and intelligence. The problem is not local, of course - the most powerful politician in the world - the current US President - is widely regarded as a hot-headed fool. The problem is that in a fast-changing and technologicallly challenging world, learning cannot stop with the completion of School and University education.

Adults - especially those who aspire to positions of leadership - must continue to learn by methods such as self-study or interaction with leaders in specialized fields. By far, the best method is to read and digest books written by world authorities - thus both exercising and challenging the ageing brain. 

President Obama recently exhibited a book he was reading before TV cameras (Sapiens -Noah H.) and requested all world-leaders to read the book. This kind of sage  advice by a political leader - a recommendation to be mentally alert despite age - is unthinkable in Sri Lanka where adult learning is as rare as a Cactus at the North Pole. We are singularly unfortunate that our language - Sinhala - has - despite its age - only a marginal position in world culture and we are perforce, mostly imitators.

There is also the cult of the Monkish Guru of the Orient who is a know-all and a repository of unquestioned wisdom. Such Gurus do not learn - they preach. We have a plethora of TV-Stations and FM Channels - all busily engaged in indoctination - with politics, religion and astrology as the ruling themes.

Unfetterd arguments between equals is a Western concept and the hoary and unquestioned 'one way flow' from 'Guru  to Golaya' is the  established norm in this part  of the World. Since this tie weakens with age we have the anomaly of the greater part of our life played out as  robots 'programmed' by an earlier generation of peers.

That learning is a dialectical process is not historically understood in most oriental cultures - where the 'Jug and Mug Model' of the acquisition of learning is still entrenched. Religion in its perfected form is - of course - transcendentally good but the 'praxis' in the East closely follows the 'Jug and Mug' Model with  the supposedly inspired leader 'loaded with Knowledge' siphoning off a portion of his intellectul Elixir to a compliat ignoramus. That all this dulls the intellect and robs the unfortunate victim   of  that free spirit of inquiry that - alas - is so lacking in the ageing leadership of countries across the world. Sadly, book-reading is in decline  everywhere and in Sri Lanka it appears that - apart from school texts - serious reading by adults has gone forever with the Dinosaurs.

R Chandrasoma

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