An Educated Person
by Harold Nicolson
Questions and Answers (AECC – Block 01)
1. What means and methods do you think one has to adopt in order to be educated truly?
Answer- There can be quite a few ways to determine if a person is truly educated. But, none of these can be said to be free of flaw. Counting the number of years spent in school, or seeing the area of specialization of a person can be quite misleading. Sp, according to the author, a person can be said to be truly educated if they study the particular branch of knowledge that interests them, and then proceed to study other subjects that have some remote, but inseparable link with their core of interest. A gardener can be said to be educated if they acquire knowledge of Botany, aesthetics, floral decoration etc. Such comprehensive and wholistic knowledge of a subject makes the man ‘an educated person’, no matter how trivial his area of interest might be.
2. How does Nicolson explain the idea of liberal education, general knowledge and the notion of literary men?
Answer- Liberal education has undefined contours, no rigid walls, and no restrictions on free thinking. It allows the mind to foray into domains that could be of interest to the learner, even if it does not appear in the syllabus. General knowledge is also a term that is frequently misunderstood. It is certainly not knowing something about everything, or acquiring specialized skills on a narrow range of subjects. A person can be described as having general knowledge, if they have done in depth of matters that relate to their core area of interest. Going by similar logic, a literary man will be acknowledged as such if they study literature of varied genres, learn a second or even a third language, and read works of authors who have written books on their main areas of interest.
3. What according to you is the difference between quantity and quality? Give suitable examples.
Answer- A writer can write a large number of books, but can’t grip the mind of the readers because of the bland and sterile nature of the books. Such books are generally termed as ‘pulp fiction’. On the other hand, there are authors whose works have fascinated readers for centuries, triggered revolutions, and brought about reforms in the society. One example is Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. This book shook the conscience of the society through its depiction of suffering, exploitation and cruelty in French society.
4. Do you think that the traditional education system was more effective that the present one? Elaborate your reasons.
Answer- The traditional education system taught artisanship, simple mathematics, and basic literature. It helped the students to make a living by adopting to certain crafts. On the contrary, the modern education system is much more elaborate, imparts a lot of knowledge, but does not equip the student to earn his livelihood. So, the modern system is much less need-based.
5. What contribution does ‘Humanities’ as a discipline serves the society?
Answer – Humanities provide the elixir of life to the human beings. It enables humans to engage in hobbies, write books, perform arts, and, thus, express the hidden creativity in them. Without ‘humanities’, life would be sterile, mechanical, and insufferably monotonous.
Additional Comprehension Questions
1. What according to you is the difference between quantity and quality? Give examples.
Answer – Since the question is from the lesson ‘An Educated Person’, it is reasonable to assume that the answer should be about ‘quantity’ and ‘quality’ of education as illustrated by Harold Nicholson. A person with a plethora of degrees, certificates, and titles is generally assumed to be a highly educated person by the society, just because he has accumulated an abundance of academic accomplishments. The author rightly differs with this position. A professor specialized in Odissi music and dance, no doubt, enjoys a coveted status in society. Compare him with a village level guru of Odissi dance and songs who has devoted all his life to study, practice and spread this art. In course of his self-motivated research, he has studied other forms of dance such as Bharat Natyam, Manipuri, Kuchipudi etc. He has pursued is innate interest of his own volition with no desire to ascend to fame or wealth. The contrast between the professor and the humble village guru is what separates ‘quantity’ and ‘’quality’. ‘Quantity’ is acquired, where as ‘quality’ is developed as a hobby.
2. What role does humanities as a discipline serve society?
Answer – Society has evolved over centuries by cultivating subjects like literature, arts, history,philosophy etc. Development of science has surely paid a pivotal role in creating prosperity, fighting diseases, and generating employment. But, all these benefits have satisfied material needs of humans. On the contrary, study of subjects like literature,philosophy etc. broadly classified as ‘Humanities’ have catered to the softer needs of human beings. it’s a bizarre idea to suggest that human beings can thrive bereft of poetry, drama, novels etc. History and Philosophy are indispensable for the growth and fruition of human mind’s creative potential. Without the study of literature, music, arts, philosophy, history etc. the world will look barren and blighted. Materialistic pleasures can never substitute for the soothing balm for the society. This is why humanities provide the elixir for our existence.
3. How can common sense be counted as education?
Answer – Education in its broader sense is an enabler of our mind’s latent skills. It equips us to discern the good from the bad, the fact from the hyperbole, and the moral from the immoral. When we get educated in the right way, our mind’s rational faculties get sharpened enabling us to take correct decisions and arrive at balanced judgements effortlessly and spontaneously. Armed with such capabilities, we can confront the small and complex intrigues of life without the risk of making an embarrassing error. This is what is known as ‘common sense’. A person with ‘common sense’ is less prone to invite ridicule or make judgmental errors. Such people are held in high regard by society, no matter what class they belong to. Therefore, it can be said that true education fosters ‘common sense’.
4. Was Indian traditional education more effective than the present one?
Answer – We have made great strides in technology. It would be wrong to say that our traditional system was more effective in every manner. The Guru-Student relationship Indian traditional education belonged to the non-internet age when science and technology were in primitive stages. Even subjects of humanities stream were centered around what India had in that era. Literature was confined to the study of Sanskrit and, possibly, Tamil. Philosophy was centered around Indian and Buddhist philosophy. But we must not overlook how the traditional system emphasized most on values, morals, ethics and the philosophy of life. These elements are what make or break a human. The present education system primarily focus on readying students for employment. Everything else is optional. We need to incorporate the good bits from the bygone times in the present. Mindless and needless expansion is cause of most trouble on this planet and we are actively encouraged to be as materialistic as we possibly can. With each passing time we are getting increasingly distanced from the nature and a simple living. In conclusion, we need to to revamp the modern education system by incorporating the good from the past rather than making them entirely optional.
5. What is education?
Answer – In simple words, education is food for the brain. A brain without education is as lifeless as a body without food. Education is what makes us superior to animals in terms of intellect and without it, an individual will operate solely on his natural primal instincts. As we don’t live in forests anymore, an uneducated individual will fail to keep up with the advances of the society. He will be taken advantage of and be subjected to mockery everywhere. The type of education most of us receive is another topic of debate. We are pushed into an education system that readies us primarily for professions. Personality development, philosophy, morals, ethics and everything else along these take the back seat. One who is educated enough can see through these pitfalls of profession oriented education and raise higher than his primal instincts to respect every human and lead a life of harmony. Maybe that’s what it means to be human and truly educated.