Purpose of Education

Education—like democracy, free markets, freedom of the press, and “universal human rights” — is one of those subjects whose virtue is considered self-evident. So is the superiority of the industrially advanced countries in attaining them. Consequently, any package that arrives with one of these magic labels on it, automatically qualifies for the “green channel” at our entry ports. No questions asked. This uncritical acceptance has severely crippled our discussion of all these vital topics. For example in education most of our discussion centers around literacy statistics and the need to have so many graduates, masters, Phd’s, and so many professionals — engineers, doctors, etc.— in a given country based on the standards in the industrially advanced countries. The central issue of curriculum, and even more fundamental issue of the purpose of education normally do not attract our attention; they have already been decided by the “advanced’ countries for us and our job is only to follow in their footsteps to achieve their level of progress.

Indeed they have. In the “first” world, education has become an extension of the capitalist system. Its purpose is to provide qualified workforce for its machinery of production and eager consumers for its products. Stated in a more polished form, the purpose of education is to provide for the economic prosperity of a country. Similarly on a personal level today the purpose of education is to be able to earn a respectable living.

While earning halal living and providing for the economic well being of a country are certainly important Islamic goals as well, the linking of education to financial goals is extremely unfortunate. It turns the centers of learning into mere vocational centers in their outlook and spirit. It degrades education and through it the society.

To bring home the pivotal but forgotten role of education we need to recall that there is a fundamental difference between human beings and animals. Instincts and physical needs alone can bring ants, bees, or herds of beasts together to live in a perfectly functioning animal society. Human beings do not function that way. They are not constrained by nature to follow only those ways that are necessary for the harmonious operation of their society. If they are to form a viable, thriving society, they must chose to do so. What drives that choice is the sharing of common goals, beliefs, values and outlook on life. Without a common framework binding its members, a human society cannot continue to exist; it will disintegrate and be absorbed by other societies. Further, the society must ensure that the common ground will continue to hold from generation to generation. This is the real purpose of education. The education system of a society produces the citizens and leaders needed for the smooth operation of that society, now and into the future. Its state of health or sickness translates directly into the health or sickness of the society that it is meant to serve.

Today we find many internal problems — corruption, injustice, oppression, crippling poverty — everywhere we turn in the Muslim world. If we think about it, we may realize that most of these problems are man-made. Which is another way of saying that they are largely traceable, directly or indirectly, to the education system that produced the people who perpetuate the problems. The rulers who sell out to foreign powers and subjugate their people; the bureaucrats who enforce laws based on injustice; the generals who wage war against their own people; the businessmen who exploit and cheat; the journalists who lie, sensationalize, and promote indecencies, they are all educated people, in many cases “highly” educated people. Their education was meant to prepare them for the roles they are playing in real life. And it has, although in a very unexpected way!

The problem plagues all layers of society. Why are Muslim communities in the grip of so much materialism today? What should we expect when our entire education system is preaching the gospel of materialism? Why have we effectively relegated Islam to a small inconsequential quarter in our public life? Because that is precisely where our secular education system has put it. Why in our behavior toward each other we see so little display of Islamic manners and morals? Because our imported education system is devoid of all moral training. Why our societies are sick? Because our education system is sick.

This is the real crisis of education. Before we got into this mess by importing from the Colonial powers what was current and popular, education in our societies was always the means of nurturing the human being. Moral training, tarbiya, was always an inalienable part of it. The ustaz,(teacher), was not just a lecturer or mere professional, but a mentor and moral guide. We remembered the hadith then, “No father has given a greater gift to his children than good moral training.” [Tirmidhi]. Our education system was informed by this hadith. Our darul-ulooms still maintain that tradition but the number of students who pass through their gates is minuscule compared to the secular schools.

In the U.S. and Europe, the schools were started by the church. Later as forces of capitalism overtook them, they molded them into their image. Moral training was a casualty of that takeover. But capitalism and their political economy did need people trained to work under these systems. So citizenship training was retained as an important, though diminishing, component of the curriculum— a religion-free subset of the moral training it displaced. Whatever civility we see here is largely a result of that leftover component. The imported versions in the Muslim countries, though, had even that component filtered out. And the results are visible.

We can solve our problem once we realize our mistakes. The first purpose of our education system must be to produce qualified citizens and leaders for the Islamic society. Tarbiya, real Islamic moral training, must be an integral part of it. This must be the soul of our education, not a ceremonial husk. All plans for improving our education will be totally useless unless they are based on a full understanding of this key fact. This requires revamping our curricula, rewriting our textbooks, retraining our teachers, and realizing that we must do all this ourselves. We do have a rich history of doing it. Are we finally willing to turn to our own in-house treasures to redo education the way it should always have been?

5 Benefits of Acrylic Plastic

Acrylic makes a useful choice for a wide range of applications and a great alternative to the high cost and less resilient glass. This material is shatter resistant and tough and was even used on gun turrets, canopies and periscopes during World War II. Practical uses today include display stands, helmet visors, forklift guards and large aquarium tanks.

Here are a few of the benefits of acrylic plastic:

Easily shaped and fabricate

Acrylic is a material that is easily shaped or molded into a figurine, picture frame, tube or bottle. The acrylic is easily pliable on reaching a temperature in the region of 100 degrees. Even when the material starts to cool it is able to maintain its desired shape. A benefit of this is the ability to work on large projects such as skylights and bow-front aquariums. Plus, it can be sawed, drilled or machined much like soft metals and wood. A cost-effective way to shape the acrylic is to use molds in plastic or wood.

Weather resistant

The tough nature of acrylic means it is a useful choice for lenses on car headlights and home windows. Outdoor signs made with this material have the ability to maintain its look and color for the long-term. Also, the acrylic-based paint is not impacted by light, and easily able to maintain its color. Any wall or hanging signs are hard-wearing and have great light-refracting and weather-resistance properties.

Lightweight

Acrylic is a lightweight material and nearly 50% less than products manufactured in glass. Plus, it is really easy to handle. The popularity of acrylic skylights is mostly related to its weight and not putting much load on the home’s frame or foundation.

Impact resistant

This material is designed with high impact resistance that is nearly 17 times more efficient than regular glass. The tensile strength is up to 8,000 lbs per square inch. In the event of impact damage, the acrylic does not shatter into small pieces. If damaged, the acrylic will instead fracture into dull-edged and large pieces. This safety aspect is appreciated for security barriers, sliding glass doors, bath enclosures and shower doors. Plus, it is even used at hockey rinks for the safety enclosures.

Highly transparent

Acrylic is clear and see-through and will not start to yellow or discolor over time. This makes it a very attractive choice for storefront windows, skylights and greenhouses. Plus, it is a material that is resistant to UV light.

The Psychopomp in Mythology

During my studies into the Gods and Goddesses of various pantheons, I found so many similar ideas in culture after culture. The one that stuck in my mind was the psychopomp, which refers to a God or other spiritual Being that is responsible for the transport of the souls of the dead to the Afterlife or the underworld (depending on the myths). I thought it was interesting that so many cultures have assigned a Deity to a such a specific role. Besides, I just think the word psychopomp is neat.

Egyptian

In this pantheon, the God that escorts the souls to the Underworld is the jackal-headed God, Anubis. He is often considered the God of the Dead on this account, but it is Osiris who actually rules in the Underworld, Anubis just transports the dead. Once at the gates of the Underworld, it is also Anubis who weighs the heart of the deceased against the feather of Ma’at to determine a soul’s worth.

Greek / Roman

Since much of the Roman pantheon is a carbon-copy of the original Greek, I’m lumping the two together here. The Greeks believed that it was the God Hermes who travelled with souls to the Underworld. The Roman version would be Mercury. I suppose this is appropriate as Hermes/Mercury was considered the messenger of the Gods and He played the role of errand-boy in many myths. Some might consider Charon to also be a psychopomp, as he was the one who conveyed souls across the river Styx. But I think that is more about travelling within the Underworld rather than travel to it.

Norse

According to Norse myth, souls were not collected by a Deity, but by the Valkyries. The Valkyries were actually a whole group of beings rather than a single one. They were women who flew on horseback, dressed and armed for battle. Flying over the battlefield, they chose the honourable dead and took them to Asgard and Odin’s hall, Valhalla. The name ‘Valkyrie’ is translated as ‘Chooser of the Slain’. They ride in packs and many are given specific names in Norse myth.

Vodou / Vodun

Like the Norse, Vodou myth does not have a single being that plays the role of psychopomp. Instead there are a group of spirits, known as the Ghede. Also like the Valkyries, some Ghede spirits are known by their individual names. One particular Ghede is Baron Samedi, who is the loa of the dead. The colours of the Ghede are purple and black, and modern images of them are of well-dressed undertakers with mirrored sunglasses.

Celtic

Among the Celtic Gods, the one who had the task of escorting the dead was Epona, better known as the horse Goddess from the Gaul region. When the Romans invaded the Celtic lands, they retained the worship of Epona because of their love of horses and their cavalry. Not much is known about the role Epona played as a psychopomp, but the position was definitely hers.

Generic English Folklore

I thought I would add one more. Sparrows are a common psychopomp in many folk tales and stories. They would surround the house of a dying person and wait to snatch up their soul when it tried to escape.

Is Education Merely a Business?

Today the world is of skyscrapers and magnificent buildings. It is taken as a pride to be a part of such estate. However the sad part is that, schools which we consider temples of education are now confined to the idea of being ‘Beautiful Buildings with a sprawling campus’. It has become a general notion that schools with gorgeous campus and tall buildings are the best and those that are not privileged with a multi-storied building are generally average or below that. However we seldom delve into the quality of the infrastructure that a school provides before jumping to any conclusion regarding that school. The question is that why such a mindset has evolved?

Traditionally it has been human nature to take pride in the association with the rich and wealthy. We consider ourselves superior and lucky when we find access to such persons of power and influence. This parochial mentality is slowly but distinctively seeping into our education sector. In fact such posh and luxurious estate that the school buildings are comprised of naturally gives a feeling of prosperity. The parents usually feel proud that his or her ward is having friends who are rich and well off but in utter denial of their own status quo which brings about miserable ramifications in the end.

This state of mind of the parents has become a rich harvest for the school authorities who find it easy to allure students by just offering them a glittering campus. However the quality of education is getting some serious beatings at the hands of such school authorities. Today it’s painful to say that education has merely been restricted to a ‘business entity’. The proprietors find it all so easy to make huge amount of wealth by virtually fooling the people who are already under some age old delusion.

These schools which are mostly owned by private individuals advertently take the quality of teaching staffs for granted. A simple survey of these schools will reveal that most of the teachers are either unskilled or semi-skilled which is hardly commensurate with the money that these schools charge from the students. In fact many of the teachers don’t have any serious devotion to their duties as they take teaching as a pastime and prepare for some other exams under the nose of the authorities. There is another aspect to this story which is equally revealing and appalling which is that the authorities are hell-bent on making as much profit as possible which at times undermines the salary of the teachers. It’s a fact that not all teachers are equally unqualified and uninterested to their profession but the irony is that the authorities tar them with the same brush as the others. This blatant injustice meted out to the quality teachers deters their enthusiasm who start falling in line with others and thus the quality get degraded further.

However to keep up appearances the school authorities bring in celebrities and erudite persons to their schools just as an eyewash. They boast of having associations with such personalities so that it acts as a bait to lure students for taking admission to their schools. They take help of different broadcasting media and advertisement platforms to showcase and further their false propaganda. Some of them even start sponsoring several high profile functions to get popular with the masses.

Another deplorable aspect of these schools is that the teachers are cautioned by the school authorities not to give poor marks to the students even if the students may not deserve them. They fear that if the students are awarded poor marks then the parents who are already paying such exorbitant price would blame the school for their children’s failure and may take them to a different school which would cause immediate loss to their exchequer. So if this is not business then what is? This business oriented approach of the authorities gives easy leeway to the teachers to further deteriorate their quality which was already low.

Therefore a time has come when a mechanism is put in place to hold these schools accountable for their duties. Today the quality of the students is suffering like never before. These innocent students go to schools with a view to upgrade their mental faculty and stand out to be successful in life. But they fall prey to the sinister designs of the private schools which eventually prove snake in the grass and instead of building a solid foundation to their knowledge, degrade it beyond redemption.

5 Interesting Things for Children To Do With Paper Bags

It happens often that you buy something in bulk and find them extra after utilising them for a particular purpose. In this series, paper bags are also included in the list. So, if you want to do something creative and outstanding with your leftover bunch of bags of paper, you can check out the collection of these amazing ideas. These crafting ideas will be loved by your children too during those lazy holidays when they want to do enjoy creating something innovative –

Alien headpieces

So, you want to avail something new to your children to play with during the next kids’ party. Well, the idea of creating alien headpieces will be loved by your children and their friends. This is also an extensively preferred creative activity for Halloween party. You can experiment with the bags of paper, cut two holes in the shape of eyes and past fancy designed nose and lips on it for the perfect monster look.

Paper bag fall wrath

What about making a fall wreath with paper bags during the Christmas season and Halloween? This idea seems very creative and exciting, no? You need nothing to do but just drawing simple flower patterns on the paper bags. After this, you need to cut as much flower shapes as possible with those paper bags and give them a shape of wrath using a flexible wire. It’s so easy that you can simply make a circle with the flexible wire and paste your paper bag flowers on the circle. Decorate it with colourful paper butterflies, bells and cherries. If you don’t have enough