Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Education vs. Enlightenment

An alternative title for this post is: "The heart of darkness vs. The mind of light." If I succeed in explaining my point, you'll understand why by the end.

I was thinking about this in the context of the current crisis in the recent presidential elections in Ivory Coast. The incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, has refused to concede defeat to his rival, Alassane Ouattara. (For the record, it should be noted that by all objective accounts Ouattara was the rightful winner, but that fact is not central to my argument.) Both men have claimed victory. Both men have been sworn in as president. Both men have appointed cabinets. And both men have the support of battle-ready armies. The proverbial meeting of the irresistible force and the immovable object, you might say. It's still unclear as to how this particular instance of that paradox will be resolved. But here's my point:

How is it and why is it that highly educated people like Gbagbo (a former university professor) and his cohorts (apparently, his new prime minister is a university professor and the president of the Constitutional Council which declared him the "winner" is also well educated) come to be the main actors in such a sordid drama? Isn't "Education" supposed to be the key to Africa's development? Evidently not.

Consider the alternative of "Enlightenment." Enlightenment is to Education what fuel is to an engine. Or, what the culture of civilisation is to the structure of civilisation. Development requires a marriage of the heart and the mind. Darkness of the heart will soon dim any lightness of the mind.

This, it seems to me, is the crux of the problem. The outward forms of development have been adopted, embraced even, but not sufficiently assimilated. The moral dimension is missing. Ideally, we should pursue both Education and Englightenment. But if we have to choose one of them, it had better be Enlightenment. Current events vividly illustrate the disastrous consequences of the opposite choice.

No comments: