Speech on Literature & Education


  • Two aspects of the question: academic and extra-academic
  • For long literature monopolized education: challenge arose recently with the growth of science and the problems of existence
  • Literature is of high existential utility too: it perfects education: all education should have the touch of literature because it is the grammar of human nature
  • Extra-academic utility of studying literature

The relation of Literature to cducation is to be judged in two aspects. Firstly, what is the place of literature in education as it is given in the academic sphere? Secondly, what role Literature plays in extra-academic education. The first is a question of ascertaining the position of Literature, that is, to determine the degree of emphasis to be laid on it. while formulating the curriculum of national cducation. The second relates to the appreciation of the contribution that the study of Literature makes in lending perfection to the academic cducation imparted in schools and colleges.

As to the first, the question has arisen in recent times with the growing importance of Science in rclation to human life. Devised at a time when existence was not half so difficult as now, cducation was meant to flower the mind which the study of Literature and Philosophy could do successfully and perfectly. Not to speak of Physics Chemistry or Technology, even Economics, Commerce or such other subjects having a circuitous bearing on existence did not enter the arena of cducation. Unrelated to any question of existence, it was pursued by those whose life was secure and, was, therefore, largely concerned with the abstract’s pursuit of knowledge and learning.

Naturally. Literature was thought to be adequately, sound as the basis of such education. But as time went on, the foundation appeared to be shaky and unstable before the attacks of reality. Science by its achievements began to engage the attention of man more and more. The number of pcople cnjoying security of life began to dwindle down at a rapid spccd. No longer did it remain possible to pursue cducation without reference to its practical utility. Hence subjects of utilitarian value. Science, Economics, and Commerce came to receive great importance for the purpose of the study. Obviously, they could serve the needs of life much better than Literature which, therefore, began to be relegated more and more to the background. Out of this contest between literature and its powerful rivals’ arose the question Should the study of Literature be dropped altogether? If not, what should be its place in the scheme of modern cducation?

There is no denying that modern man would be reluctant to do anything which does not help his existence. As science docs it most, he is studying science with the top-most attention and will continue to do so as long as conditions require. Next comes the place of other subjects, such as Economics, Commerce and even Political Science which to have great existential value. He is, therefore, paying them attention next to Science. As Literature serves the direct purposes of lifeless than these, it stands, in order of importance, at a notch lower than both. It is the supreme law of necessity which is determining the respective position of each in the scheme of human study.

Literature may not have a high utilitarian value as Physics or Economics has, but that does not mean that its necessity for life is equally low. Man’s life is made of the interaction of two things–the body and the mind. To train him for life means to develop both the body and the mind. And in the realm of the latter, Literature has almost the absolute role to play. To face life and overcome its difficulties successfully, one must gain thorough access into it and bc acquainted with all the forces that determine its working. This calls for the study of Literature which, in fact, deals with the stuff which lite is made of Life’s battle is largely the problem of handling and competing with a variety of fellow human beings. Their feelings. sentiments passions and devices are very important factors in that battle.

By expressing and analyzing the emotions that have influenced mankind through the ages, Literature helps to secure us a firm grasp of the human mind. Literature, in short, ripens and sharpens our feelings brings us into contact with new experiences, improves our sensibility, gives us a depth of perception and finally equips us with patience, tolerance, and largeness of temper. All these faculties are unquestionably essential for fighting the life’s battle to our advantaget. Hence the study of Literature is of high existential value as well. Taking all these into consideration, it can be said that the study of Literature can never be eliminated except by making education incomplete and imperfect.

Hence the need of blending Literature and Science in other words, arts, and science. But even in a purely arts education, Literature is as greatly important, for, what Literature docs in educating and preparing the mind, no other subject can cver do. It is, therefore, advisable to make Literature the foundation of all patterns of education and upto a certain stage its study should be made compulsory Thus, not only the students of Intermcdiatc Arts or Science should read it as a part of their syllabus, but also those studying medicine and engineering should not be totally cut off from its association. As all men, whether doctors, enginccrs or professors, have to live by tackling fellow human beings, it is important that they should all study the grammar of human nature which Literature really is.

Apart from academic instruction, the study of Literature has great value in extra-academic cducation. Academic education, whether scientific or literary or mixed, only initiates us into certain subjects and acquaints us with bare rudiments. It is actually in the post-academic student life that we have to develop these rudiments, expand them and understand them in their proper spirit and perspective. But life is so pathetically short that we can never explore to our satisfaction all the essential realms of knowledge, such as History, Geography, Politics, Economics and, above all, the Sciences. So we need a shortcut. It is here that Literature renders an invaluable service. Well-chosen book of Literature, sav. Bernard Shaw’s Back to Methuselah, serves at once to combine Biology, History, Politics and drama, all presented in such a charming style and forceful language that we derive, not only boundless joy out of that masterpieces but also learn a good deal on all these subjects with the additional advantage that what is Learned from here is remembered longer than what may be obtained from theoretical books.

Ahmad Ali

My Name is Ahmad Ali.

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