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Reading and the mis-education of our elite

By Bobson Gbinije

“A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; For what he reads as a task will do him little good.A young man should read five hours in a day,  And so may acquire a great deal of knowledge.” – Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) Boswell’s Life.

THERE is a profoundly fundamental flaw and cyclopean fallacy in the Educational system and society that tends to make “CERTIFICATE” the basic all in all of its normative and placement systems. “Certificate acquisition” becomes apotheosised, deified, idolised and mumble-jumbled, made a fetish of and pursued with heretical zealotry.

The additional desiccating and feral consequences of “Certificate acquisition” on the so-called educated, education and society at large, are too monstrous  and wanton to behold. In picturesque terms, the certified man is like a lizard  masquerading as a crocodile, a large cake without icing, a rattle-snake that cannot kineticise its rattling-potentialities and a de-marrowed bone.

A professor of archaeology was asked about the capital of Malawi, he said Ghana. These so-called kings and queens in the citadel of education do not “Read” anything outside their professional boundaries. Do they even exhaustively know their areas? A lecturer in Communication Technology is thrown into darkness as soon as you mention cybernetics-Science of communication and control in machines and man, a graduate in Nuclear Physics is bemused and sees it as hieroglyphics the moment you mention “Cyclotron –apparatus for producing heavy electric particles moving at high speed used experimentally in nuclear research work. They do not “Read” outside their syllabus and so are caught napping when something is mentioned that is not in their area of specialisation. Do they even know their areas? These are some of the baneful consequences of a diseased educational system that senselessly venerates’ “CERTIFICATES”.

Some duffers come into symposium, seminar or colloquium with nothing other than taking us on a historical escapade on their educational odyssey. They go on to say, I made a first class in this, a first class in that without treating the subject at issue. When they dare touch the subject at all, they will be so narrow that you will be asphyxiated with disappointment. The supercilious contempt and arrogance they wield becomes dragooned on the sacred altar of intellectualism because they do not “read.”

Education is not entirely synonymous with certificate acquisition. Conventional and formal education limits. Real and consummate education is a potpourri of the formal and the informal, street-wiseness, cognate experience and other antecedents. Real education liberates – it is that science which improves the quality of the mind and the mental compartibilities of the individual. It is an expressive measure of human, material and spiritual science and the continuation of wisdom by systematic approach.

Like GOD, it can never be confined solely within a temple, altar or sanctuary. It is everywhere, people think it can be limited to a secondary school, polytechnic and university. This accounts  for  the mad rush to possess whatever they offer to become slaves of convention. We are saying that formal education is good, but it is a far cry from being an end to education. Education is a spirit, it  can never be confined to any bogus institution. There must be a symmetrical symbiosis and blend of the formal and informal – reacting to make a consummate whole.

The belief that certificate is an end in itself is the cause of the death of the “Art of Reading and Intellectualism.” Reading and reading good books is the ex gratia payment we make for sound education. Reading as an  “Art” makes you read with the halcyon frame of mind to imbibe, instead of aggressive reading for a formal examination which is enforced reading. The art of reading and reading good books like a vintage wine, should be sipped with sabbatical  calmness and not quaffed.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo, an icon panoplied and emblazoned with the armourial bearing of knowledgeability through ravenous “reading” once said: “Any nation, people or person that is starved of good books, especially the right type of books, will suffer intellectual malnutrition, stagnantion and atrophy.” This is what we are suffering today. Education has become a monologue and a hermetic soliloquy instead of a polymorphous and octopoidal tool for multi-dimensional outreach.

A didactic jeremiad becomes relevant in this regards. A Christian University graduate from his play group, through kindergarten, to primary and secondary school, had only read one religious book, the Bible. He got through polytechnic and university remaining the same. A Moslem University graduate had the same background with the Koran as the only religious book he had read and they both met in a religious seminar. The Christian took the Biblical position and the Moslem took the Koranic position.

They both staunchly and with stout guts defended their various religious positions without compromise. It took a voracious reader only five minutes to reconcile them. The prodigious reader is well grounded in the Koran, the Bible; the Eckist  Guide, the Talmud-a compilation of Jewish laws and teachings, the Paganistic Creed, the Rosicrucian Digest and Zoroastrianism. Others were the Buddhist Format, the Hindus Sacred Guide and the Grail Message. Their intellectual binoculars could not fathom the depth of the esoteric subject to enable them create a corpus between the cross and the crescent. If they had knowledge through omini-directional readings, religious catastrophes like the Boko Haram Insurgency, Terorrism, Sharia and the Spanish Inquisition etc wouldn’t have occurred.

The “Reader” as a seeker is able to catholicise and cosmopolitanise his celebral virtuosity. He is liberated. He sees and understands that the world is a school through which we must pass, but the “mystery” can only be made lucent through eruditional equipoise and encyclopaedic knowledgeability curtsied through “reading” and hence heightening the horizons of intellectualism. Reading is a desideratum, it accentuates scholastic exegesis.

There are as many books in various areas and subject as there are seekers and nay, readers. It is the duty of the reader to spread into every known and unknown area for that is where the honour lies. He can then totally scoop-out ideas buried in the thickets of ponderous styles. An ingenious reader is the essential plinth of intellectualism.

In the Desterted Village by Oliver Goldsmith, the broad-based all-embracing knowledge of the true intellectual is apodictically auphonised he said: “the village all declared in arguing too, the person owned his skills, while words of learned length and thundering sound amazed this gazing rustics ranged around, and still they gazed and still the wonder grew, that one small head could carry all he knew.”

Intellectualism has been lilliputianised by pathological alexia – word blindness in literary sense, a dearth of books and direful complacency with empty certificates. An intellectual within the context of usage in this submission does not mean a university lecturer or professor in the academia or the literati only, but formally and informally trained person who can venture an opinion written or spoken on a broad spectrum of subjects. He is intuitively and professionally concerned with ideas.

Karl Manheim a political analyst says “Intellectuals are the particular group that is uniquely well equipped to escape from the tails of partisan ideas and borne on the wings of scholarship, soar towards sun of truth”. Anthony Garmci in “Formation of Intellectuals” gave more generic and human definition. He said “All men are intellectuals… but all men do not have the function of intellectuals in society”. Cornor Cruise O’Brien in the “Morality of scholarship” said “It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies through reading as the only weapon of reaching-out”.

Reading dulcetises the rhythm of the mind, it refrigerates the soul, it transports the subconscious to elysian and empyrean bliss. It is the giver of life, the ginger of youth, the balm of troubled hearts, the despiser of sorrows and the blood of old age. They must have given rise to the words of Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman stateman, Orator and writer that “the man who wanders out of the path of knowledge, reading and understanding, remains in the congregation of the dead”

What then do we do to rekindle the “Art” or Reading as a veritable hybrid of societal and intellectual development? The schools must come in here. They have to encourage students at all levels to intravenously show interest in reading as an art. The general papers idea does not go far enough. It should be part of the syllabus that every student must read one hundred books outside his/her professional boundaries before being allowed to graduate. The schools should provide the books through government sponsorship.

There must be a system of certificate revalidation. This entails that every five to eight years everybody should rewrite a short test to ensure that his knowledge is still in congruency with the nuts and bolts of modern developments in his/her chosen area. A man graduated in 1962, from that time till date a lot of developments have cropped-up in his profession, it therefore behoves him to prove himself through a revalidation of papers test. They will be compelled to read their professional courses out of integrity”.

Disinterestedness in reading as an art has killed National and academic  discourse. Even in the legal profession which is an embodiment of the reading culture a dearth of reading has killed “advocacy.” Lawyers are more interested in soliciting. In a place like Nigeria where virtually every lawyer is a Solicitor and Advocate, Notary public etc. there are no specialisational barriers and hence professionalism suffers. They are more interested in the wig and gown as a mark of public show –off and arrogance than in standing for the high ideals and nobility of the legal profession. Advocacy has been consigned to the dustbin of percentages from contract and agreement papers.

Advocacy is the heart of the legal profession. It is  super-imposed in the hub of reading for references and citational purposes. Lord Taylor the Chief Justice of Englend allowing the appeal in a considered judgment said of the appellants counsel “it seems to me that the defence has a very powerful argument which it has put very powerfully and I decided that not only is it powerful but is unanswerable”. Advocacy is a beauty to behold.

Finally, the only way to a completely sound education, not certificate acquisition, is through the “art” of reading. Reading is the only “Midas Touch” that can transform base metal to gold. It strikes a chord in the intuitive perception, it heightens intellect and synchronises thought pattern. Reading is the open sesame, magic wand and key to unraveling, expanding and decoding the crytogramised labyrinth of intellectualism.

 


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