Caution against aping `the worst of the West'

Caution against aping 'the worst of the West'

By Tirtho Banerjee

LUCKNOW: `It is alarming that a vast majority of Indian students are opting for technical field and do not wish to choose the teaching profession because it is underpaid', notes eminent professor of educational reform, Old Dominion University, Virginia (USA), Dwight Allen.

The professor, who is on his 16th visit to India presently, loves it's diversity and cultural richness but cautions that by preoccupying itself with technological advancements, India may jeopardise its societal set up. `We need social services and humanities as well for overall development of a country', he contends and points out that India should not copy the worst of the west.

Having been the Dean of Education in the University of Massachusetts and having served as the chief technical advisor of UNESCO, Dr Allen feels that an effective education should prepare well-functioning citizens who feel empowered and are connected to the society. Quite regretfully, he says, the present form of education has failed to achieve this.

Dr Allen is an ardent Bahai who thinks that there ought to `spiritual solutions to economic problems'. He believes in `world peace' and sees the `world as one family' and interestingly, has adopted twin daughters who have an ethinic background of France, Portugal, Africa and Hawaii. Besides, his wife is an English-German and two of his sons have married Persian girls. As Allen puts it,`My family is universal. You know it is very difficult for the world to function because it is gripped in nationalism and excessive competition'. He adds that the USA wants to be numero uno in everything, rather it should try to be one of the leading countries in the world. Not surprisingly, Allen has named his website `Win Win' which means that our attitude should be not to look down on others but strive to lift them up.

Author of a dozen books, Dr Allen reveals that worldwide poverty can be eliminated if Americans give up half of their cosmetics which they use. He opines that extreme differences exist because the society does not govern itself properly. `Resources are plentiful but its rampant wastage has to be checked', Allen says and stresses on the importance of preserving the Amazon rain forests which give oxygen to the whole planet and which is house to numerous species of insects and animals.

However, he is visibly disappointed that environmental awareness in the students by and large is not very high. This can be ascribed to the fact that the students are far too occupied in examinations and teachers also follow dull and pedantic way of teaching. Any creativity in teaching is considered as a digression from the curriculum, he remarks.

Allen's favourite is the contemporary comedian and entertainer, Bill Cosby, who he thinks `does not use sex or violence in his performances'. Allen believes that most of today's role models are not moral and there is a lack of value-based foundation in them. `There has to be a value perspective in whatever we do, happiness is not all about possessing the largest car or owning the biggest house', he reflects.

©Copyright 1999, Times of India
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