A great many of us confuse education with knowledge. While both involve imbibing information, education has a deeper meaning than knowledge. Gaining knowledge by reading books or through other forms of media constitutes the first stage of education. There is, however, another subtle and onerous process. Acquired data or knowledge needs processing after reading and storing. This process of processing knowledge or interpreting the same denotes the depth of education.
It, therefore, follows that education involves reading, retaining and processing data. A person having a distorted mind and kinky imaginations cannot be defined as an educated one whereas a soul, sophisticated and mature, with a power to interpret and explain is a truly erudite person. History is replete with examples of men lecturing at various universities on subjects on which they do not possess academic qualification. These personalities can think deep and speak at length on the intricacies of a many a subject not formally learned by them. The great Tagore had delivered many a memorable lecture on literature without possessing academic qualification. He was one of the leading lights of literature with almost no formal education. But what he had was deeper – he was blessed with astounding talent, sublime powers of expression and a profound intellect. Here was a man who had spoken on Crisis in Civilisation when a true crisis had engulfed this world, destroying fine art and rational thinking. He was a humanist without a degree on the subject; he could be both romantic and rational. His twin abilities to reason science and abstract passion amaze us. He had given a clarion call for afforestation and had prophesized the dangers of industrialization and excessive urbanization. He was able to envision the invisible. With the world at large grappling with Greenhouse Effect, destruction of islands and the toxic fumes of urban civilization, there is little doubt that our beautiful planet isn’t beautiful any more. Overdoses are always harmful. Did not Chaplin portray lack of values in his seminal Modern Times and the mechanization of human minds? He was of course referring to the same thing and the catastrophic effect of dehumanization of human beings.
Coming back to the issue at hand, there can thus be little doubt about the simple fact that intellect determines the depth of education. The great Akira Kurosawa – he of Rashomon and Seven Samurai fame – had shown through his films the subtle but brilliant adaptations of diverse culture. He adapted The Death of Ivan Ilyich to make Ikiru, his Ran is a stunning adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear and his Idiot has Dostoyevsky written all over it. The stunning intellect in him has never failed to interpret these great works of literature and transmogrify them into moving images of eternal beauty. The visual memory of these films is a source of many a debate and encompasses art – be it literature or film making. The same argument holds true for all great performers like Ray, Fellini, Goddard,Bergman,Renoir,etc. The cerebral content of their works will always remind us of what true education is. Ray’s The Music Room pits two worlds at odds with each other and the passing away of one and the rise of the other; La Dolce Vita is a social commentary on the Beautiful Life that isn’t beautiful; Bergman’s Seventh Seal is both historical and philosophic. All these works are not mere films but studies on life, on society, on religion, on emotions and human civilization in general.
While knowledge is attainable, interpretation of the same requires more than mere knowledge; reading enriches but does not fully water the burgeoning trees of the intellect. The mind is therefore very important for it holds the key to the blossoming of intellect. Therein lies the mantra of true education.
The intelligentsia have it in them to explain and express but only after chewing the cud and mulling over the subject imbibed. A formal education helps but as long as the Trait Theory survives, there will be personalities without formal training speaking about training and teaching minds to develop and be educated. Therein lies the value and depth of informal learning and intellect.