Florida School Shooting and the Crisis of Humanity
BY TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 26 Feb 2018
Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra – TRANSCEND Media Service
26 Feb 2018 – The shooting at a High School in Florida on February 14 raises critical questions for the humanity and its collective conscience. A 19-year old expelled student killed 17 students and injuring many others. The media and public figures promptly became active, as they did aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012 that had killed 28 elementary school students. As per a New York Times report of February 15, after Sandy Hook, there have been at least 239 school shootings in the United States. In those incidents, 438 people were shot, 138 of whom were killed. As if these shootings act as spurs that awake people, their leaders and media houses from stupor. Prayers, grieving, demand for new laws, activism, all slow down after a few days as ‘normalcy’ returns.
This is an occasion not only to grieve and pray but also to introspect and for sustained action. An action that can change ourselves and the world. What can we do within ourselves and within society so that such acts of violence are not repeated? Otherwise, it does not make sense to make an uproar when such a tragic incident happens, and then return to our daily chores as if nothing had happened.
The crisis is larger; it is not merely about one person or one school. Gun laws are definitely needed but the laws alone will not be sufficient to address violence within. Every conscientious individual needs to reflect on this shooting. It is rightly said, individual mirrors universe. We cannot point out evil in others until we root out evil in ourselves. We, every individual in the world, including the student who killed at Broward county, are in dire need of integral education and practice it in our daily life.
The whole world is the laboratory of education. The starting point is the family. When a child is born, his education starts. Kids learn by observing. A parent lying in front of a child, and preaching him/her that lying is not good, will serve no purpose. Principles per say are merely words, merely air coming out of stomach. Principles, when practiced, have real impact on the individual, his relations, his surroundings, and the world. Individual’s words combined with his actions can shape the world. Gandhi said famously, “For one man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole.” This Gandhian yardstick we must adopt, not only to transform our lives, but also to save our families, our societies, and our world.
Moral principles are universal; they transcend borders, the human created divisions, geographic and social. To give some examples – to remain truthful to one’s conscience, to understand others from others’ perspectives, to help others according to one’s capability, not to impose one’s viewpoint, not to hate others because we do not like their ideas, action or physical appearance, not to preach hatred and violence, are some of the moral principles. Moral education should form an integral part of curricula in schools and colleges. It is important to depart education in mathematics and science and business and how to be successful in life. But, the growing incidents of organized and unorganized violence by young people clearly demonstrate that something is inherently wrong with our education system. How much success is success, and how much wealth is real wealth? Comes to mind the famous story written by Tolstoy. The man walks from sunrise to sunset to occupy as much land as he could cover, but he was so greedy, he walked until death embraced him. While desiring to occupy a big piece of land, he actually got a piece just enough to let his mortal remains rest. There is no end to material desires. Material success is not enough. And, more importantly, what is success? Is it merely a big bank balance? Unless our future generations are imparted integral education, an education that not only imparts lessons in material success but also lessons in inner growth, an education that teaches how to be peaceful, how to live in harmony with nature and society and how to live life without extremes, such acts of violence will continue to threaten our lives.
Our educational institutions have to share major responsibility in this context. Value based education must be part of school curricula. There needs to be an integral approach to child’s education. Education to get a job is not enough, there needs to be education in other areas. There needs to be education for inner development. Education should not only make the child a good job candidate, but also a sensitive and empathetic human being. The integral education as envisioned by Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo provides adequate to address the crisis of our age. Sri Aurobindo envisioned an education system not merely for skills acquisition but also self-development. Such an education system would help our future generations to integrate with their inner self, their surroundings, their societies and humanity. The aim is to make a child, a complete being, at harmony with within and without. The focus of such an education is multifaceted. The aim of this integral education is not only building a strong and healthy body and making the students successful in job market, but also developing their vital and mental elements in harmony with the inner truth.
Can we rise to the occasion? Can we provide value based education to our future generations in our families, in our societies and most importantly, in a formal way, in our educational institutions? The collective and sustained efforts to make a real difference in the education system will ensure the survival and flourishing of the human civilization.
Dr Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra is a member of the TRANSCEND Network, Director of the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Non-Violence, Human Rights and World Peace at Hindu University of America in Florida, and a Fellow at the Center for Peace, Democracy and Development, University of Massachusetts Boston. He is an Indian commentator and his areas of interest include conflict transformation and peacebuilding in South and Central Asia. His edited book Conflict and Peace in Eurasia was published by Routledge in 2013.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 Feb 2018.
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