Sunday, June 27, 2010

Aldous Huxley's The Education Of An Amphibian

Man and his position
Huxley contends that man is a five or six amphibians rolled into one. Man who is biologically called Homo Sapiens explores the realms of his mind on this earth and also infesting it at the same time. So man is multi amphibian whose very nature is indicative of many troubles for him and the others around him. So we human beings are the most obedient and independent creature on the earth. Man is not homo sapiens only, he is also homo loquax because he possess the gift of speech. If he is not homo loquax then he like the Yahoo of Gulliver’s Travels.

Language and man
So the importance of language for man cannot be underestimated.  It is the language which raised man from his brute status to civilized one. So language gave birth to human civilization. Language itself is a superb work of genius created by man. Whatever human culture or society may be, language is central to their existence. It is a medium through which we communicate and if this link is broken, we will again turn to brutes because language is the symbol of civilization. This should not lead us to the fact that language is always positive in society. Like every thing else, it has its pros and cons. Our various principles or dogmas are communicated through language so language is used destructively. The misuse of language has turned people into fanatics as language is largely used for propaganda.  Bartlett, in this case, has carried various experiments to see the effect of language on memory. He came to the conclusion that language stamps on our memory and we cannot come out of our conventional or stereotyped image of a being. So language is the foundation stone of memory. Our infancy is the age of non-verbal communication so none of us can be recalled what we did as a child, but we can recall almost everything ever since we began to speak a language.

Theorising and practicum
Huxley believes that too much theorizing is fatal to human soul. It corrupts it and deforms it. Too many lectures or sermons deaden our every day routine life because theorizing entails no spiritual development. But absence of theory (of medicine, law, religions or any other science) will again turn us into Yahoos. So we need a different approach. We live in the world of ideas and practice. These are two different worlds. Unless we promote education in both these fields, we will be verbal and lead to disaster.

Education of man
Modern educationists promote non-verbal aspect of human education more than they emphasise the verbal side.  Now, we have instrumental theory of education which is based on learning through experience. Kinesthetic sense is important in learning by doing because we form certain habits by doing something if this is good, learning is good, if the habit or repetition is bad, learning is bound to have bad effect, though some scholars don’t differentiate between good and bad doing. So learning is psycho-physical activity.  Modern classroom must provide means to get visual perception of the student sound. We should use certain training devices to make the vision strong and healthy. In this way, spiritual insight is important in non-verbal education. The art of spiritual insight has been defined by Dr. Suzuki as ‘becoming conscious of the unconscious’.

The basic theme of the essay is that education should be sound so that we can get rid of our misguided perceptions, unsound feelings, unrealistic thinking and bad habits. Man is doer and speaker so he must behave well and this is the key to avoid offensive behavior with others.

Summary of the Essay
 What is an amphibian?
Amphibian is an animal with moist, hairless skin through which water can pass in and out. Nearly all amphibians live the first part of their lives in water and the second part on land—a double life reflected in the name amphibian, which comes from the Greek words amphi, meaning “both,” and bios, meaning “life.” Amphibians were the first animals with backbones to adapt to life on land. They are the ancestors of reptiles, which in turn gave rise to mammals and birds.

Scientists recognize more than 4,000 species of amphibians, all of which are members of one of three main groups: frogs and toads, salamanders, or caecilians. Frogs and toads are the most abundant of all amphibians, numbering more than 3,500 species. Frogs have smooth skin and long limbs. Toads, in contrast, have warty skin and short limbs.

There are about 360 known species in the salamander group, which also includes newts and mud puppies. Members of this group have long, slender bodies ending in tails. Some salamanders live entirely on land, whereas others never leave the water, and still others spend some time in the water and some on land. Caecilians, with about 160 species, are the rarest of amphibians. They have no limbs and look much like earthworms. Most live underground and spend their time burrowing in the soil, but a few are aquatic.

Amphibian Nature of Man
According to Huxley man is as many amphibians rolled into one. Although man lives on the land and never in the water yet his nature is like an amphibian, not zoologically, but symbolically because man is an amalgam of theory and practice, fact and fiction, reality and illusion which as a result he lives a double life. His nature is multifaceted. He explores his surroundings, remains self-conscious and evolves. Because man lives in many different worlds and visions of mind, he is prone to many different errors and needs to be educated.
Man is not biologically called Amphibian; he is Homo Sapiens (the intelligent man, having the faculty of speech, reason and intellect), but his not only Homo Sapiens, he is also Homo Faber i.e. he is the maker of things, he can fabricate tools and man is also Homo Loquax i.e. he can talk and communicate. Without this gift of speech, man is nothing but a Yahoo.

The Faculty of Speech in Man
It is due to the faculty of speech and language that man has raised himself from status of brute to the civilized. The total human development, the religious preaching and the formation of political and social laws all were created due to language. The total body of literature written by great men of knowledge is also due to language. Language has made man wise from idiot. Language is a fact we cannot ignore in the present times. Since the significance of language is so intact we must use it carefully. Language if misused can bring troubles for man, turn him into fanatics, savage and brute species and the misuse of language make us neglect our own faults. The medical and psychological impacts of language have been ascertained by the scientists. So language should be used carefully, it may cause destruction for man because words are carrier of knowledge which, if imparted negatively, will drastically change the world. 

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