Education policy, secularism and traditional values

Many traditionalists whether in India or in Iran regard secularism in education as the biggest enemy of traditional values. (A recent example of this thinking is Bharat Gupt’s article posted at http://indiafacts.co.in/religious-pluralism-and-distorted-notions-of-secularism-in-education/ )  These traditionalists are dead wrong: the church has succeeded so well because those it considers its biggest enemies don’t even recognize it as an enemy.

The biggest enemy of traditional values are the church dogmas, which have crept even into mathematics and hard sciences, and which are so much a part and parcel of colonial education.

The primary problem facing Indian education today is that it is a thoughtless continuation of colonial education, which itself was a continuation of church education. (The first bill for secular education in Britain dates to 1872, so Western education was 100% church education when it first came to India.) Church education, designed to produce missionaries, teaches subordination to church/Western authority. That suited colonialism but does not suit a free country.

Decolonisation of education is needed even in the hard sciences such as mathematics and physics. Few have noticed that church dogmas creep even into mathematics and science as taught in our universities today. For example, physics uses differential equations which require calculus. But calculus as taught in our universities requires that time should be like the real line. However, all Indian values, especially the value of moksha (or nirvana), are based on the notion of quasi-cyclic time.1 So, just teaching calculus, in the present way, teaches that those Indian values are fundamentally wrong and anti-science, hence lack credibility.

Indeed, today calculus is taught using the philosophy of formalism which says that empirical proofs are inferior to deductive proofs. So, our math teaching also teaches that ALL Indian systems of philosophy are inferior, because pratyaksa (empirically manifest) is the one pramana (proof) they all agree upon.

The colonially educated can hardly contest calculus-teaching because they don’t understand even WHY  2+2=4.2 (This ignorance is by design, because the ignorant have no choice but to trust authority. Along with ignorance, the colonially educated are taught to trust only Western authority, as is the open Wikipedia practice.)
More details on the religious biases in mathematics and how eliminating them makes math easy is in various scholarly3 and popular4 articles. Ironically, as I have pointed out, calculus and most math taught in school today (arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry, probability5) originated in India as secular and practically oriented ganita, and was transmitted to Europe,6 where it was misunderstood,7 and given a veneer of metaphysics because of church pressure to be theologically correct. That metaphysics has nil practical value, but ganita coated with that metaphysics was returned to India by colonial education. Reverting to a religiously neutral math eliminates that misunderstanding, hence leads to better science.8 So, let us teach ganita not math.

Education is globalised today, so changing education policy in only one country won’t work. Secularism is a good principle to eliminate such church biases, in math and science, and demand decolonisation globally.

I should add that a decolonised mathematics and science does lead back to traditional values.9

Notes

1As explained in my book, The Eleven Pictures of Time, Sage, 2003.

2 For proof of this widespread ignorance of 2+2=4, see the video of my talk on “Decolonising math and science education”, posted at  http://www.vikasinterventions.in/sites/default/files/conference-proceedings/sessions/SESSION_05_CHAIR_RUMESH_CHANDER/C%20K%20RAJU_PAPER.mp4 . Even the chair was ignorant. The paper itself is available online at http://www.ghadar.in/gjh_html/?q=content/decolonising-math-and-science-education.

3 “Teaching mathematics with a different philosophy. Part 1: Formal mathematics as biased metaphysics.” Science and Culture 77 (7-8) (2011) pp. 274–279. http://www.scienceandculture-isna.org/July-aug-2011/03%20C%20K%20Raju.pdf, arxiv:1312.2099. Part 2:Calculus without limits”, Science and Culture 77 (7-8) (2011) pp. 280–85. http://www.scienceandculture-isna.org/July-aug-2011/04%20C%20K%20Raju2.pdf. arxiv:1312.2100.

4E.g., गणित कठिन क्यों लगता है?” Edit page, Dainik Bhaskar 9 June 2012. http://ckraju.net/press/2012/ganita-kathin-kyon-lagata-hai.gif. Or, “मैथेमैटिक्स और गणित में फर्क है“, Edit page, Nai Duniya 25 May 2013. http://ckraju.net/press/2013/Naidunia-article.gif.

5“Probability in Ancient India”, chp. 37 in Handbook of the Philosophy of Science, vol 7. Philosophy of Statistics, ed, Dov M. Gabbay, Paul Thagard and John Woods. Elsevier, 2011, pp. 1175-1196. http://www.ckraju.net/papers/Probability-in-Ancient-India.pdf.

6 C. K. Raju, Cultural Foundations of Mathematics: the nature of mathematical proof and the transmission of calculus from India to Europe in the 16th c. CE, Pearson Longman, 2007.

7C. K. Raju, “Eternity and Infinity: the Western misunderstanding of Indian mathematics and its consequences for science today.” American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Asian and Asian American Philosophers and Philosophies 14(2) (2015) pp. 27-33. Draft at http://ckraju.net/papers/Eternity-and-infinity.pdf.

8E.g. Newton’s physics failed just because he misunderstood the calculus, and correcting that misunderstanding leads to a better theory of gravity. For an easy pedagogical account of this claim, see C. K. Raju, Functional Differential Equations. 4: Retarded gravitation” Physics Education (India) 31(2) April-June 2015, http://www.physedu.in/uploads/publication/19/309/1-Functional-differential-equations-4-Retarded-gravitation-(2).pdf.

9Harmony principle”, in Philosophy East and West, 63 (4) 2013, pp. 586-604. http://www.ckraju.net/papers/Harmony-principle-pew.pdf. A similar paper with the same title also in Svaraj and samvad, ed. Shail Mayaram, Sage, 2014, pp. 232-250.

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