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Integral Humanism and the Integrity of Education
- February 9, 2015
- Posted by: admin
- Category: Faculty Lecture
After an attempt to articulate an integral humanism, the paper makes use of what is articulated. to describe what constitutes authentic development. By way of two submissions, it proposes a notion of education of the whole human person, a holistic education that can lead to the complete and positive transformation of the human person
I would like to state ab initio the presupposition that drives this intervention. The identification and explication of my key concepts will facilitate the concretization of my intention.
There are three key concepts in the intervention, and these are humanism, education and development. Humanism here is the promotion and protection of the human person, of all that renders possible the actualization of his potentials in the fulfillment of his aspirations in every dimension of human existence. The fact that what is sought is the fulfillment of the human being in his whole existence in what informs the usage of “integral” to qualify the humanism being proposed here.
The integrity of education will need to be safeguarded if this holistic fulfillment is to be attained, that is, if the human being is to have the slightest possibility of actualizing his potentials and fulfilling his aspirations in every dimension of human existence. The integrity of education is the protection and promotion of all the provinces of knowledge, as opposed to a policy of education that promotes one of its provinces, to the detriment of other provinces. The integrity of education is respected when no sector of the universe of knowledge that a university is is excluded from the academia.
Authentic development is development of a polity in the development of the human beings who constitute its population. It is attained where human beings actualize their potentials and fulfill their aspirations, that is, where integral humanism is protected and promoted, and where the protection and promotion of integral humanism inspires an education whose integrity is jealously guarded. In other words, respect and promote the integrity of man and the integrity of education and what you have is authentic development.
What has just been said informs the presupposition that occupies the driver’s seat in this journey of ideas that I hope this lecture is. The thesis guiding my intervention is that authentic development requires an adequate philosophy of the nature and function of education, and an adequate philosophy of education in turn requires an adequate philosophical account of what it means to be human. It is my submission that our attempts at development have so far ended in futility because of an inadequate philosophy of education, and our inadequate philosophy of education is itself rooted in the quicksand of inadequate philosophical account of the human condition. In other words, we remain undeveloped because we have failed to understand human nature. As the dialogue in Plato’s Republic amply demonstrates, dialogue on the state of the human being and dialogue on the state of the society are inter-related and inseparable. The two shed light on each other.
In the history of the human family, development has almost always been conceived exclusively in terms of economic indices. From the point of view of economic indices, development is the eradication, or at least substantial reduction, of material poverty. It takes place where there is maximization of pleasure and social benefits, where such maximization of pleasure and social benefits is itself a product of maximization of economic profit, and where economic profit procures and is procured by the maximization of political power in military supremacy and or diplomatic clout. Development, from the exclusively economic perspective, has always been seen as the maximization of power for the sake of maximization of profit, and the maximization of profit for the maximization of power. We are dealing here with a conception of development that flows from the fact that agenda for development has almost exclusively been left in the hands of economists, politicians and military strategists. Merchants in search of commodities alert and enter into alliance with politicians who deploy the military strength and strategy at their disposal to invade and conquer peoples in whose lands such commodities are found. It is a dangerous deployment of the entire arsenal of concupiscible and irascible appetites disconnected from the authority of well-enlightened reason.
To be deduced from this logic of development is the fact that Nigeria prominently features on the list of undeveloped countries because, as is the case with many a country of the two-third world, her indices of economic poverty are many and well-documented. The collapse and or absence of infrastructure, the astronomically rising number of talented and intelligent but unemployed citizens, ignorance and disease in a land inhabited by citizens of unactualized potentials, to mention but these, would make Nigeria eminently qualified to be in the league of undeveloped countries..
The gravity of poverty in our world makes it tempting for rich and poor nations, and for many an expert on the economy to assume, often without sufficient scrutiny of the assumption, that the economy holds the key to authentic development, and maximization of material prosperity is the alpha and omega of human fulfillment. Development so conceived is the availability of more money, abundance and consumption of more and more goods, invention of machines and tools of increasing sophistication and efficiency, infrastructure of breath-taking beauty, etc. And, since the notion of development tends to influence, if not determine, philosophy of education, education is itself reduced to science and technology, the acquisition of techniques of invention of gadgets, and the skillful plotting of strategies for making profit. But economic growth is only one aspect of human existence, one set of operations among others sets of operations to be deployed for the attainment of the best way to live. Our personal and collective fulfillment would be jeopardized if and when development is conceptually and practically reduced to economic growth.
In a consumerist society, unrestrained acquisitive instinct gives rise to an insatiable desire for material goods, and, in an attempt to satisfy this insatiable appetite, the human person degenerates into a power addict who spends his time, talents and energy scheming for greater personal power and perpetual maximization of profit at the expense of other human persons. Pope Paul VI, in his landmark Encyclical Letter on the Development of Peoples, Populorum Progressio, already counseled against this tendency when he proposed that authentic development be seen as the orientation of the whole person to the Creator. “Just as the whole of creation is ordered toward the Creator, so too the rational creature should of his own accord direct his life to God, the first truth and the highest good” (Populorum Progressio, n. 16).
These preceding remarks inform the three moments in this intervention. Taking my cue from the wisdom of Populorum Progressio, according to which authentic development is centred on the human person orientated to God, I shall, in the first moment, attempt to articulate what makes us human. In the second moment, I shall use this articulation of what makes us human to describe what constitutes authentic development. And, in the third moment, I shall, by way of two submissions, propose a notion of education of the whole human person, a holistic education that can lead to the complete positive transformation of the human person.
 Paul VI, Populorum Progressio. Encyclical Letter on the Development of Peoples (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, March 26, 1967).