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Children Must Be Encouraged To Question And Reason

Children must be encouraged to question, reason, and learn things for themselves. Arthur Eddington once posed a question in a bbc broadcast: ‘What is the truth about ourselves?’ And he proceeded to answer: ‘We are a bit of star gone wrong.’ That was the first answer, from a purely astrophysical point of view. Again, answering in terms of nineteenth-century physics, he said: ‘We are a bit of machinery, puppets that strut and talk and laugh till time turns the handle beneath.’ But these two answers did not satisfy him. So he finally said: ‘But there is one elementary inescapable answer: we are that which asks the question.’ This capacity to inquire and question is unique to human beings, and it needs to be assiduously cultivated.

An education system that stresses factual information over reasoning only creates products that are failures in the practical world. But mere questioning will also not serve the purpose. Questioning must spring out of a genuine interest in knowing and learning things and should be properly directed for it to be fruitful. This comes only through proper training of the mind.

The boy Narendra, later Swami Vivekananda, was fearless and strong-minded. Once he was punished by his teacher for an apparent mistake. Narendra insisted that he was right. Angered, the teacher punished him further. Narendra did not murmur. Shortly after, the teacher saw that it was he who had been in error and apologized. When Narendra’s mother came to know of this incident, she encouraged him saying: ‘If you are right, my boy, what does it matter? It may be unjust and unpleasant, but do what you think right, come what may.’ Narendra took this lesson to heart. Good samskaras instilled into the minds of children by parents and society through personal example are a great aid in developing and exercising discernment. The story of Nachiketa in the Katha Upanishad is another apt example of the influence of samskaras on the minds of children.