Innocence Lost – How we miss teaching the heart

It is that time of the year again. Portals of education are thronged by the young. The students who enter these colleges are characterized by a gleam in their eyes, the passion to prove themselves, the apprehensions regarding a new system, the bright new clothes and clean shoes, moving around in groups, and that inimitable innocence. A theory of why they are referred to as ‘freshers’, perhaps, is because of that freshness, the innocence, the clarity, the newness. Because in the three or four years time, these attributes simply vanish.

Is not it a natural process, one might wonder. It is not. We have been conditioned to believe so. And who is to blame for it? To a large extent, it is our educational system. But what has education to do with innocence, with newness, with purity? A lot.

Education deals with three broad domains. An amalgamation and a perfect balance of these create an individual who can exhibit wholesome growth.

The Head

All the information, new ones which one gathers in college, those that are fed systematically with powerpoint presentations, hand outs, books, notes, ‘manuals’, goes into the head. This ‘cognitive domain’ is very important and is given precedence, especially in an Indian educational scenario, over the other two domains. We teach and teach and teach just like we make thick sugar syrup by adding sugar till the point the liquid saturates.

We produce large heads in the process. Large heads filled with knowledge, that knowledge which is superfluous and helps in writing exams, pages of it together. But this has not much to do with destroying innocence.

The Hand

The ‘psychomotor domain’ is given importance as the student gradually prepares to finish his course. Infrastructural, regulatory, curricular hurdles come in the way. Ask a fresh MBBS graduate how confident he is to treat a patient, ask an engineering graduate if he is industry ready, as a media graduate if he can write a decent report for a newspaper, and you will have your answer.

The stress on hands on learning is least across courses and curriculums. Post graduation, earned after spending a fortune and years, would get someone more of psychomotor training in the present scenario. But then training does not have much to do with loss of innocence.

The Heart

Yes, it is that domain of education, the ‘affective domain’ as it is technically called, which is completely and utterly missed. It has been so non-existent that it will startle and surprise most, whether it is a component of education in the first place. Yes affective domain which would deal with things-of-heart like compassion, ethics, empathy, communication, spirituality, self, relations, are given no space in our curriculum.

A lack of it produces professionals who are incomplete; a doctor may not be empathetic, he may not be able to communicate well with the patient or an engineer who fails to land a job owing to poor communication. It could lead to individuals who would be successful in their careers but struggle with relations, who crumble under pressure for a lack of vent, who resort to abuse of various kinds.

There is a need to incorporate enhanced affective domain skills in curriculums. Educational set ups need to provide an environment where a student of medicine should be able to learn about ethics, should be able to discuss world affairs and should be able to nurture his passions. It needs to be taught how conflicts need management and how communication should be carried out effectively among others. Teaching ‘heart’ would help maintain that innocence, the newness, the freshness; for in that innocence (or any term you attribute to it) does one sees everything with ‘fresh eyes’ and is able to understand and value various aspects of life resulting in a wholesome personality.

(The article is inspired by works of medical education)

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