Both Rabindranath Tagore and Alfred North Whitehead, the outstanding educational
philosophers of the East and the West, advocate education as a matter of unending quest
for man the eternal pilgrim of fullness and perfection, poignancy and dedication.
A critical study of the educational thoughts of Tagore and Whitehead in terms of man,
society and the world from diverse essential perspectives like love and joy, creativity and
freedom, peace and universal brotherhood of man and so on not only broadens the canvas
of dignity and righteousness, serenity and blessedness but also widens the progress of
civilization and march for ascent and excellence. In Tagore's philosophy of education, the
world of humanism beckons fostering and disseminating the newer identity of man replacing
all inner ukase. The continuous and sustained discovery of the mind that cares for the education
of empathy and sympathy, unity and universality of what stands for the all-embracing
efflorescence of man and society is what he has always advocated and made thrilling
experiments. Apart from education of life rather than mere education for life that is rest
assured with utilitarian ends-in-view, he shows the undiscovered avenues of self-exploration
in terms of self-realization-Sadhana-entwining the enchanting components of humane
enlightenment like love, beauty, soul consciousness, realization in action and that of infinity.
Whitehead also directs our attention to the same objectives of education in tune with peace
and sympathy, excellence of the individual and the society that welcome ceaseless redefining
and revaluating the self as the exponent of altruism. He also advocates like Tagore the role
of education for excellence in aesthetic and spiritual sensibilities, which addresses love to
be fruitful in service, patience to lightly bear joys and sorrows, victory and defeat, success
The quest for the universal man by means of education as Tagore has marvelously
made in exploring and expanding the sky of the mind-chidakas-prompts and prepares one
to be a partner and appreciator of Whitehead whose philosophy of education echoes almost
the same vision of the march of man. As the twenty-first century education is confronted
and challenged with man lost in men and vice versa, and societies at cross-roads with values,
ethos and moorings, it is time now or never to follow the footprints of these two rarest
of the rare masterminds.
Eminent educationists came into existence in different parts of the world in different periods
of history. Inspite of wide spatial and temporal disparities, sometimes identical or similar ideas
are reflected in the points of view of two educational thinkers.
Since the first quarter of the twentieth century some researchers in the fields of philosophy,
literature, social sciences and education have been engaged in comparative study between
thinkers who are separated by distances of space and time. In the mid-twentieth century
research activities of this type led to research of another type which can be characterized as
study of parallel ideas in the context of developing civilization. The present research falls under
the category of "study of parallel ideas between thinkers" separated by distance of space.
The author has brought to light the rich educational ideas of Tagore and Whitehead. The
ideas of Tagore's philosophy of education remained unknown to the English-knowing world
because most of his writings in this area are in Bengali language.
Whitehead's ideas on
education have remained rather obscure till recently because of his terse metaphysical
formulations. This study aims at comparing the educational theories of Tagore and Whitehead
in lucid English language for the benefit of English-knowing people all over the world.
Rabindranath Tagore and Alfred North Whitehead were contemporaries. Both of them
were born in the year 1861. Despite the fact there was no direct contact between them; parallel
ideas have been found in their educational views.
The present study also has great heuristic value for the future. Its primary aim is to
discover, analyze, and critically evaluate parallel ideas in two men of genius, one representing
the Oriental culture, and the other representing the occidental culture. This discovery and
intellectual analysis of parallel ideas in these two intellectual stalwarts is likely to prepare the
way for East-West understanding in future, and thus strengthen the cause of lasting world order.
Rabindranath Tagore was an eminent thinker of the Eastern culture, who pinned his faith
on idealism, humanism, naturalism, and perfectionism. Alfred North Whitehead was a brilliant
thinker of the Western culture, whose world-view can be characterized as idealistic, humanistic,
and perfectionist. Both of them laid stress on basic goodness, creative upsurge, and freedom
in humans, all over the world. Both of them had firm conviction that humankind would progress
culturally, and that peace would prevail in the world through effective implementation of the
techniques of conflict-resolution. Both of them ardently hoped that an ideal state of human
existence can be ushered into existence, in future, through implementation of a policy of holistic
Tagore and Whitehead have recognized the supreme importance of reason, while they
theorized on education. They both realized that a consistent theory of education cannot have
irrational ideas in it.
Tagore and Whitehead recognized that integration of Eastern and Western culture is
possible, if Oriental and Occidental people pin their faith on reason. Reason in individuals
do not separate them; rather, it unites them.
Both Tagore and Whitehead lay stress on cultivation of values through educative process.
In their view, life is search for values; and successful life is attainment of values. Values cannot
be understood through scientific analysis and logical reasoning, but rather, through intuitive
comprehension. Both Tagore and whitehead maintain that intrinsic values can be grasped
through intuitive comprehension.
Both Tagore and Whitehead recognize the fundamental importance of science and values
in any educational programmed, from the level of primary education up to the highest academic
level of rigorous research. Both .pin their faith on empirical truth, which is obtained through
scientific research. Yet, both of them recognize the supreme importance of intrinsic and eternal
values, which have been sustaining human existence for centuries. Zest for life, creative
upsurge, love, happiness, and peace are some of the perennial values, which humans all over
the world have been cherishing from the very dawn of civilization.
Both Tagore and Whitehead recognized the importance of facts and values in any civilized
society. In their view, empirical science gives us knowledge of facts and axiology (value theory)
gives us knowledge of values. An effective system of education integrates scientific facts
with values. Humans deal with actualities in life with the aid of scientifically established truths
(i.e., tested facts), and ideals in human existence through moral vision, aesthetic refinement,
and religious intuition (i.e. goodness, beauty and truth).
Both Tagore and Whitehead recognize that although humans Jive and move about in the
actual world, which is full of difficulties and hopes, they have a strong urge to transcend the
hard actualities of life through passionate love for humanity, lasting peace on the global scale
and communion with God through religious intuition.
Aim of education, according to both of them is all-round development of personality.
Both of them, therefore, gave emphasis on intellectual, aesthetic, moral and cultural development
of an individual.
Both Tagore and Whitehead have recognized dignity, freedom and creative potentiality of
all human beings. Both of them emphasize the basic goodness in all persons, which can be
nurtured and sustained through education. The aim of education according to both is to develop
the personality of an individual to the fullest possible extent, along with an over-all development
of the society.
Both of them believe in allowing maximum possible freedom to learners during the process
of learning. However, both Tagore and whitehead recommend that there must be proper balance
between freedom and discipline.
The system of education has been changing from time to time, and place to place, in accordance
with the social, economic and political needs of the members of a socio-cultural system of
a particular geographical region in a particular epoch. An individual is the product of his time,
and geographical region. He develops his mental framework, according to the environment,
and cultural norms and values of his socio-cultural system.
Eminent educationists came into existence in different parts of the world, and in different
periods of history. Their educational philosophies got molded, in accordance with their
respective historical backgrounds, cultural traditions, economic conditions, geographical
features, political systems and ideologies of their countries. Inspite of wide spatial and temporal
disparities, sometimes identical or similar ideas can be found in the educational theorizations
of two or more educational thinkers living in two different geographical regions.
In recent years, radical changes have taken place in social, economic and political situations
throughout the world because of new discoveries and inventions in the fields of science and
technology. Along with the progress, and development in the fields of science and technology,
many problems have also emerged. Two world wars had devastating effects on life and property
on mass scale. Over and above that, in the technologically advanced societies, human life has
become mechanical, leading to the feeling of purposelessness. People, therefore, have lost faith
on mere intellectual analysis of social problems. In consequence, great thinkers at present have
tried to solve social problems by integrating scientific and religious approaches. They have
been trying to lay stress on humanism, higher values of life and unity of humankind.
In the East, Rabindranath Tagore was an eminent poet and philosopher, who threw valuable
light on the educational problems, with special reference to Indian cultural situation. In the
West, on the other hand, Alfred North Whitehead was an eminent philosopher and scientist,
who expressed his ideas on education, with special reference to Western culture.
1.1 BIOGRAPIDCAL GLIMPSES OF TAGORE AND WHITEHEAD
1.1.1 Rabindranath Tagore's Biography
Rabindranath Tagore was born in Calcutta on 7th May, 1861, when Indian renaissance was
in a fairly advanced stage. He belonged to a highly educated, cultured, religious and en-lightened
family. His father Debendranath Tagore (1817-1905), an eminent leader of Brahmo Samaj, was
a man of highly religious temperament and of a saintly disposition. He was known as 'Maharishi'
(Great Saint) for his religious outlook. Krishna Kriplani described him as a man who was 'God-
intoxicated';' and his father Prince Dwarkanath Tagore found him to be practicing "Brahmo
the whole day".
Rabindranath Tagore was born and brought up in the traditional Indian culture of his family.
Nevertheless, he and his family members were receptive to the covetable values and norms
of Western culture. One can, therefore, note in the views and writings of Tagore a synthesis
between Eastern and Western cultural values.’
Tagore wrote about himself and his family as follows:
"I was born in what was then the metropolis of British India. My ancestors came floating to
Calcutta upon the earliest tide of the fluctuating fortune of the East India Company. The
conventional code of life for our family thereupon became a confluence of three cultures:
The Hindu, the Mohammedan and the British. My grandfather belonged to the period when
an amplitude of dress and courtesy and generous leisure were gradually being clipped and
curtailed into Victorian manner, economical in time in ceremonies and in the dignity of personal
appearance. This will show that I came to a world in which the modern city-bred spirit of
I progress had just begun diving its triumphal car over the luscious green life of our ancient
Though the trampling process was almost complete around me, yet the wailing cry of
the past was still lingering over the wreckage."
Tagore lost his mother in his early youth; hence, it was his father's influence and memories,
which are amply expressed through his writings.
At the age of five, Rabindranath started reading and writing with his brother Somendranath
and nephew Satya. "At last there came a day when Somendra and Satya had to go to school.
Rabindranath was two years younger, and his elders thought that he should stay at home for
some time longer. But Rabindranath wanted to go to school because to go to school meant to
go out into the big, free outside world. He thought it would be a way of escape from his
imprisonment in the house:" However, Tagore soon discovered "school was another prison, much
more dreary than home and he named it his 'Andamans' when he worked back on those days.'?
Tagore described his school experience in the following words:
"School grabbed the best part of the day, and only fragments of time in the morning and evening
slipped through its clutching fingers. As soon as, I entered the class-room, the benches and
tables forced themselves rudely on my attention, elbowing and jostling their way into my mind.
They were always the same-stiff, cramping, and dead. In the evening, I went home, and
the oil lamp in our study room, like a stem signal, summoned me to the preparation of the
next day's lessons. There is a kind of grasshopper which takes the color of the withered
leaves among which it works unobserved. In like manner, my spirit also shrank and faded
among those faded, drab-colored days.
Tagore gave up going to school as it appeared to him lifeless, stiff, cramping, uninteresting
and uninspiring. He was taught science, arithmetic, geometry, history, geography, religion,
philosophy, music, drawing and Bengali, Sanskrit and English languages at home by private
tutors. He was also encouraged to practice wrestling and gymnastics. The intellectual and
religious atmosphere of his family. contributed to the sharpening of his intellect and cultural
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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