The Meaning and Need of Death Education for Our Times

                       The Meaning and Need of Death Education for Our Times

The fear of death is essentially born from the fear of life, when one begins to live fully then death becomes the ultimate celebration.  We raised this issue in the November issue of  The New Leam. This led to a particularly discussion in which university teachers, young students, and parents reflected on the rhythm of life and death.

Education is never complete by the mere acquisition of external awards and degrees, true education means that one rediscovers himself/herself in the light of knowledge and this awakened understanding helps him/her live in a more meaningful manner. Thus apart from the constraints of syllabus and examinations, there is the possibility of a whole world of learning which enables us to look at the precious questions of life and death- themes that are seen as ‘unimportant’ or ‘spiritual’ in the contemporary university discourse. Thus our team conducts community initiatives where themes related to the deeper existential questions are collectively explored, yet the idea is never to arrive at any one particular conclusion but to share and learn from the pool of collective experiences. Such endeavors are of critical importance as these enable members within a community shed their inhibitions and even talk about matters which may have been considered unimportant in a defined syllabus  but may be of central importance to the very way that life is lived. The New Leam team recently conducted a workshop on The Meaning and Need of Death Education for our times.  The workshop received an overwhelming response from the participants who engaged collectively into the exploration of the theme through lectures, discussions and collective reading sessions.

This was a theme that had always been of concern to all members individually but prior to this occasion they had never found a suitable platform to engage in it with others and gain insights from a wide pool of experiential, intellectual and analytical accounts. The basic philosophical underpinning behind The New Leam is to think, create and work towards an education that is not merely limited to acquisition of degrees but helps individuals understand their essential potential, qualities and even dilemmas and questions as human beings and members of a collective humanity.  Thus forums like these enable participants to transcend their limitedness and learn from others, share and question preconceived ideas and reach out to conflicts within. Death education as a theme provided this unique space for participants and reaffirmed the idea that the contemporary educational mechanism does not help us cope with this fundamental reality of life and leaves us perplexed and fearful. While the ritualization of death brings with it facets of religious

{ A community initiative: Participants from different walks of life}

dogma and superstition that contribute further to an attitude that sees death as a taboo or a subject best avoided; on the other hand the formal structure of schooling does not allow learners the space and scope to engage in matters like these. Neither the parents, nor the school or the religious institutions address the problem meaningfully; this leads to a lifelong negation of the theme of death, an aversion to its discussion and finally a complete sense of loss and incompetence when faced with a death. Death is a certain reality of life, and whether it’s one’s own body withering away or the death of a dear one, we cannot choose to escape it!

Thus Death Education is a fundamental component of a learning that is integrated and meaningful. And we strongly assert that it is very important for us to introduce it at all levels of education. We must also acknowledge that death is not unnatural , life and death are both the laws of the natural world. The fear,anxiety, avoidance and superstitions associated with death are all because of the failure of the education system in communicating with young learners the story of death, the art of dying itself. Without this important component, education remains incomplete.
After all death education is about a wide range of educational activities and experiences related to death and through it are addressed some core topics that otherwise tend to get neglected in a mechanical educational discourse such  as the meanings and attitudes toward death,  the process of dying and what it means really and the care for people who have been affected by death. The importance of death education is immense as it helps us understand its true nature and acknowledge that dying is as natural as being born. It also helps us as a society to fight the belief that death-denying, death-defying, and death-avoiding attitudes and practices in our educational/socialization culture are helping us in any way. We also feel that if individuals and institutions are educated and equipped with a meaningful understanding of death they may be better able to deal with death-related experiences.

Death education not only enables and equips us to address the question of death and deal with it but it simultaneously also endows us with an understanding and wisdom about life itself.

Thus by illuminating us on death, death education also promotes the quality of life and living for oneself and others, and helps us build a society that is positive, empathetic and reciprocate.  The need for such platforms is more than ever now, as spaces for free and deep discussions are fast fading away. We find ourselves at a time when the true definition of discussion is being fiercely challenged by the news channels that are constantly looking for conflict within conversation to increase viewership on the other hand because of the decline of the familial and neighborhood bonds there are no platforms where people can share anxieties, dilemmas and concerns without the fear of judgment; in fact, specialists or councilors are filling up this tremendous void. Amidst such a changed context, the community initiative taken up by The New Leam is of great significance; it regenerates hope in the possibility of collective growth and well being through a shared, deliberative space where one expresses without the fear of being judged.

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