We had our annual do on the evening of the 5th of March in the sophisticated auditorium of Indore's DAVV University. Over 300 children received prizes for performance in various areas of intellectual activity. Ten children between the ages of 6 and 16, the best performers in their groups, received an encyclopaedia each as the Proficiency Award.
The star of the evening, however, was Ishanika Sharma, smiling and eager, a bright and bubbly 11-year old -- who won The Genius of the Year Award that included a silver trophy, a Certificate, and a 21-volume set of The New Book of Knowledge (known as the world's best family reference set). The legend on the trophy: "high intellectual
potential and consistent superior performance".
It was a moment of pride for Ishanika and her parents.
The Great Conversation
My address to the parents and the children ranged over topics that are of concern to me, and should be of concern to all. The one thing my students must remember is the reference I made to 'The Great Conversation' that has gone on for over thirty centuries among the intellectuals who put down their thoughts in books. Books give us the wisdom of the ages. While we are profoundly influenced by some writers, their ideas were not all born within the minds of those writers. They had read other great thinkers and their books. We may assume that Dickens or Swift would have been influenced by Shakespeare, and Shakespeare in his turn by Aristotle and Plato and Socrates , whose intellects were probably impelled by Homer.
When you read a book, see in your mind's eye your own self standing with the author, and around you are other great minds of ages past, the great men and women who influenced the works of that author, and you are conversing with them; you are arguing, and listening to their reasoning, asking questions, and getting answers. Contrast this imaginary scenario with watching a television serial that has been made for the average mind of a factory worker. Our civilisation, as we know it, will come to an end if the exalted conversation grinds to a halt. We have an obligation to keep it going. [When you are free, read the article The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent by John Erskine at http://home.uchicago.edu/~ahkissel/education/erskine.html.]