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Letters to The Schools 2

1982

Letters to The Schools Volume 2 15th November 1982

We seem to think that education stops when we leave school or college. We don't seem to treat the whole of human existence as a process of self-education which is constant and perhaps neverending. So most of us limit education to a very short period and for the rest of our lives carry on in rather a muddle, learning only a few things that are absolutely necessary, falling into a routine and of course there is always death waiting. This is really our life marriage, children, work, passing pleasures, pain and death. If this is all our life, which apparently it is, then what really is the meaning of education? We never ask these fundamental questions; probably they are too disturbing. But as we are teachers in colleges and schools we must ask what is the purpose of education and learning. We know it gives us some sort of job but apart from the physical occupation with its responsibilities, what do we mean by teaching and the teacher?

As it is generally understood, a teacher, having already studied certain subjects, informs the student about them. Does this constitute being a teacher just to pass on knowledge? So we are enquiring into the nature of the teacher and the taught. Who is a teacher? What are the implications of teaching apart from the curricula? Very few are dedicated teachers. They are dedicated to helping the students in their studies, but surely a teacher has far greater significance.

Knowledge must inevitably be superficial. It is the cultivation of memory and employing that memory efficiently and so on. Knowledge being always limited, is it the function of the teacher to help the student to live all his life only within the limitations of knowledge? We must first realize that knowledge is always limited, as are all experiences. This employment of knowledge with its limitations can be very destructive. It is destructive in human relationships. In relationship knowledge, which is the accumulation of various incidents, experiences, reactions, cultivates the image of the other person and obscures the reality of that person and the relationship.

When there is a continuity, a tradition, put together by knowledge and handed down from generation to generation, then the past, which is the accumulation of knowledge, obscures the actual living present. When knowledge becomes routine, mechanical, it makes the brain limited, rigid and insensitive. When knowledge is used for the support of nationalism through wars, then it becomes bestial, appallingly cruel and utterly immoral. Knowledge is not beauty, but knowledge is necessary to bore a well. The whole technological world is based on knowledge and that world is taking over our lives. If we allow knowledge to be the sole authority, and hope through knowledge to ascend, then we are living in a fatal illusion. We are saying that knowledge has its place in everyday life but when knowledge is the only substance of our life, then our life must be confined to mechanical activity.

Is the communication of knowledge the only function of the teacher as it is now passing on information, ideas, theories and expanding these theories, discussing various aspects of them? Is this the only function of a teacher? If this is all a teacher is concerned with, then he is merely a living computer. But surely a teacher has far greater responsibility than this. He must be concerned with behaviour, with the human complexity of action, with a way of life which is the flowering of goodness. Surely he must be concerned with the future of his students and what is the future for these students? What is the future of man? What is the future of our consciousness which is so confused, disturbed, messy, in conflict? Must we perpetually live in conflict, sorrow and pain? When the teacher is not in communication with the student about all these matters, then he is merely a lively, clever machine perpetuating other machines.

So we are asking a very fundamental question which is: what is a teacher? It is the greatest profession in the world, though the least respected, for if he is deeply and seriously concerned, the teacher is bringing about the unconditioning of the human brain not only his own but that of the student. He is conditioned and the student is conditioned. Whether he admits it or not this is a fact, and in relationship with the student he is helping both the student and himself to free consciousness from limitation.

A relationship is a process of learning. A relationship is not a static affair but a living movement and so it is never the same. What it was yesterday it is not today. When yesterday dominates in relationship, then relationship is what it was, not a living thing. Love is not what it was. When the relationship between the teacher and the student has this element of companionship, of mutual unconditioning and humility, sensitivity and affection are natural. A teacher might say all this is impossible. When school authorities demand that there be fifty students in a class of every kind of idiocy, then what is a teacher to do? Obviously he cannot do anything. But we are talking about schools where this does not take place. There the teacher can establish this relationship and there he is deeply involved with the flowering of human beings.

Letters to The Schools 2

1982

Letters to The Schools Volume 2 15th November 1982

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