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Life Ahead

Part 1

Life Ahead Part One Chapter 1

Have you ever thought why you are being educated, why you are learning history, mathematics, geography or what else? Have you ever thought why you go to schools and colleges? Is it not very important to find out why you are being crammed with information, with knowledge? What is all this so-called education? Your parents send you here, perhaps because they themselves have passed certain examinations and taken various degrees. Have you ever asked yourselves why you are here, and have the teachers asked you why you are here. Do the teachers know why they are here? Should you not try to find out what all this struggle is about - this struggle to study, to pass examinations, to live in a certain place away from home and not be frightened, to play games well and so on? Should your teachers not help you to inquire into all this and not merely prepare you to pass examinations?

Boys pass examinations because they know they will have to get a job, they will have to earn a livelihood. Why do girls pass examinations? To be educated in order to get better husbands. Don’t laugh; just think about this. Do your parents send you away to school because you are a nuisance at home? By passing examinations are you going to understand the whole significance of life? Some people are very clever at passing examinations, but this does not necessarily mean that they are intelligent. Others who do not know how to pass examinations may be far more intelligent; they may be more capable with their hands and may think things out more deeply than the person who merely crams in order to pass examinations.

Many boys study merely to get a job, and that is their whole aim in life. But after getting a job, what happens? They get married, they have children - and for the rest of their life they are caught in the machine, are they not? They become clerks or lawyers or policemen; they have an everlasting struggle with their wives, with their children; their life is a constant battle till they die.

And what happens to you girls? You get married - that is your aim, as it is also the concern of your parents to get you married - and then you have children. If you have a little money you are concerned about your saris and how you look; you are worried about your quarrels with your husband and about what people will say.

Do you see all this? Are you not aware of it in your family, in your neighborhood? Have you noticed how it goes on all the time? Must you not find out what is the meaning of education, why you want to be educated, why your parents want you to be educated, why they make elaborate speeches about what education is supposed to be doing in the world? You may be able to read Bernard Shaw’s plays, you may be able to quote Shakespeare or Voltaire or some new philosopher; but if you in yourself are not intelligent, if you are not creative, what is the point of this education?

So, is it not important for the teachers as well as for the students to find out how to be intelligent? Education does not consist in merely being able to read and pass examinations; any clever person can do that. Education consists in cultivating intelligence, does it not. By intelligence I do not mean cunning, or trying to be clever in order to outdo somebody else. Intelligence, surely, is something quite different. There is intelligence when you are not afraid. And when are you afraid? Fear comes when you think of what people may say about you, or what your parents may say; you are afraid of being criticized, of being punished, of failing to pass an examination. When your teacher scolds you, or when you are not popular in your class, in your school, in your surroundings, fear gradually creeps in.

Fear is obviously one of the barriers to intelligence, is it not? And surely it is the very essence of education to help the student - you and me - to be aware of and to understand the causes of fear, so that from childhood onwards he can live free of fear.

Are you aware that you are afraid? You do have fear, do you not? Or are you free of fear? Are you not afraid of your parents, of your teachers, of what people might think? Suppose you did something of which your parents and society disapprove. Would you not be afraid? Suppose you wanted to marry a person not of your own caste or class; would you not be afraid of what people might say? If your future husband did not make the right amount of money, or if he did not have position or prestige, would you not feel ashamed? Would you not be afraid that your friends might not think well of you? And are you not afraid of disease, of death?

Most of us are afraid. Do not say `no’ so quickly. We may not have thought about it; but if we do think about it we will notice that almost everybody in the world, grown-ups as well as children, has some kind of fear gnawing at the heart. And is it not the function of education to help each individual to be free of fear, so that he can be intelligent? That is what we aim at in a school - which means that the teachers themselves must really be free of fear. What is the good of teachers talking about fearlessness if they are themselves afraid of what their neighbour may say, afraid of their wives or their husbands?

If one has fear there can be no initiative in the creative sense of the word. To have initiative in this sense is to do something original - to do it spontaneously, naturally, without being guided, forced, controlled. It is to do something which you love to do. You may often have seen a stone lying in the middle of the road, and a car go bumping over it. Have you ever removed that stone? Or have you ever, when out walking, observed the poor people, the peasants, the villagers, and done something kind - done it spontaneously, naturally, out of your own heart, without waiting to be told what to do.

You see, if you have fear, then all this is shut out of your life; you become insensitive and do not observe what is going on around you. If you have fear, you are bound by tradition, you follow some leader or guru. When you are bound by tradition, when you are afraid of your husband or your wife, you lose your dignity as an individual human being.

So, is it not the function of education to free you from fear, and not merely prepare you to pass certain examinations, however necessary this may be? Essentially, deeply, that should be the vital aim of education and of every teacher: to help you from childhood to be completely free of fear so that when you go out into the world you are an intelligent human being, full of real initiative. Initiative is destroyed when you are merely copping, when you are bound by tradition, following a political leader or a religious swami. To follow anybody is surely detrimental to intelligence. The very process of following creates a sense of fear; and fear shuts out the understanding of life with all its extraordinary complications, with its struggles, its sorrows, its poverty, its riches and beauty - the beauty of the birds, and of the sunset on the water. When you are frightened, you are insensitive to all this.

May I suggest that you ask your teachers to explain to you what we have been talking about. Will you do that? Find out for yourself if the teachers have understood these things - it will help them to help you to be more intelligent, not to be frightened. In matters of this kind we need teachers who are very intelligent - intelligent in the right sense, not just in the sense of having passed the M.A. or B.A. examinations. If you are interested, see if you can arrange to have a period during the day in which to discuss and talk about all this with your teachers. Because you are going to grow up, you are going to have husbands, wives, children, and you will have to know what life is all about - life with its struggle to earn a living, with its miseries, with its extraordinary beauty. All this you will have to know and understand; and the school is the place to learn about these things. If the teachers teach you merely mathematics and geography, history and science, that is obviously not enough. The important thing for you is to be alert, to question, to find out, so that your own initiative may be awakened.

Life Ahead

Part 1

Life Ahead Part One Chapter 1

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