Wednesday, 7 December 2016

What is a holistic education? (Krishnamurti)

This is based on Krishnamurti's first talk with teachers at the Rishi Valley in December 1985, which can also be read in the book of his final talks The Future is Now.

What follows is a short summary. The responses from the teachers in green have been improved in places by contributions from Yahoo Answers. 

What is a holistic education?

If you were given the task to educate a child, not just in Maths or English, but in order to bring about a holistic life, how would you do it? Through what means, what kind of attitude, what kind of verbal explanation could you bring about a way of living which is whole and unbroken, not fragmented in specializations as many of our lives are.

Wholeness means goodness, not in the ordinary sense of a good boy, a good husband, that's all very limited, but in the sense of being extraordinarily generous, not wanting to cause harm, in a sense which is as correct now as in a hundred years. Because it does not depend on circumstances, it is always correct. It applies just as much to one child as to the whole school. From that comes right action. So goodness and a holistic way of living go together.

We must first be holistic ourselves. We have to make the child feel secure in his relationship by creating a caring environment with clear boundaries. We must be a role model and teach by example. A child may go through ups and downs of emotional turbulence of anger or over-excitement, and we may do too, but as a teacher, we must leave our own emotional turbulence at home in order to provide consistency and stay rational in the face of difficulties, so the child knows what to expect and can follow our example instead of getting caught up by their emotions. Thus, we can teach them how to make the best when things go badly, and not let things slip when things go well. 

Exactly! If you are fragmented, and you make a problem of it, the result is only more fragmentation. Nor can you wait until you are holistic yourself, because that could take an eternity. The child is waiting to be educated now.

There is nothing to be done except watching, observing.

You have already come to a conclusion. You do not put yourself in that position. What's the relationship between you and the boy?

We are learning together. I am not different from him.

Of course you are different from him — you teach Maths, he doesn't know any.

We must not over-shelter the child, relinquishing the need to be in charge and allow children to make their own choices and build character through adventure, difficulty and boredom, and also to give them space and time to contemplate and grow. Let the child win some arguments, but choose which ones wisely! Physical activities such as walks, raking leaves, doing chores, moving furniture help to burn off surplus energy and focus it more positively. Through consistency, trust and integration, with smooth interfaces instead of rigid systems, instead of action and reaction, sanctions and rewards, we can instead show patience, elasticity and empathy. Boundaries must be firm where needed, but established with love and compassion and mutual respect, not push/pull, expect, put down.

Love, compassion, that's the only thing that's holistic. Love isn't thought. Love isn't pleasure. Love is utterly unrelated to hate, jealousy, anger and all that. It is whole and it has its own intelligence. Don't just accept this. It cannot be known. To say I know you is to limit you within thought. So when I am given the task of educating this boy or girl, what should I do? I know one thing absolutely for certain: I don't know, and I'm not just waiting for someone to come along and tell me what to think. Then, all my inventions, all my thinking have collapsed, so the brain is open for reception. The brain is closed by conclusion, by judgment, by opinion, but when I say, I really don't know, then I've broken the closed bottle — I can drink the champagne. I begin to find out what love is, what compassion is, and that intelligence that's born of compassion. 

The brain is like a drum; it's all tuned up. When you strike it, it gives the right note.

Painting: Boy Sailing a Little Boat by Francis Danby.

Shared originally on Buddhist Travellers in 2011.

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