Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Function of Education

August 9, 2008

Chapter 1, from Education and the Significance of Life, by J. Krishnamurti

Summary: (goal: social change) the present system of education is creating war and conflict. The focus should be to understand the total process of himself (deep integration of thought and feeling) to bring order and peace to the world. "The highest function of education is to bring about an integrated individual who is capable of dealing with life as a whole." current education separates and disconnects the many aspects of life.

Topics discussed:
  • right education
  • fear/conformity
  • true values
  • intelligence
  • meaning of life
  • seeking comfort and security
  • problems of existence (war, conflict)
  • integration of levels of existence/departments

Text (abridged):
We are turning out, as if through a mold, a type of human being whose chief interest is:
  • to find security,
  • to become somebody important, or
  • to have a good time with as little thought as possible.

Conventional education makes independent thinking extremely difficult. Conformity leads to mediocrity. To be different from the group or to resist environment is not easy and is often risky as long as we worship success. The urge to be successful, which is the pursuit of reward whether in the material or in the so-called spiritual sphere, the search for inward or outward security, the desire for comfort—this whole process smothers discontent, puts an end to spontaneity and breeds fear; and fear blocks the intelligent understanding of life. With increasing age, dullness of mind and heart sets in

In seeking comfort, we generally find a quiet corner in life where there is a minimum of conflict, and then we are afraid to step out of that seclusion. This fear of life, this fear of struggle and of new experience, kills in us the spirit of adventure; our whole upbringing and education have made us afraid to be different from our neighbor, afraid to think contrary to the established pattern of society, falsely respectful of authority and tradition.

But there is an intelligent revolt which is not reaction, and which comes with self-knowledge through the awareness of one’s own thought and feeling. It is only when we face experience as it comes and do not avoid disturbance that we keep intelligence highly awakened; and intelligence highly awakened is intuition, which is the only true guide in life.

If we are being educated merely:
  • to achieve distinction,
  • to get a better job,
  • to be more efficient,
  • to have wider domination over others,
then our lives will be shallow and empty.

Though there is a higher and wider significance to life, of what value is our education if we never discover it? We may be highly educated, but if we are without deep integration of thought and feeling, our lives are incomplete, contradictory and torn with many fears; and as long as education does not cultivate an integrated outlook on life, it has very little significance.

In our present civilization we have divided life into so many departments that education has very little meaning, except in learning a particular technique or profession. [...] To attempt to solve the many problems of existence at their respective levels, separated as they are into various categories, indicates an utter lack of comprehension.

Education should bring about the integration of these separate entities—for without integration, life becomes a series of conflicts and sorrows.

Education is not merely a matter of training the mind. Training makes for efficiency, but it does not bring about completeness. A mind that has merely been trained is the continuation of the past, and such a mind can never discover the new. That is why, to find out what is right education, we will have to inquire into the whole significance of living.

[...] Without love, which brings an integrated understanding of life, efficiency breeds ruthlessness. [...] If education leads to war, if it teaches us to destroy or be destroyed, has it not utterly failed?

To bring about right education, we must obviously understand the meaning of life as a whole, and for that we have to be able to think, not consistently, but directly and truly. [...] To understand life is to understand ourselves, and that is both the beginning and the end of education.

Education is not merely acquiring knowledge, gathering and correlating facts; it is to see the significance of life as a whole. But the whole cannot be approached through the part—which is what governments, organized religions and authoritarian parties are attempting to do.

The function of education is to create human beings who are integrated and therefore intelligent. [...] Intelligence is the capacity to perceive the essential, the what is; and to awaken this capacity, in oneself and in others, is education.

Education should help us to discover lasting values so that we do not merely cling to formulas or repeat slogans; it should help us to break down our national and social barriers, instead of emphasizing them, for they breed antagonism between man and man. Unfortunately, the present system of education is making us subservient, mechanical and deeply thoughtless; though it awakens us intellectually, inwardly it leaves us incomplete, stultified and uncreative.

Without an integrated understanding of life, our individual and collective problems will only deepen and extend. The purpose of education is not to produce mere scholars, technicians and job hunters, but integrated men and women who are free of fear; for only between such human beings can there be enduring peace.

Education should not encourage the individual to conform to society or to be negatively harmonious with it, but help him to discover the true values which come with unbiased investigation and self-awareness. When there is no self- knowledge, self-expression becomes self-assertion, with all its aggressive and ambitious conflicts. Education should awaken the capacity to be self-aware and not merely indulge in gratifying self- expression.

What is the good of learning if in the process of living we are destroying ourselves? As we are having a series of devastating wars, one right after another, there is obviously something radically wrong with the way we bring up our children. I think most of us are aware of this, but we do not know how to deal with it.

Systems, whether educational or political, are not changed mysteriously; they are transformed when there is a fundamental change in ourselves. The individual is of first importance, not the system; and as long as the individual does not understand the total process of himself, no system, whether of the left or of the right, can bring order and peace to the world.

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