How Is the Teacher To Truly Help the Student?
From Krishnamurti’s Book EDUCATION AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF LIFE
The right kind of education begins with the educator, who must understand himself and be free from established patterns of thought; for what he is, that he imparts. If he has not been rightly educated, what can he teach except the same mechanical knowledge on which he himself has been brought up? The problem, therefore, is not the child, but the parent and the teacher; the problem is to educate the educator.
If we who are the educators do not understand ourselves, if we do not understand our relationship with the child but merely stuff him with information and make him pass examinations, how can we possibly bring about a new kind of education? The pupil is there to be guided and helped; but if the guide, the helper is himself confused and narrow, nationalistic and theory-ridden, then naturally his pupil will be what he is, and education becomes a source of further confusion and strife.
If we see the truth of this, we will realize how important it is that we begin to educate ourselves rightly. To be concerned with our own re-education is far more necessary than to worry about the future well-being and security of the child.
To educate the educator – that is, to have him understand himself – is one of the most difficult undertakings, because most of us are already crystallized within a system of thought or a pattern of action; we have already given ourselves over to some ideology, to a religion, or to a particular standard of conduct. That is why we teach the child what to think and not how to think.
Moreover, parents and teachers are largely occupied with their own conflicts and sorrows. Rich or poor, most parents are absorbed in their personal worries and trials. They are not gravely concerned about the present social and moral deterioration, but only desire that their children shall be equipped to get on in the world. They are anxious about the future of their children, eager to have them educated to hold secure positions, or to marry well.
Contrary to what is generally believed, most parents do not love their children, though they talk of loving them. If parents really loved their children, there would be no emphasis laid on the family and the nation as opposed to the whole, which creates social and racial divisions between men and brings about war and starvation. It is really extraordinary that, while people are rigorously trained to be lawyers or doctors, they may become parents without undergoing any training whatsoever to fit them for this all-important task.
More often than not, the family, with its separate tendencies, encourages the general process of isolation, thereby becoming a deteriorating factor in society. it is only when there is love and understanding that the walls of isolation are broken down, and then the family is no longer a closed circle, it is neither a prison nor a refuge; then the parents are in communion, not only with their children, but also with their neighbours.
Being absorbed in their own problems, many parents shift to the teacher the responsibility for the well-being of their children; and then it is important that the educator help in the education of the parents as well.
He must talk to them, explaining that the confused state of the world mirrors their own individual confusion. He must point out that scientific progress in itself cannot bring about a radical change in existing values; that technical training, which is now called education, has not given man freedom or made him any happier; and that to condition the student to accept the present environment is not conducive to intelligence. He must tell them what he is attempting to do for their child, and how he is setting about it. He has to awaken the parents’ confidence, not by assuming the authority of a specialist dealing with ignorant laymen, but by talking over with them the child’s temperament, difficulties, aptitudes and so on.
If the teacher takes a real interest in the child as an individual, the parents will have confidence in him. In this process, the teacher is educating the parents as well as himself, while learning from them in return. Right education is a mutual task demanding patience, consideration and affection. Enlightened teachers in an enlightened community could work out this problem of how to bring up children, and experiments along these lines should be made on a small scale by interested teachers and thoughtful parents.
Do parents ever ask themselves why they have children? Do they have children to perpetuate their name, to carry on their property? Do they want children merely for the sake of their own delight, to satisfy their own emotional needs? If so, then the children become a mere projection of the desires and fears of their parents.
Can parents claim to love their children when, by educating them wrongly, they foster envy, enmity and ambition? Is it love that stimulates the national and racial antagonisms which lead to war, destruction and utter misery, that sets man against man in the name of religions and ideologies?
Many parents encourage the child in the ways of conflict and sorrow, not only by allowing him to be submitted to the wrong kind of education, but by the manner in which they conduct their own lives; and then, when the child grows up and suffers, they pray for him or find excuses for his behaviour. The suffering of parents for their children is a form of possessive self-pity which exists only when there is no love.
If parents love their children, they will not be nationalistic, they will not identify themselves with any country; for the worship of the State brings on war, which kills or maims their sons. If parents love their children, they will discover what is right relationship to property; for the possessive instinct has given property an enormous and false significance which is destroying the world. If parents love their children, they will not belong to any organized religion; for dogma and belief divide people into conflicting groups, creating antagonism between man and man. If parents love their children, they will do away with envy and strife, and will set about altering fundamentally the structure of present-day society.
As long as we want our children to be powerful, to have bigger and better positions, to become more and more successful, there is no love in our hearts; for the worship of success encourages conflict and misery. To love one’s children is to be in complete communion with them; it is to see that they have the kind of education that will help them to be sensitive, intelligent and integrated.
The first thing a teacher must ask himself, when he decides that he wants to teach, is what exactly he means by teaching. Is he going to teach the usual subjects in the habitual way? Does he want to condition the child to become a cog in the social machine, or help him to be an integrated, creative human being, a threat to false values? And if the educator is to help the student to examine and understand the values and influences that surround him and of which he is a part, must he not be aware of them himself? If one is blind, can one help others to cross to the other shore?
Surely, the teacher himself must first begin to see. He must be constantly alert, intensely aware of his own thoughts and feelings, aware of the ways in which he is conditioned, aware of his activities and his responses; for out of this watchfulness comes intelligence, and with it a radical transformation in his relationship to people and to things.
Intelligence has nothing to do with the passing of examinations. Intelligence is the spontaneous perception which makes a man strong and free. To awaken intelligence in a child, we must begin to understand for ourselves what intelligence is; for how can we ask a child to be intelligent if we ourselves remain unintelligent in so many ways? The problem is not only the student’s difficulties, but also our own: the cumulative fears, unhappiness and frustrations of which we are not free. In order to help the child to be intelligent, we have to break down within ourselves those hindrances which make us dull and thoughtless.
How can we teach children not to seek personal security if we ourselves are pursuing it? What hope is there for the child if we who are parents and teachers are not entirely vulnerable to life, if we erect protective walls around ourselves? To discover the true significance of this struggle for security, which is causing such chaos in the world, we must begin to awaken our own intelligence by being aware of our psychological processes; we must begin to question all the values which now enclose us.
We should not continue to fit thoughtlessly into the pattern in which we happen to have been brought up. How can there ever be harmony in the individual and so in society if we do not understand ourselves? Unless the educator understands himself, unless he sees his own conditioned responses and is beginning to free himself from existing values, how can he possibly awaken intelligence in the child? And if he cannot awaken intelligence in the child, then what is his function?
It is only by understanding the ways of our own thought and feeling that we can truly help the child to be a free human being; and if the educator is vitally concerned with this, he will be keenly aware, not only of the child, but also of himself.
Very few of us observe our own thoughts and feelings. If they are obviously ugly, we do not understand their full significance, but merely try to check them or push them aside. We are not deeply aware of ourselves; our thoughts and feelings are stereotyped, automatic. We learn a few subjects, gather some information, and then try to pass it on to the children.
But if we are vitally interested, we shall not only try to find out what experiments are being made in education in different parts of the world, but we shall want to be very clear about our own approach to this whole question; we shall ask ourselves why and to what purpose we are educating the children and ourselves; we shall inquire into the meaning of existence, into the relationship of the individual to society, and so on. Surely, educators must be aware of these problems and try to help the child to discover the truth concerning them, without projecting upon him their own idiosyncrasies and habits of thought.
Merely to follow a system, whether political or educational, will never solve our mny social problems; and it is far more important to understand the manner of our approach to any problem, than to understand the problem itself.
If children are to be free from fear – whether of their parents, of their environment, or of God – the educator himself must have no fear. But that is the difficulty: to find teachers who are not themselves the prey of some kind of fear. Fear narrows down thought and limits initiative, and a teacher who is fearful obviously cannot convey the deep significance of being without fear. Like goodness, fear is contagious. If the educator himself is secretly afraid, he will pass that fear on to his students, although its contamination may not be immediately seen.
Suppose, for example, that a teacher is afraid of public opinion; he sees the absurdity of his fear, and yet cannot go beyond it. What is he to do? He can at least acknowledge it to himself, and can help his students to understand fear by bringing out his own psychological reaction and openly talking it over with them. This honest and sincere approach will greatly encourage the students to be equally open and direct with themselves and with the teacher.
To give freedom to the child, the educator himself must be aware of the implications and the full significance of freedom. Example and compulsion in any form do not help to bring about freedom, and it is only in freedom that there can be self-discovery and insight.
The child is influenced by the people and the things about him, and the right kind of educator should help him to uncover these influences and their true worth. Right values are not discovered through the authority of society or tradition; only individual thoughtfulness can reveal them.
If one understands this deeply, one will encourage the student from the very beginning to awaken insight into present-day individual and social values. One will encourage him to seek out, not any particular set of values, but the true value of all things. One will help him to be fearless, which is to be free of all domination, whether by the teacher, the family or society, so that as an individual he can flower in love and goodness. In thus helping the student towards freedom, the educator is changing his own values also; he too is beginning to be rid of the ‘’me” and the “mine,” he too is flowering in love and goodness. This process of mutual education creates an altogether different relationship between the teacher and the student.
Domination or compulsion of any kind is a direct hindrance to freedom and intelligence. The right kind of educator has no authority, no power in society; he is beyond the edicts and sanctions of society. If we are to help the student to be free from his hindrances, which have been created by himself and by his environment, then every form of compulsion and domination must be understood and put aside; and this cannot be done if the educator is not also freeing himself from all crippling authority.
To follow another, however great, prevents the discovery of the ways of the self; to run after the promise of some ready-made Utopia makes the mind utterly unaware of the enclosing action of its own desire for comfort, for authority, for someone else’s help. The priest, the politician, the lawyer, the soldier, are all there to “help” us; but such help destroys intelligence and freedom. The help we need does not lie outside ourselves. We do not have to beg for help; it comes without our seeking it when we are humble in our dedicated work, when we are open to the understanding of our daily trials and accidents.
We must avoid the conscious or unconscious craving for support and encouragement, for such craving creates its own response, which is always gratifying. It is comforting to have someone to encourage us, to give us a lead, to pacify us; but this habit of turning to another as a guide, as an authority, soon becomes a poison in our system. The moment we depend on another for guidance, we forget our original intention, which was to awaken individual freedom and intelligence.
All authority is a hindrance, and it is essential that the educator should not become an authority for the student. The building up of authority is both a conscious and an unconscious process.
The student is uncertain, groping, but the teacher is sure in his knowledge, strong in his experience. The strength and certainty of the teacher give assurance to the student, who tends to bask in that sunlight; but such assurance is neither lasting nor true. A teacher who consciously or un consciously encourages dependence can never be of great help to his students. He may overwhelm them with his knowledge, dazzle them with his personality, but he is not the right kind of educator because his knowledge and experiences are his addiction, his security, his prison; and until he himself is free of them, he cannot help his students to be integrated human beings.
To be the right kind of educator, a teacher must constantly be freeing himself from books and laboratories; he must ever be watchful to see that the students do not make of him an example, an ideal, an authority. When the teacher desires to fulfil himself in his students, when their success is his, then his teaching is a form of self-continuation, which is detrimental to self-knowledge and freedom. The right kind of educator must be aware of all these hindrances in order to help his students to be free, not only from his authority, but from their own self-enclosing pursuits.
Unfortunately, when it comes to understanding a problem, most teachers do not treat the student as an equal partner; from their superior position, they give instructions to the pupil, who is far below them. Such a relationship only strengthens fear in both the teacher and the student. What creates this unequal relationship? Is it that the teacher is afraid of being found out? Does he keep a dignified distance to guard his susceptibilities, hide importance? Such superior aloofness in no way helps to break down the barriers that separate individuals. After all, the educator and his pupil are helping each other to educate themselves.
All relationship should be a mutual education; and as the protective isolation afforded by knowledge, by achievement, by ambition, only breeds envy and antagonism, the right kind of educator must transcend these walls with which he surrounds himself.
Because he is devoted solely to the freedom and integration of the individual, the right kind of educator is deeply and truly religious. He does not belong to any sect, to any organized religion; he is free of beliefs and rituals, for he knows that they are only illusions, fancies, superstitions projected by the desires of those who create them. He knows that reality or God comes into being only when there is self-knowledge and therefore freedom.
People who have no academic degrees often make the best teachers because they are willing to experiment; not being specialists, they are interested in learning, in understanding life. For the true teacher, teaching is not a technique, it is his way of life; like a great artist, he would rather starve than give up his creative work. Unless one has this burning desire to teach, one should not be a teacher. It is of the utmost importance that one discover for oneself whether one his this gift, and not merely drift into teaching because it is a means of livelihood.
As long as teaching is only a profession, a means of livelihood, and not a dedicated vocation, there is bound to be a wide gap between the world and ourselves: our home life and our work remain separate and distinct. As long as education is only a job like any other, conflict and enmity among individuals and among the various class levels of society are inevitable; there will be increasing competition, the ruthless pursuit of personal ambition, and the building up of the national and racial divisions which create antagonism and endless wars.
But if we have dedicated ourselves to be the right kind of educators, we do not create barriers between our home life and the life at school, for we are everywhere concerned with freedom and intelligence. We consider equally the children of the rich and of the poor, regarding each child as an individual with his particular temperament, heredity, ambitions, and so on. We are concerned, not with a class, not with the powerful or the weak, but with the freedom and integration of the individual.
Dedication to the right kind of education must be wholly voluntary. It should not be the result of any kind of persuasion, or of any hope of personal gain; and it must be devoid of the fears that arise from the craving for success and achievement. The identification of oneself with the success or failure of a school is still within the field of personal motive. If to teach is one’s vocation, if one looks upon the right kind of education as a vital need for the individual, then one will not allow oneself to be hindered or in any way sidetracked either by one’s own ambitions or by those of another; one will find time and opportunity for this work, and will set about it without seeking reward, honour or fame. Then all other things – family, personal security, comfort – become of secondary importance.
If we are in earnest about being the right kind of teachers, we shall be thoroughly dissatisfied, not with a particular system of education, but with all systems, because we see that no educational method can free the individual. A method or a system may condition him to a different set of values, but it cannot make him free.
One has to be very watchful also not to fall into one’s own particular system, which the mind is ever building. To have a pattern of conduct, of action, is a convenient and safe procedure, and that is why the mind takes shelter within its formations. To be constantly alert is bothersome and exacting, but to develop and follow a method does not demand thought.
Repetition and habit encourage the mind to be sluggish; a shock is needed to awaken it, which we then call a problem. We try to solve this problem according to our well-worn explanations, justifications and condemnations, all of which puts the mind back to sleep again. In this form of sluggishness the mind is constantly being caught, and the right kind of educator not only puts an end to it within himself, but also helps his students to be aware of it.
Some may ask, “How does one become the right kind of educator?” Surely, to ask “How” indicates, not a free mind, but a mind that is timorous, that is seeking an advantage, a result. The hope and the effort to become something only makes the mind conform to the desired end, while a free mind is constantly watching, learning, and therefore breaking through its self-projected hindrances.
Freedom is at the beginning, it is not something to be gained at the end. The moment one asks “How,” one is confronted with insurmountable difficulties, and the teacher who is eager to dedicate his life to education will never ask this question, for he knows that there is no method by which one can become the right kind of educator. If one is vitally interested, one does not ask for a method that will assure one of the desired result.
Can any system make us intelligent? We may go through the kind of a system, acquire degrees, and so on; but will we then be educators, or merely the personifications of a system? To seek reward, to want to be called an outstanding educator, is to crave recognition and praise; and while it is sometimes agreeable to be appreciated and encouraged, if one depends upon it for one’s sustained interest, it becomes a drug of which one soon wearies. To expect appreciation and encouragement is quite immature.
If anything new is to be created, there must be alertness and energy, not bickerings and wrangles. If one feels frustrated in one’s work, then boredom and weariness generally follow. If one is not interested, one should obviously not go on teaching.
But why is there so often a lack of vital interest among teachers? What causes one do feel frustrated? Frustration is not the result of being forced by circumstances to do this or that; it arises when we do not know for ourselves what it is that we really want to do. Being confused, we get pushed around, and finally land in something which has no appeal for us at all.
If teaching is our true vocation, we may feel temporarily frustrated because we have not seen a way out of this present educational confusion; but the moment we see and understand the implications of the right kind of education, we shall have again all the necessary drive and enthusiasm. It is not a matter of will or resolution, but of perception and understanding.
If teaching is one’s vocation, and if one perceives the grave importance of the right kind of education, one cannot help but be the right kind of educator. There is no need to follow any method. The very fact of understanding that the right kind of education is indispensable if we are to achieve the freedom and integration of the individual, brings about a fundamental change in oneself. If one becomes aware that there can be peace and happiness for man only through right education, then one will naturally give one’s whole life and interest to it.
One teaches because one wants the child to be rich inwardly, which will result in his giving right value to possessions. Without inner richness, worldly things become extravagantly important, leading to various forms of destruction and misery. One teaches to encourage the student to find his true vocation, and to avoid those occupations that foster antagonism between man and man. One teaches to help the young towards self-knowledge, without which there can be no peace, no lasting happiness. One’s teaching is not self-fulfilment, but self-abnegation.
Without the right kind of teaching, illusion is taken for reality, and then the individual is ever in conflict within himself, and therefore there is conflict in his relationship with others, which is society. One teaches because one sees that self-knowledge alone, and not the dogmas and rituals of organized religion, can bring about a tranquil mind; and that creation, truth, God, comes into being only when the “me” and the “mine” are transcended.