Freedom From the Fear of Punishment and the Hope of Reward


The right kind of educator, seeing the inward nature of freedom, helps each individual student to observe and understand his own self-projected values and impositions; he helps him to become aware of the conditioning influences about him, and of his own desires, both of which limit his mind and breed fear; he helps him, as he grows to manhood, to observe and understand himself in relation to all things, for it is the craving for self-fulfilment that brings endless conflict and sorrow.

Surely, it is possible to help the individual to perceive the enduring values of life, without conditioning. Some may say that this full development of the individual will lead to chaos; but will it? There is already confusion in the world, and it has arisen because the individual has not been educated to understand himself. While he has been given some superficial freedom, he has also been taught to conform, to accept the existing values.

Against this regimentation, many are revolting; but unfortunately their revolt is a mere self-seeking reaction, which only further darkens our existence. The right kind of educator, aware of the mind’s tendency to reaction, helps the student to alter present values, not out of reaction against them, but through understanding the total process of life. Full cooperation between man and man is not possible without the integration which right education can help to awaken in the individual.

Why are we so sure that neither we nor the coming generation, through the right kind of education, can bring about a fundamental alteration in human relationship? We have never tried it; and as most of us seem to be fearful of the right kind of education, we are disinclined to try it. Without really inquiring into this whole question, we assert that human nature cannot be changed, we accept things as they are and encourage the child to fit into the present society; we condition him to our present ways of life, and hope for the best. But can such conformity to present values, which lead to war and starvation, be considered education?

Let us not deceive ourselves that this conditioning is going to make for intelligence and happiness. If we remain fearful, devoid of affection, hopelessly apathetic, it means that we are really not interested in encouraging the individual to flower greatly in love and goodness, but prefer that he carry on the miseries with which we have burdened ourselves and of which he also is a part.

To condition the student to accept the present environment is quite obviously stupid. Unless we voluntarily bring about a radical change in education, we are directly responsible for the perpetuation of chaos and misery; and when some mons and brutal revolution finally comes, it will only give opportunity to another group of people to exploit and to be ruthless. Each group in power develops its own means of oppression, whether through psychological persuasion or brute force.

For political and industrial reasons, discipline has become an important factor in the present social structure, and it is because of our desire to be psychologically secure that we accept and practise various forms of discipline. Discipline guarantees a result, and to us the end is more important than the means; but the means determine the end.

One of the dangers of discipline is that the system becomes more important than the human beings who are enclosed in it. Discipline then becomes a substitute for love, and it is because our hearts are empty that we cling to discipline. Freedom can never come through discipline, through resistance; freedom is not a goal, an end to be achieved. Freedom is at the beginning, not at the end, it is not to be found in some distant ideal.

Freedom does not mean the opportunity for self-gratification or the setting aside of consideration for others. The teacher who is sincere will protect the children and help them in every possible way to grow towards the right kind of freedom; but it will be impossible for him to do this if he himself is addicted to an ideology, if he is in any way dogmatic or self-seeking.

Sensitivity can never be awakened through compulsion, One may compel a child to be outwardly quiet, but one has not come face to face with that which is making him obstinate, impudent, and so on. Compulsion breeds antagonism and fear. Reward and punishment in any form only make the mind subservient and dull; and if this is what we desire, then education through compulsion is an excellent way to proceed.

But such education cannot help us to understand the child, nor can it build a right social environment in which separatism and hatred will cease to exist. In the love of the child, right education is implied. But most of us do not love our children; we are ambitious for them – which means that we are ambitious for ourselves. Unfortunately, we are so busy with the occupations of the mind that we have little time for the promptings of the heart. After all, discipline implies resistance; and will resistance ever bring love? Discipline can only build walls about us; it is always exclusive, ever making for conflict. Discipline is not conducive to understanding; for understanding comes with observation, with inquiry in which all prejudice is set aside.

Discipline is an easy way to control a child, but it does not help him to understand the problems involved in living. Some form of compulsion, the discipline of punishment and reward, may be necessary to maintain order and seeming quietness among a large number of students herded together in a classroom; but with the right kind of educator and a small number of students, would any repression, politely called discipline, be required? If the classes are small and the teacher can give his full attention to each child, observing and helping him, then compulsion or domination in any form is obviously unnecessary. If, in such a group, a student persists in disorderliness or is unreasonably mischievous, the educator must inquire into the cause of his misbehaviour, which may be wrong diet, lack of rest, family wrangles, or some hidden fear.

Implicit in right education is the cultivation of freedom and intelligence, which is not possible if there is any form of compulsion, with its fears. After all, the concern of the educator is to help the student to understand the complexities of his whole being. To require him to suppress one part of his nature for the benefit of some other part is to create in him an endless conflict which results in social antagonisms. It is intelligence that brings order, not discipline.

Conformity and obedience have no place in the right kind of education. Cooperation between teacher and student is impossible if there is no mutual affection, mutual respect. When the showing of respect to elders is required of children, it generally becomes a habit, a mere outward performance, and fear assumes the form of veneration. Without respect and consideration, no vital relationship is possible, especially when the teacher is merely an instrument of his knowledge.

If the teacher demands respect from his pupils and has very little for them, it will obviously cause indifference and disrespect on their part. Without respect for human life, knowledge only leads to destruction and misery. The cultivation of respect for others is an essential part of right education, but if the educator himself has not this quality, he cannot help his students to an integrated life.

Intelligence is discernment of the essential, and to discern the essential there must be freedom from those hindrances which the mind projects in the search for its own security and comfort. Fear is inevitable as long as the mind is seeking security; and when human beings are regimented in any way, keen awareness and intelligence are destroyed.

The purpose of education is to cultivate right relationship, not only between individuals, but also between the individual and society; and that is why it is essential that education should, above all, help the individual to understand his own psychological process. Intelligence lies in understanding oneself and going above and beyond oneself; but there cannot be intelligence as long as there is fear. Fear perverts intelligence and is one of the causes of self-centred action. Discipline may suppress fear but does not eradicate it, and the superficial knowledge which we receive in modern education only further conceals it.

When we are young, fear is instilled into most of us both at home and at school. Neither parents nor teachers have the patience, the time or the wisdom to dispel the instinctive fears of childhood, which, as we grow up, dominate our attitudes and judgment and create a great many problems. The right kind of education must take into consideration this question of fear, because fear warps our whole outlook on life. To be without fear is the beginning of wisdom, and only the right kind of education can bring about the freedom from fear in which alone there is deep and creative intelligence.

Reward or punishment for any action merely strengthens self-centredness. Action for the sake of another, in the name of the country or of God, leads to fear, and fear cannot be the basis for right action. If we would help a child to be considerate of others, we should not use love as a bribe, but take the time and have the patience to explain the ways of consideration.

There is no respect for another when there is a reward for it, for the bribe or the punishment becomes far more significant than the feeling of respect. If we have no respect for the child but merely offer him a reward or threaten him with punishment, we are encouraging acquisitiveness and fear. Because we ourselves have been brought up to act for the sake of a result, we do not see that there can be action free of the desire to gain.

The right kind of education will encourage thoughtfulness and consideration for others without enticements or threats of any kind. If we no longer seek immediate results, we shall begin to see how important it is that both the educator and the child should be free from the fear of punishment and the hope of reward, and from every other form of compulsion; but compulsion will continue as long, as authority is part of relationship.

To follow authority has many advantages if one thinks in terms of personal motive and gain; but education based on individual advancement and profit can only build a social structure which is competitive, antagonistic and ruthless. This is the kind of society in which we have been brought up, and our animosity and confusion are obvious.

We have been taught to conform to the authority of a teacher, of a book, of a party, because it is profitable to do so. The specialists in every department of life, from the priest to the bureaucrat, wield authority and dominate us; but any government or teacher that uses compulsion can never bring about the cooperation in relationship which is essential for the welfare of society.

If we are to have right relationship between human beings, there should be no compulsion nor even persuasion. How can there be affection and genuine co-operation between those who are in power and those who are subject to power? By dispassionately considering this question of authority and its many implications, by seeing that the very desire for power is in itself destructive, there comes a spontaneous understanding of the whole process of authority. The moment we discard authority we are in partnership, and only then is there cooperation and affection.

The real problem in education is the educator. Even a small group of student becomes the instrument of his personal importance if he uses authority as a means of his own release, if teaching is for him a self-expansive fulfilment. But mere intellectual or verbal agreement concerning the crippling effects of authority is stupid and vain.

There must be deep insight into the hidden motivations of authority and domination. If we see that intelligence can never be awakened through compulsion, the very awareness of that fact will burn away our fears, and then we shall begin to cultivate a new environment which will be contrary to and far transcend the present social order.