What Do We Mean by Education?
The right kind of education is not concerned with any ideology, however much it may promise a future utopia: it is not based on any system, however carefully thought out, nor is it a means of conditioning the individual in some special manner. Education in the true sense is helping the individual to be mature and free, to flower greatly in love and goodness. That is what we should be interested in, and not in shaping the child according to some idealistic pattern. The highest function of education is to bring about an integrated individual who is capable of dealing with life as a whole.
From the book Education and the Significance of Life by J. Krishnamurti — Purchase here
VIDEO: How can we educate our children to be intelligent and free?
VIDEO: What is the significance of history in the education of the young?
Education is freedom from conditioning
Those who are being educated have rather a difficult time with their parents, their educators and their fellow students: already the tide of struggle, anxiety, fear and competition has swept in. They have to face a world that is overpopulated, with undernourished people, a world of war, increasing terrorism, inefficient governments, corruption and the threat of poverty. This threat is less evident in affluent and fairly well-organized societies, but it is felt in those parts of the world where there is tremendous poverty, overpopulation and the indifference of inefficient rulers. This is the world the young people have to face, and naturally they are really frightened. They have an idea that they should be free, independent of routine, should not be dominated by their elders; and they shy away from all authority. Freedom to them means to choose what they want to do; but they are confused, uncertain and want to be shown what they should do. The student is caught between his own desire for freedom to do what he wants and society’s demands for conformity to its own necessities, that people become engineers, scientists, soldiers, or specialists of some kind. This is the world students have to face and become a part of through their education. It is a frightening world. We all want security physically as well as emotionally, and having this is becoming more and more difficult and painful.
The student is caught between his own desire for freedom to do what he wants and society’s demands for conformity.
So we of the older generation, if we at all care for our children, must ask what education is. If education, as it is now, is to prepare children to live in perpetual striving, conflict and fear, we must ask what the meaning of it all is. Is life a movement, a flow of pain and anxiety and the shedding of unshed tears, with occasional flares of joy and happiness? Unfortunately we, the older generation, do not ask these questions, and neither does the educator. So education, as it is now, is a process of facing a dreary, narrow and meaningless existence. But we want to give a meaning to life. Life appears to have no meaning in itself but we want to give it meaning, so we invent gods, various forms of religion and other entertainments, including nationalism and ways to kill each other, in order to escape from our monotonous life. This is the life of the older generation and will be the life of the young.
We the parents and educators have to face this fact and not escape into theories, seeking further forms of education and structures. If our minds are not clear about what we are facing, we shall inevitably, consciously or unconsciously, slip into the inaction of wondering what to do about it. There are a thousand people who will tell us what to do: the specialists and the cranks. Before we understand the vast complexity of the problem, we want to operate upon it. We are more concerned to act than to see the whole issue.
The real issue is the quality of our mind; not its knowledge but the depth of the mind that meets knowledge. Mind is infinite, is the nature of the universe, which has its own order, has its own immense energy. It is everlastingly free. The brain, as it is now, is the slave of knowledge and so is limited, finite, fragmentary. When the brain frees itself from its conditioning, the brain is infinite. Then only is there no division between the mind and the brain. Education then is freedom from conditioning, from the vast accumulated knowledge of tradition. This does not deny the value of academic disciplines, which have their own proper place in life.
From the book The Whole Movement of Life is Learning by J. Krishnamurti — Purchase Here
Communication is learning from each other
You come to these [Krishnamurti] schools with your own background, traditional or free, with discipline or without discipline, obeying or reluctant and disobeying, in revolt or conforming. Your parents are either negligent or very diligent about you. Some may feel very responsible, others may not. You come with all this trouble, with broken families, uncertain or assertive, wanting your way or shyly acquiescing but inwardly rebelling.
In these schools you are free, and all the disturbances of your young lives come into play. You want your own way and no one in the world can have his or her own way. You have to understand this very seriously; you cannot have your own way. Either you learn to adjust with understanding, with reason, or you are broken by the new environment you have entered. It is very important to understand this.
The essence of learning is constant movement without a fixed point.
In these schools the educators explain things carefully and you can discuss with them, have a dialogue and see why certain things have to be done. When one lives in a small community of teachers and students it is necessary that they have a good relationship with each other that is friendly, affectionate and has a certain quality of attentive comprehension. No one, especially nowadays living in a free society, likes rules, but rules become totally unnecessary when you and the grown-up educator understand, not only verbally and intellectually but with your heart, that certain disciplines are necessary. The word discipline has been ruined by the authoritarians. Each craft has its own discipline, its own skill. The word discipline comes from the word disciple which means to learn: to learn, not to conform, not to rebel, but to learn about your own reactions and your own background and how those limit you, and to go beyond them.
The essence of learning is constant movement without a fixed point. If its point becomes your prejudice, your opinions and conclusions, and you start from this handicap, then you cease to learn. Learning is infinite. The mind that is constantly learning is beyond all knowledge. So you are here to learn as well as to communicate.
Communication is not only the exchange of words, however articulate and clear those words may be; it is much deeper than that. Communication is learning from each other, understanding each other; and this comes to an end when you have taken a definite stand about some trivial or not fully thought-out act.
When one is young, there is an urge to conform, not to feel out of things. To learn the nature and implications of conformity brings its own peculiar discipline. Please always bear in mind when we use that word discipline that both the student and the educator are in a relationship of learning, not assertion and acceptance. When this is clearly understood, rules become unnecessary. When this is not clear, then rules have to be made. You may revolt against rules, against being told what to do or not to do, but when you quickly understand the nature of learning, rules will disappear altogether. It is only the obstinate, the self-assertive, who bring about rules—thou shalt and thou shalt not.
A mind that is learning is a free mind, and freedom demands the responsibility of learning.
Learning is not born out of curiosity. You may be curious about sex. That curiosity is based on pleasure, on some kind of excitement, on the attitudes of others. The same applies to drinking, drugs, smoking. Learning is far deeper and more extensive. You learn about the universe not out of pleasure or curiosity, but out of your relationship to the world. We have divided learning into separate categories depending on the demands of society or your own personal inclination. We are not talking of learning about something, but the quality of the mind that is willing to learn. You can learn how to become a good carpenter or a gardener or an engineer. When you have acquired skill in these, you have narrowed down your mind into a tool that can function perhaps skilfully in a certain pattern. This is what is called learning. This gives a certain security financially, and perhaps that is all one wants, so we create a society which provides what we have asked of it. But when there is this extra quality of learning that is not about something, then you have a mind and, of course, a heart that are timelessly alive.
Discipline is not control or subjugation. Learning implies attention; that is, to be diligent. It is only the negligent mind that is never learning. It is forcing itself to accept when it is shallow, careless, indifferent. A diligent mind is actively watching, observing, never sinking into second-hand values and beliefs. A mind that is learning is a free mind, and freedom demands the responsibility of learning. The mind that is caught in its own opinions, that is entrenched in some knowledge, may demand freedom, but what it means by freedom is the expression of its own personal attitudes and conclusions—and when this is thwarted it cries for self-fulfilment. Freedom has no sense of fulfilment. It is free.
So when you come to these schools, or to any school in fact, there must be this gentle quality of learning, and with it goes a great sense of affection. When you are really, deeply affectionate you are learning.
From the book The Whole Movement of Life is Learning by J. Krishnamurti — Purchase Here
AUDIO: How are we going to teach our children?
Education and the integrated human being
The professor said he had been teaching for many years, ever since he graduated from college, and had a large number of boys under him in one of the governmental institutions. He turned out students who could pass examinations, which was what the government and parents wanted. Of course, there were exceptional boys who were given special opportunities, granted scholarships and so on, but the vast majority were indifferent, dull, lazy, and somewhat mischievous. There were those who made something of themselves in whatever field they entered, but only very few had the creative flame. During all the years he had taught, the exceptional boys had been very rare; now and then there would be one who perhaps had the quality of genius, but it generally happened that he too was soon smothered by his environment. As a teacher he had visited many parts of the world to study this question of the exceptional boy, and everywhere it was the same. He was now withdrawing from the teaching profession, for after all these years he was rather saddened by the whole thing. However well boys were educated, on the whole they turned out to be a stupid lot. Some were clever or assertive and attained high positions, but behind the screen of their prestige and domination they were as petty and anxiety-ridden as the rest.
‘The modern educational system is a failure, as it has produced two devastating wars and appalling misery. Learning to read and write and acquiring various techniques, which is the cultivation of memory, is obviously not enough, for it has produced unspeakable sorrow. What do you consider to be the end purpose of education?’
Is not the imitation of a pattern an indication of disintegration?
Is it not to bring about an integrated individual? If that is the purpose of education then we must be clear as to whether the individual exists for society or whether society exists for the individual. If society needs and uses the individual for its own purposes, then it is not concerned with the cultivation of an integrated human being; what it wants is an efficient machine, a conforming and respectable citizen, and this requires only a very superficial integration. As long as the individual obeys and is willing to be thoroughly conditioned, society will find him useful and will spend time and money on him. But if society exists for the individual then it must help in freeing him from its own conditioning influence. It must educate him to be an integrated human being.
‘What do you mean by an integrated human being?’
To answer that question one must approach it negatively, obliquely; one cannot consider its positive aspect. Positively to state what an integrated human being is only creates a pattern, a mould, an example which we try to imitate; and is not the imitation of a pattern an indication of disintegration? When we try to copy an example, can there be integration? Imitation is a process of disintegration; and is this not what is happening in the world? We are all becoming very good gramophone records: we repeat what so-called religions have taught us or what the latest political, economic or religious leader has said. We adhere to ideologies and attend political mass-meetings; there is mass-enjoyment of sport, mass-worship, mass-hypnosis. Is this a sign of integration? Conformity is not integration, is it?
‘This leads to the very fundamental question of discipline. Are you opposed to discipline?’
What do you mean by discipline?
‘There are many forms of discipline: the discipline in a school, the discipline of citizenship, the party discipline, the social and religious disciplines, and self-imposed discipline. Discipline may be according to an inner or an outer authority.’
Fundamentally, discipline implies some kind of conformity. It is conformity to an ideal, to an authority; it is the cultivation of resistance, which of necessity breeds opposition. Resistance is opposition. Discipline is a process of isolation, whether it is isolation with a particular group or the isolation of individual resistance. Imitation is a form of resistance.
‘Do you mean that discipline destroys integration? What would happen if you had no discipline in a school?’
Is it not important to understand the essential significance of discipline, and not jump to conclusions or take examples? We are trying to see what are the factors of disintegration, or what hinders integration. Is not discipline in the sense of conformity, resistance, opposition, conflict, one of the factors of disintegration? Why do we conform? Not only for physical security, but also for psychological comfort, safety. Consciously or unconsciously, the fear of being insecure makes for conformity both outwardly and inwardly. We must all have some kind of physical security, but it is the fear of being psychologically insecure that makes physical security impossible except for the few. Fear is the basis of all discipline: the fear of not being successful, of being punished, of not gaining, and so on. Discipline is imitation, suppression, resistance, and whether it is conscious or unconscious, it is the result of fear. Is not fear one of the factors of disintegration?
‘With what would you replace discipline? Without discipline there would be even greater chaos than now. Is not some form of discipline necessary for action?’
The state controls education, it steps in and conditions the human entity for its own purposes.
Understanding the false as the false, seeing the true in the false, and seeing the true as the true, is the beginning of intelligence. It is not a question of replacement. You cannot replace fear with something else; if you do, fear is still there. You may successfully cover it up or run away from it, but fear remains. It is the elimination of fear, and not the finding of a substitute for it, that is important. Discipline in any form whatsoever can never bring freedom from fear. Fear has to be observed, studied, understood. Fear is not an abstraction; it comes into being only in relation to something, and it is this relationship that has to be understood. To understand is not to resist or oppose. Is not discipline then, in its wider and deeper sense, a factor of disintegration? Is not fear, with its consequent imitation and suppression, a disintegrating force?
‘But how is one to be free from fear? In a class of many students, unless there is some kind of discipline – or if you prefer, fear – how can there be order?’
By having very few students and the right kind of education. This of course is not possible as long as the state is interested in mass-produced citizens. The state prefers mass-education; the rulers do not want the encouragement of discontent, for their position would soon be untenable. The state controls education, it steps in and conditions the human entity for its own purposes; and the easiest way to do this is through fear, through discipline, through punishment and reward. Freedom from fear is another matter; fear has to be understood and not resisted, suppressed, or sublimated. The problem of disintegration is quite complex, like every other human problem. Is not conflict another factor of disintegration?
‘But conflict is essential, otherwise we would stagnate. Without striving there would be no progress no advancement, no culture. Without effort, conflict, we would still be savages.’
Perhaps we still are. Why do we always jump to conclusions or oppose when something new is suggested? We are obviously savages when we kill thousands for some cause or other, for our country; killing another human being is the height of savagery. But let us get on with what we were talking about. Is not conflict a sign of disintegration?
‘What do you mean by conflict?’
Conflict in every form: between husband and wife, between two groups of people with conflicting ideas, between what is and tradition, between what is and the ideal, the should be, the future. Conflict is inner and outer strife. At present there is conflict at all the various levels of our existence, the conscious as well as the unconscious. Our life is a series of conflicts, a battleground – and for what? Do we understand through strife? Can I understand you if I am in conflict with you? To understand there must be a certain amount of peace. Creation can take place only in peace, in happiness, not when there is conflict and strife. Our constant struggle is between what is and what should be, between thesis and antithesis. We have accepted this conflict as inevitable, and the inevitable has become the norm, the true – though it may be false. Can what is be transformed by the conflict with its opposite? I am this, and by struggling to be that, which is the opposite, have I changed this? Is not the opposite, the antithesis, a modified projection of what is? Has not the opposite always the elements of its own opposite?Through comparison is there understanding of what is? Is not any conclusion about what is a hindrance to the understanding of what is? If you would understand something, must you not observe it, study it? Can you study it freely if you are prejudiced in favour of or against it? If you would understand your son must you not study him, neither identifying yourself with nor condemning him? If you are in conflict with your son, there is no understanding of him. So, is conflict essential to understanding? Is conflict in any field productive of understanding? Is there not a continuous chain of conflict in the effort, the will to be, to become, whether positive or negative? Does not the cause of conflict become the effect, which in its turn becomes the cause? There is no release from conflict until there is an understanding of what is. The what is can never be understood through the screen of idea; it must be approached afresh. As the what is is never static, the mind must not be bound to knowledge, to an ideology, to a belief, to a conclusion. In its very nature conflict is separative, as all opposition is; and is not exclusion, separation, a factor of disintegration? Any form of power, whether individual or of the state, any effort to become more or to become less, is a process of disintegration. All ideas, beliefs, systems of thought, are separative, exclusive. Effort, conflict, cannot under any circumstances bring understanding, and so it is a degenerating factor in the individual as well as in society.
When there is no conflict there is integration. Integration is a state of complete attention.
‘What then is integration? I more or less understand what are the factors of disintegration, but that is only a negation. Through negation one cannot come to integration. I may know what is wrong, which does not mean that I know what is right.’
When the false is seen as the false, the true is. When one is aware of the factors of degeneration, not merely verbally but deeply, then is there not integration? Is integration static, something to be gained and finished with? Integration cannot be arrived at; arrival is death. It is not a goal, an end, but a state of being; it is a living thing and how can a living thing be a goal, a purpose? The desire to be integrated is not different from another desire, and all desire is a cause of conflict. When there is no conflict there is integration. Integration is a state of complete attention. There cannot be complete attention if there is effort, conflict, resistance or concentration. Concentration is a fixation; concentration is a process of separation, exclusion, and complete attention is not possible when there is exclusion. To exclude is to narrow down, and the narrow can never be aware of the complete. Complete, full attention is not possible when there is condemnation, justification or identification, or when the mind is clouded by conclusions, speculations or theories. When we understand the hindrances, then only is there freedom. Freedom is an abstraction to the man in prison; but passive watchfulness uncovers the hindrances, and with freedom from these, integration comes into being.
From the book Commentaries on Living, Series 2 by J. Krishnamurti — Purchase Here
VIDEO: What is the best way to educate a child?
The true function of education
Education has no meaning unless it helps you to understand the vast expanse of life with all its subtleties, with its extraordinary beauty, its sorrows and joys. You may earn degrees, you may have a series of letters after your name and land a very good job, but then what? What is the point of it all if in the process your mind becomes dull, weary, stupid? So while you are young must you not seek to find out what life is all about? And is it not the true function of education to cultivate in you the intelligence which will try to find the answer to all these problems? Do you know what intelligence is? It is the capacity to think freely without fear, without a formula, so that you begin to discover for yourself what is real, what is true. But if you are frightened you will never be intelligent. Any form of ambition, spiritual or mundane, breeds anxiety and fear, therefore ambition does not help to bring about a mind that is clear, simple, direct, and hence intelligent.
It is very important while you are young to live in an environment in which there is no fear.
You know, it is very important while you are young to live in an environment in which there is no fear. Most of us, as we grow older, become frightened; we are afraid of living, afraid of losing a job, afraid of tradition, afraid of what the neighbours or what the wife or husband would say, afraid of death. Most of us have fear in one form or another, and where there is fear there is no intelligence. And is it not possible for all of us, while we are young, to be in an environment where there is no fear but rather an atmosphere of freedom; freedom not just to do what we like but to understand the whole process of living? Life is really very beautiful, it is not this ugly thing that we have made of it, and you can appreciate its richness, its depth, its extraordinary loveliness only when you revolt against everything – against organized religion, against tradition, against the present rotten society – so that you as a human being find out for yourself what is true. Not to imitate but to discover. That is education. It is very easy to conform to what your society or your parents and teachers tell you. That is a safe and easy way of existing, but that is not living because in it there is fear, decay, death. To live is to find out for yourself what is true, and you can do this only when there is freedom, when there is continuous revolution inwardly, within yourself.
To live is to find out for yourself what is true.
But you are not encouraged to do this; no one tells you to question, to find out for yourself what God is, because if you were to rebel you would become a danger to all that is false. Your parents and society want you to live safely, and you also want to live safely. Living safely generally means living in imitation and therefore in fear. The function of education is to help each one of us to live freely and without fear. And to create an atmosphere in which there is no fear requires a great deal of thinking on your part as well as on the part of the teacher, the educator.
From the book Think On These Things by J. Krishnamurti — Purchase Here
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