Education for a New Time: The Purpose of Education

Given the catalogue of calamities raging round the world, one could be forgiven for concluding that we are a civilisation in terminal decline. The socio-economic system, which promotes negative divisive values dominates all areas of life and is the cause of much of our difficulties. It is an outworn, unjust way of organising society, does not serve the majority of people – the 99.9%, and is causing far-reaching damage to the planet that, unless radical action is taken, may well prove irreparable.

The environmental crisis is the greatest of a range of interconnected problems facing humanity, the answers to which are not to be found within the existing inflexible, unimaginative paradigm, based as it is on false values and misguided conclusions. And as they repeatedly prove, the current batch of politicians lacks the intellectual imagination, vision and wisdom to meet the worldwide challenges.

A new awareness is needed; systems re-designed based on altogether different values to the existing ones; and a fair and just economic model inculcated. Values that unite people, cultivate cooperation, tolerance and understanding, in place of competition, prejudice and ignorance. Values that will allow a sense of unity and social responsibility to naturally flower. New systems, imbued with perennially accepted values of goodness – sharing, freedom and social justice, would take much of the stress and fear out of life, and allow people to trust one another. Under such circumstances peace may even be possible. 

At the heart of the required changes – which need to be both gradual and radical, must be education, formal and non-formal. Like all our current structures, institutionalised education throughout the world is in crisis, and fundamental change is badly needed. Reform is under discussion in many countries, ‘new’ educational structures are being looked at and governments everywhere are debating how to alter the existing, inadequate methods. All to often however these discussions are limited by existing ideologies, reforms are motivated by the obsessive desire for economic growth, a narrow nationalistic approach to life and a simplistic view of the needs of the individual.

New methodologies are needed that inculcate true individuality and creative independent thinking. That is to say, thinking freed from sociological and psychological conditioning, which is essential if the children of today are to find within themselves the resources needed to re-shape society in a way that better meet the needs of the majority and save our planet 

Defining lasting purpose

A definition or series of related definitions outlining the purpose of education is crucial to any discussion around education. There are clear and obvious aims of formal education, which are widely agreed: to make children intelligent citizens and good parents, to behave in a civilised manner and enable people to live peaceably and in harmony with one another. To be creative, albeit within a specific framework and crucially to be prepared for employment – this has become a major purpose – and to ‘succeed in life’, a tem generally defined and understood in practical, material terms.

There are basic and obvious functions for education and the schooling system, these are acknowledged and well known. Literacy, IT skills, the range of academic subjects studies, the creative arts, which need to be given much greater importance and understood much better, these along with passing on acceptable social behaviour, that which is harmless not destructive and cultural traditions pertaining to the particular country. We are not concerned with these, we are discussing the underlying, fundamental purposes of education in its broadest terms.  Underlying purposes that when recognised and applied will prove to be beneficial in all approaches to education, adapted to the manifold areas of living and embodied in all methodologies and practices.  

It seems logical that the aims of education should be consistent with the purpose of life. This fundamental question as to purpose is one that most rarely consider, or have not the time or energy to look at. “To most of us, the meaning of life as a whole is not of primary importance," Krishnamurti stated, "and our education emphasizes secondary values, merely making us proficient in some branch of knowledge.” He continues, “Education is not merely acquiring knowledge, gathering and correlating facts; it is to see the significance of life as a whole.” 

Unity, relationship, self-awareness, these must be at the heart of all areas of education, Bertrand Russell states “Any serious educational theory must consist of two parts: a conception of the ends of life, and a science of psychological dynamics, i.e. of the laws of mental change.“[8]  In relating the purpose of education to the ‘purpose of life’ we appear to create an intractable problem, there being various contradictory views compounding the subjectivity of the investigation. However we may make certain generally accepted statements, which whilst they may offend the offended, will allow sufficiently broad interpretations and creative expression to be investigated in all areas of educational work. For education must concern itself with life as a whole, as Krishnamurti made clear –  “to bring about right education, we must obviously understand the meaning of life as a whole.”  Once fundamentals are established, not tabulated, but revealed, and broadly accepted, for they infringe not on common sense, being based on its simplicity, forms in which such purposes may be made manifest will quite naturally follow.

Formal education for the most part is (currently) seen as a feeding system for employers. With conformity colouring all areas of schooling, from the nursery to the university. Children are rarely seen as individuals, with certain innate gifts and talents, but as [potential] workers-or economic assets, encouraged, forced in many cases through economic pressures, and the impulse to ‘succeed’, to move from school to university and into employment as quickly as possible. This runs contrary to what education should be for, as Krshnamurti states, “education is not to produce mere scholars, technicians and job hunters, but integrated men and women free from fear.’

This image of education, as one that holds freedom at its heart, is far from the current approach. At present education is seen as a means to train and indoctrinate young people to become ‘good’ employees – that is people who will do as they are told. Efficient workers who will strengthen the nations accounts and enhance its ability to compete on the 'world stage'. Krishnamurti pointed this out, saying “we are turning out, as if through a mould, 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,” 

Dissent from the State view or company line, whilst seemingly tolerated, is not really allowed, being cleverly suppressed.  Methods of control are swiftly enforced, debt being a primary weapon in the armoury of control.  Individuality is subdued under the weight of anxiety, fuelled by fear engendering competition and the mantra that success is all that matters–no matter the impact, psychologically, physiologically and or environmentally. “Chomsky suggests that society simply reduces education to the requirement of the market. Students are trained to be compliant workers. He sates that ‘a deep level of indoctrination takes place in our schools’.” [7]  

This distortion of function, into a system of conditioning, indoctrination and manipulation is far from the purpose of education and it is time these inhibiting methods were abandoned in favour of a new, creative approach to education and social living. One that facilitates independent thinking, fosters cooperation and tolerance and encourages free expression and broad social participation, built on acknowledged responsibility.

The responsibility for the state of the world is all of ours. If we have a world society at odds with itself, where division, injustice and violence stalks the lives of too many to count; where the heavy hand of power dictates and the weak are controlled and suppressed, such a world is both a refection and the cause of them prevailing negative materialistic negative values held and expressed by those within the society. Individuals, who have been educated in a particular way, based on a particular set of ideals. Conditioned to think in accordance with certain firmly held ideals and to act in a manner consistent with such. Ideals that have for too long promoted selfishness and the well being of the individual over the group, values – so-called, which cause separation and division, and have caused untold suffering and pain, for men women and children throughout the world. These are worn out ideals and have no place in education new or old. Indeed ideals per-se should be eschewed from all areas of education, Krishnamurti, states that, “ideals are an actual hindrance to our understanding of the child {and ourselves] and to the child’s understanding of himself.” (ESL)  

Let us re-define the purpose of education, based upon true principles, which will animate our teaching institutions, communities and social relationships and usher in a new day.

Unity of Life

The individual and society are not separate, but interrelated, interconnected, whether that society is a family, a classroom or school, a neighbourhood, town, city or country. All are the collective expression of those individuals that live within it and all who live in any particular society are responsible for it, the immediate group, nation, region and the broader world society.

Each and every one of us is an integral part of a whole. That whole we call humanity – we are brothers and sisters of one humanity – and that whole forms part of the planetary life with its various kingdoms; mineral, animal and human. Many, myself included would add a fourth kingdom to this list – the spiritual kingdom. And that living totality, which call Earth forms a part of a larger whole known as the solar system, which is but a part of the Universe. And on and one into infinity stretches this extraordinary unity.

Life is one; a totality toward which and within which, men, women and children everywhere should be made aware and encouraged to contribute their particular colour and tone; to share their gifts with the group, the society of which they are an integral part. And this responsible sharing should begin with the immediate group that we live with, the family, friends and classmates.

The decentralisation of the individual; the realisation of unity; and the cultivation of relationship with the group should be seen, we will discover, as one of the key purpose’s of all aspects of education.

In Education in the New Age, writer Alice A Bailey[1] makes clear that “through education self-consciousness must be unfolded until the man recognises that his consciousness is a corporate part of a greater whole. He blends then with the group interests, activities and objectives. They are eventually his and he becomes group conscious. This is Love. It leads to wisdom, which is love in manifested activity. Such should be the major objective of all true educational endeavours. Love of self (self-consciousness), becomes love of those around us (group-consciousness), become love of the whole (God consciousness). Such are the steps.” The movement in conscious awareness outlined by Bailey, gradually shifts the individual’s identification away from the little separate self, weakening selfish behaviour and building awareness of the whole, thereby encouraging selfless-ness, social responsibility and service.

Relationship and Awareness

The great 20th Century India teacher J. Krishnamurti in ‘Education and the Significance of Life’, says that, “the purpose of education is to cultivate right relationship, not only between individuals, but also between the individual and society.”  Not only is relationship central to education, but as Krishnamurti points out, ‘right relationship’. Present educational methods and social values emphasis separation and division, being based as they commonly are on competition, and nationalism. This distorting method of motivation has pervaded every area of education. Right relationship, in which harmlessness is an expressed quality, and where seeing, free from bias, prejudgment and attitudes of partiality is made extremely difficult in such an atmosphere.

Values that emphasis unity, cooperation, and tolerance will aid the establishing of 'right relationship'. These should be cultivated in all areas and at all stages of education. 

Relationship and awareness are closely related; the cultivation of self-awareness or self-knowledge, aids 'right relationship' and helps to bring about a sense of integration within the individual. Alice Bailey affirms that “the new education will primarily be concerned with the scientific and conscious bridging between the various aspects of the human being, thus producing coordination and synthesis.” Integrated individuals at harmony with themselves will feed into and create a society at ease. Harmony and order within, manifesting as peace without. As Krishnamurti states, “the individual is made up of different entities, but to emphasize the differences and to encourage development of a definite type leads to complexities. Education should bring about the integration of those entities-for without integration life becomes a series of conflicts and sorrows. Of what value is it to be trained as a lawyer if we perpetuate litigation, what significance has technical and industrial capacity if we use it to destroy one another”? Krishnamurti rightly asks.

Self-awareness encourages 'right relationship'; it decentralises the individual and encourages the realization that we are part of a large group called humanity. British artist and writer Benjamin Crème in an interview on Education states his view that, ”education, in the first place, has to show the child that it is a member of a world family. Children need to be shown that we are not living alone in one large or small country, but in a world shared by 5.7 billion people. The child, above all, should be taught that this is the fundamental position of his/her life on Earth: that they are one of a group, a family.”[2]  Awareness of the group: classmates, family, community and ultimately humanity as a whole, and the environment in which ‘we live and move and have our being’ by definition brings about responsibility.

The cultivation of group/social responsibility and unity runs contrary to much current educational (and indeed socio – political structures) practice and methodology, L.Lee Knefelkamp – (Professor of Psychology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University) states, "we now suffer from more separation and fragmentation than ever before", and that "our sense of mutuality has been severely shaken."[6]  With the foundations of a great deal, perhaps of all education, within institutions and society, including the home and the workplace, being built on competition, conformity and schooling for work, divisions have been compounded. Krishnamurti, “our education emphasizes secondary values, merely making us proficient in some branch of knowledge. Though knowledge and efficiency are necessary, to lay chief emphasis on them only leads to conflict and confusion.” The individual is encouraged to value their own progress, success and material acquisition over the well being of the group, often in fact at its expense, this includes the use.

According to Noam Chomsky “the goal of education is to produce human beings whose values are not accumulation and domination, but instead are free association on equal terms." (ETNC) Ambition, the fulfilment of personal material goals and the cultivation of attitudes, which exclude and sees others as ‘the competition’ fuels division and separation, leading to conflict and suffering, Krishnamurti expresses it thus; “we all want to be on top, and this desire creates constant conflict within ourselves and with our neighbour; it leads to competition, envy, animosity and finally war.”  The emphasis on individual achievement denies social responsibility and sets the individual apart, which as Krishnamurti makes clear ‘creates constant conflict within ourselves and with our neighbour’. If we look around us, the truth of these words is all too clear. Values and methods that establish group relationships and encourage group awareness would help to create an integrated world community at ease with itself.

Social responsibility naturally flows from the awareness of the integrated nature of life, and of ones place within the whole. John Dewey felt the impulse to help others is a natural human quality experienced by all children, in Education for Social Change he states, “the child’s natural desire [is] to give out, to do, and this means to serve”.  Service flows from, and generates responsibility for others and ones environment, it naturally comes about as self awareness flowers. As Alice Bailey states “Identification with group purposes and plans is the natural attribute of the soul. As this identification is carried forward on mental and soul levels, it produces a corresponding activity on the personal life and this activity we call service.” Service, we might defines as, action undertaken for the benefit of others, for the enrichment of the group, with little or no selfish motive. 

Demonstrations of social responsibility flow ‘naturally’ from awareness of ones place within the whole and help to facilitate a natural realisation of the unity of all life, which encourages values of tolerance, cooperation and understanding of others –  Principles of Goodness we could call them.

Spiritual Basis

Such ideas moves us to think of education as that which, amongst other things enables relationship with the 'Will of Life' that imbues all form with purpose. Establishing relationship with this - ‘divine purpose’ and cultivating actions consistent with its nature, should be seen as a fundamental purpose of education. Rudolph Steiner puts it thus, “when we confront education earnestly it is demanded of us not only to acknowledge for the peace of our soul, but to will God's will, to act the intentions of God. To do this however, we need a spiritual basis for education.”[3]

Education that de-centralises, that places value in service, encourages self-knowledge and ‘right relationship’ with oneself and others, will help create a quite space within, enabling one to respond to what Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (founder of The Theosophical Society in 1875 and author of The Secret Doctrine) described as ‘The Voice of the Silence’, in which echoes,,what she called, ‘the intentions of God'. Krishnamurti affirms, “when there is self-knowledge, the power of creating illusions ceases, and only then is it possible for reality or God to be known". Illusions flow from all constructs of the self as separate, and reinforce negative aspects of living such as fear and guilt. Separation is regarded by those Divine Men of the East, as ‘the great illusion’ and is the seed for all mental constructs that veil reality. What higher purpose could education possibly have than to shatter the 'great illusion' and respond to divine purpose; to “will Gods Will” as Steiner puts it.    

An understanding and awareness of the spiritual basis of all life needs to be at the root of education – not religion, but spirituality.  To date education has focused on the external, the material, the ephemeral, now it is time to broaden this approach and relate the spiritual to the material, to emphasis the life within the form.

Pragmatic spirituality underpinning all areas of education, formal and non-formal alike, will transform education, placing value and quality as expressions of Being at the heart of all areas of learning and communal living. Such a shift in approach is essential if we are to re-imagine civilisation and bring the much needed fundamental change to society. Central to this revolution in consciousness is education, which Maria Montessori stated, neglects, “the most basic of all needs of the child – the exigencies of his spirit and his soul. The human being that lives within the child remains stifled therein.”[4]  Alice Bailey makes the point even more clearly saying, “the task of the new education is (therefore) the coordination of the personality, eventually bringing about its at-one-ment with the soul.” A living spirituality underpinning all areas of education, understood as that which expands the evolving consciousness into greater awareness, deeper understanding, and more purposeful living, for this to take place there must be freedom, of thought and being. 

Ideological identity

For freedom to gradually come into education and society more broadly, ideologies - religious, political, economic etc, all need to come to an end.  The encrusted doctrine of opinions that form 'isms of all kinds isolate and exclude, and they should be rigorously questioned and challenged. Any such debate is greatly threatening to those seeking to build a world in their making. John Dewey sates, “Anyone who has begun to think, places some portion of the world in jeopardy.” [10] Education empowers, this is indisputable, education that encourages not simply mechanical thinking, but creative independent thinking is both empowering and liberating.  

Participation in the life of a nation, lets call it a democracy, is greatly limited where there is limited or restricted access to formal education, where literacy is poor, where the freedom to think and articulate ones views cogently is discouraged, and where education is largely based on economics. For these reasons, dictators and Nation States together with the corporations, the ‘New Rulers of the World’, who differ little from the Old rulers of the world, are against education, or liberal education at least – no matter the rhetoric and party/State line. Noam Chomsky makes this clear, saying “the anti-democratic thrust of opinion in what are called democratic societies is really ferocious, and for good reason. Because the freer the society gets, the more dangerous the great beast becomes and the more you have to be careful to cage it somehow.”[11] The ‘Great Beast’ is what Alexander Hamilton ( a founding father of The United States and chief staff aid to George Washington) called ‘the people’ we might say the 99%. Chomsky again, “as freedom grows, the need to coerce and control opinion also grows if you want to prevent the great beast from doing something with its freedom.” (EII), like challenging the status quo.

The demi Gods, -politicians, dictators and monarchs, who Adam Smith coined ‘The Masters of Mankind”: seeking “all for ourselves and nothing for other people”, pursuing an ideology, based on a [false] sense of superiority and the assumption of power and control over the people, has lead to and been the cause of untold suffering and hardship for long ages throughout the word.

Ideologies divide and separate, resulting in inevitable conflict and pain, they have no place in education.

In order for education to enable democratic participation, which is involvement in every aspect of society, communities, the workplace, schooling – every area, it must be purged of all ideological influences. This includes the ideology of the ‘market’ with its political power; democracy based on the ‘market’ – capitalist based democracy, is a very distorted version of democracy. “Dewey said, Politics is the shadow that big business casts over society.” Education based on corporate politics demands that young people be conditioned in a particular manner, such polluted ideas have no place in the ‘new time’ or the movement of change sweeping through the world and no place in the education we deserve. The values of the market impelled by unjust ‘forces’ have no place in education, based as it needs to be on human freedom, creative endeavour and individual thought. 

I think I am what I think

Education, within schools, universities and the home, has been used as a vehicle for the perpetuation of ideology and control. Conformity has been the norm and goal. Much talk is given to independence and fostering a creative spirit and enquiry, whilst subtly, and not so subtly, methodologies are employed that manipulate the child to accept certain ideas; ideas that breed intolerance and prejudice and isolate the individual from the whole.

It is the conditioned identification of the self with an ideology, which is the root of the insistence that a particular set of ideas and the resulting view of life is correct. The ideologue becomes the ism, he or she is a Hindu, having been born into a Hindu family, the same for the Christian, Conservative, Socialist, Feminist and so on, a totalitarian, something rarely admitted too.

Creating an idea of what it means to belong to a particular country or nationality. The idea of the ism then embodies the country itself, being American e.g is to conform to a particular idea, an ideology. A psychological image, based on certain strongly held and promoted values, is built and held onto, for it conforms to the stereotype and challenges not the established, mechanical order of things. Not to accept that ideology is to be un-American, un-patriotic, and threatening to the ‘masters of mankind’, who seek to maintain the ‘status quo’, established by the, which serves their interests. The identification with any ideology creates a false narrow sense of self.  

Each and every ism, or doctrinal construct is as deadly as the next. Self-identification with any belief system traps the one identified and fuels divisive thought, words and deeds, Krishnamurti “if in our relationship with ideas we justify one ideology in opposition to another, mutual distrust and ill-will are the inevitable results.” (ESL) When we identify ourselves with any ideology, we limit, or trap the Self, and set up a brittle basis upon which self-identity and relationship rests. We become protective of the position adopted and fearful of any weakness in its design being revealed. For the ideology to be seen to be ‘wrong’ or limited, proven to be so perhaps, one is seen to have failed, because ‘I am what I think’. Such failure then is a failure not simply of judgement but of who and what one is.

Through fostering expectation and encouraging ambition, the cultivation of seperative attitudes takes place, instilling negative values apposed to perennial principles of goodness, Krshnamurti “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.” (ESL) Self-awareness, which allows for self-knowledge will aid in the deconstruction of ‘isms and the flowering of intelligence. “Krishnamurti “understanding comes only through self-knowledge, which is awareness of ones total psychological process. Thus education in the true sense is the understanding of oneself.” The understanding of oneself, of the total make up of the individual, the innate potential, the gifts, as well as the negative tendencies and patterns, is a main purpose of education. 

 Indoctrination and control is an accepted, if unacknowledged part of much education, it seeps into the consciousness of the one being educated in a variety of ways. Conformity and competition being key instruments, powerful beyond measure, feeding as they do into that most poisonous of psychological states and the impulse perhaps for all that inhibits and hurts; fear. Education, which encourages freedom; freedom to think, to act, to be, is education which liberates from all that restricts and inhibits. ‘Isms restrict and inhibit, they are the enemy of freedom and therefore of all areas of education.

Freedom to Think the Unthinkable

In the 1960’s the young in America and Britain, were seen to be ‘too free’, too democratic, Noam Chomsky, “the bodies responsible for the indoctrination of the young, school, churches, universities, were not doing there job.” This was described in ‘Crisis of Democracy’, a major report in 1975 by the Trilateral Commission, which found that the young in particular were demanding too much democracy. “The report observed the political state of the United States, Europe and Japan and says that in the United States the problems of governance "stem from an excess of democracy" and thus advocates "to restore the prestige and authority of central government institute. In contradiction to the "impulse of democracy [which] is to make government less powerful and more active, to increase its functions, and to decrease its authority."[12]  The study urged more "moderation in democracy" to mitigate the excess of democracy – where it seems, freedom has no place. 

Institutions established to serve the development of young people, are all too often used to indoctrinate and condition them. Trapping them into ideological straight jackets serving to inhibit their ability to question the State and its many and varied arms of repression. Freedom to think is, in principle, if not in fact, a quality of democracy, however as Krishnamurti makes clear, “governments do not want creative independent thinking human beings, because they are dangerous and hard to control. That is why governments and organised religions seek to control education.” (ESL) In his famous educational monograph Emile, Rousseau says, “Freedom is found in no form of government; it is in the heart of the free man. He takes it with him everywhere. The vile man takes his servitude everywhere.” Greater controls were recommended by the Trilateral Commission to overcome the crisis of freedom. Extraordinary suggestions to make, for so called leading democratic countries, suggestions, that were of course, promptly acted upon. 

Democracy is participation, involvement and sharing, Chomsky, "a truly democratic community is one in which the general public has the opportunity for meaningful and constructive participation in the formation of social policy:  in their own immediate community, in the workplace, the society at large." [13]  In order for there to be ‘meaningful and constructive participation’, all members of society need to be ‘well’ educated. By which is meant, educated to think freely, or to allow freedom of thought to take place. John Dewey, in Education and Democracy states that, “social groups which are intentionally progressive, and which aim at a greater variety of mutually shared interests in distinction from those which aim simply at the preservation of established customs, were found to be democratic in quality, because of the greater freedom allowed the constituent members.”[14] Yes there is greater freedom within a democratically constituted country, than under a single party dictatorship, or a fascist regime e.g., and here Dewey conforms to the ideal, however the ideal is inconsistent with the manifestation.  Chomsky makes clear that the primary activity of the State is to control and indoctrinate, in order to maintain authority and maximise privilege.

Within a so called democratic society freedom of the individual is greatly restricted, unless the expression of said freedom is consistent with the prevailing ideology. Conformity to the ideal is expected, in fact insisted upon and fiercely promoted through the powerful tools of propaganda, the media, advertising, organised religion and s educational. To resists the pressure to adopt the prevalent ideology takes great strength and independence of mind. Chomsky makes clear “There are huge efforts that do go into making people, to borrow [Adam] Smith's phrase, "as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human being to be." He goes on to say, “A lot of the educational system is designed for that, if you think about it, it's designed for obedience and passivity. From childhood, a lot of it is designed to prevent people from being independent and creative. If you're independent-minded in school, you're probably going to get into trouble very early on.” (EII) The social pressure to conform and ‘fit in’ is great, within all areas of social living; children (on the whole) yearn to be liked, loved in fact, by their parents and peers, and adopt all manner of behaviour patterns of conformity and self manipulation in order to be so. Krishnamurti  says, “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 and outward security, the desire for comfort-this whole process smothers discontent, puts and end to spontaneity and breeds fear.”

Freedom to be

The purpose of education must be to establish unity of being, within the individual, between man and man and man and nature. This is an evolving process of recognition, education being as L. Lee.Friedmann says, "a sequence of irreversible stages involving shifts in the process by which individuals perceive and reason about their world." (FSD) Expansions of consciousness, to include greater and greater aspects of reality, widening the experience of life and broadening awareness.  

Ideas of liberation were held firmly by the philosophers of the enlightenment, whose ideas of facilitation and creative enquiry, individuality and self-motivation in education are as relevant today as they were in the 18th century. Freethinking was central to their understanding of education. Arash Farzaneh in 'The Main Objectives of the Enlightenment' states, “The philosophers of the Enlightenment were fighting against censorship towards the practice of free speech. They believed that everyone should be able to voice their opinions free from the pressure of the Nobility and the Church.”[15] The nobility may have lost its seat of authority, to be replaced by so called 'democratically', elected representatives, who all too quickly adopt the mantle of the state and serve not the people, but the vested interests of business and increasingly the financial institutions to which they are often indebted for their ‘election’.

‘Free speech’ is an ideal, which, much like brotherhood and peace, is held before us as something that all long for, but which is difficult to facilitate and realise.

Can there be free speech in a society, ruled by the minority that seeks to indoctrinate, condition and control the majority?

Take the media e.g., an area of public life in which free speech is paramount in the creation of informed public opinion, political accoubtability and a functioning civil society. Chomsky states “Concentration of ownership of the media is high and increasing. Furthermore, those who occupy managerial positions in the media, or gain status within them as commentators, belong to the same privileged elites, and might be expected to share the perceptions, aspirations, and attitudes of their associates, reflecting their own class interests as well. Journalists entering the system are unlikely to make their way unless they conform to these ideological pressures, generally by internalizing the values.” (TCDS)  Journalists and presenters swiftly adopt the ideology of the media magnets, and there corporate values, and colour every sentence and paragraph within every article in accordance with this bias.

If we substitute student or child for journalist, and teacher or parent for media magnet, we quickly recognise that indoctrination and control is exercised by those responsibly for the education of others as much as it is by those that run the large corporations and financial institutions.

Indoctrination, having begun in the classroom, maintained, albeit under a more liberal flag in University – where debt is added to the tools of control, is sealed firmly in place at the desk of duplicity within industry, business and media corporations. Any movement of dissent or revolt is quashed, extinguishing hope and the burning fire of discontent. Krishnamurti expresses it thus, “when we yield uncomprehendingly to environment, any spirit of revolt that we may have had dies down, and our responsibilities soon put an end to it.”(ESL) By responsibilities is meant family, a home-with its monthly rent or mortgage, debt, in the form of loans, taken when studying, credit cards and so on. The monthly repayments for the paraphernalia of modern life, and the social pressures to live a particular material existence ardently promoted through the media and reinforced by family, peers and society at large. Chomsky again, “the media serve the interests of state and corporate power, which are closely interlinked, framing their reporting and analysis in a manner supportive of established privilege and limiting debate and discussion accordingly.”

Education which promotes open minded, intelligent in depth examination of issues is essential if there is to be serious ‘debate and discussion’ of the way our lives are organised, and the manner in which they are lived and indeed allowed to be lived. The very concept of such enquiry sends shivers down the spine of all in authority and corporate power in democratic societies, concerned as they are to maintain control, maximise power and constrain the freedom of the people. This whilst applauding efforts to promote freedom and justice, such are the contradictions that coil around those ensconced within their ideological straight jackets, seeking to persuade the un-persuaded to do likewise.  Free speech is a human right that flows easily when the mind is allowed to think freely. 

Self-awareness & freedom

Can there be free speech and true freedom of expression without free thought, and what do we mean by ‘free’ in both contexts.

Constrained by the vehicle through which expression is given, consciousness is always limited – as is freedom. Carl Jung states “Freedom stretches only as far as the limits of our consciousness,”[16] limited yes, yet absolute. We could say a purpose of education is to allow for the fulfilment of this absolute limitation of consciousness.

Krishnamurti tells us the “right kind of education, which is to foster an understanding of what is.” A primary purpose of education is to allow for the realisation and help facilitate the expression of the discovery of that which (already) exists – of  ‘what is’, Chomsky states,  Wilhelm Humboldt's, "view was that education is a matter of laying out a string along which the child will develop, but in its own way. You may do some guiding. That's what serious education would be from kindergarten up through graduate school.”  Humboldt believed that in order for a people to demand and even earn freedom, they must first be educated. He advocated a universal medium for cultural progress – education.  But for freedom to be realised a particular type of education is essential.

Self-awareness, free from the pressure to conform or succeed, enables the individual to see him or herself, with clarity. To experience the various aspects of their being, mental (threefold), emotional and physical (dual) in space and time. To witness they’re becoming.

The observer observes, seeing strengths and failings. In the awareness of potential, the recognition of weakness and a sense of that which is latent may be felt and known. John Dewey stated “immaturity means something positive, not a mere void or lack. It is noteworthy that the terms "capacity" and "potentiality" have a double meaning, one sense being negative the other positive. Capacity may denote mere receptivity, like the capacity of a quart measure. We may mean by potentiality a merely dormant or quiescent state.” [17]  Dewey articulating the notion that capacity is inherent – it is the ‘limits of our consciousness’.

Plato viewed education in a similar way, seeing it as a revelatory work, of making conscious an ever-present unrealised state; “education means, because the mind is active, a process of eliciting something that in a way we already know.”[18] The manifestation of the limitless within the limited, experienced through self-awareness, should be a concern of education. Alice A.Bailey talked in a similar way, saying that education "must enable him (student) to bridge the various aspects of his own mental nature” (ENAAB). Bailey is here referring to the three aspects of mind, which she states, “constitute the most important part of his {mans} nature,” and further, that “the fundamental necessity which today confronts the educational world is the need to relate the human mentality to the world of meaning, and not to the world of objective phenomena.” (ENAAB)  

She is suggesting that an important purpose of education is a bridging work. Building connections between the various aspects of mind, and facilitating the undistorted expression of ideas contacted.  The higher mind, holds within itself the keys to the world of meaning beyond the mental illusions constructed by the lower aspects of mind. Illusions, which limit and distort the understanding of self, and create artificial barriers that divide men, and perpetuate a belief in fragmentation. The ‘world of meaning’ as Bailey terms it, will illuminate the life of man, freeing him from illusions built to deceive and entrap.

Plato felt that “mind moves towards the ultimate end of knowledge", the form (as he called it) of the Good. "Education culminates in the knowledge of this Form.” (PTEd) The 'good’ we could say is the nature of man himself, it is the life within the form; the higher seeking expression through the lower, brought about through relationship, ‘knowledge of this Form – ‘the good’ will bring about action consistent with its nature, known by its inherent quality –and imbued with meaning. Plato’s thoughts again, “right action implies acting in the light of the knowledge of the Good; knowledge of the Good is the perfection of education.” (PTEd)

Education has therefore as a fundamental purpose, the facilitating of relationship with the higher aspects of mans nature. Conscious apprehension of the place the individual holds to the whole and a realisation of the unity of all life, will grow out of such union, and social responsibility – ‘right action’, will naturally – as John Dewey states, flow from the awareness of this essential unity. Alice A Bailey says “true education is therefor the science of linking up the integral parts of man, and also of linking him up in turn with his immediate environment, and then with the greater whole in which he has to play his part. Each aspect, regarded as a lower aspect, can ever be the expression of the next higher” (ENAAB) The ‘integral parts of man’ constitute a whole.  Bodies of expression for the indwelling life, the observer - who and what he/she in truth, is. Aiding the individual in the experience and realisation of his true being, has to be a primary function of education, and is we suggest, consistent with a definition of the purpose of life. Robert Louis Stevenson felt that “to be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.”[20]

The removal of elements that seek to mould a person into a particular shape, from all areas of education and society, will allow the individual to quite naturally be themselves, not some kind of constructed idea of self, but a realisation of ones inherent nature. Krishnamurti states  “If we begin to understand the individual directly instead of looking at him through the screen of what we think he should be, then we no longer want to transform the individual into something else; our only concern is to help him to understand himself.” This is a concept held dear by the thinkers of the Enlightenment, who maintained that education was the highest goal in life. Self-knowledge, which allows for the integration of the fragments into a unified whole, is certainly to be viewed as a high goal of life. Enlightened minds of the eighteenth century held that the function of education, was to allow the individual to reveal what and who they are. The idea that education is not to be viewed as filling a vessel with water, but rather assisting a flower to grow in its own way, i.e. naturally.

Education & Society

Clearly education has a vital role and responsibility to play in the type of society we create and live in.  If we are to achieve peace within society the individuals who make up the society must be in harmony with themselves, this will naturally create living environments free from conflict, for the society is the individual. Krishnamurti expresses this idea “If we want to change existing [living] conditions, we must first transform ourselves, which means that we must become aware of our own actions, thoughts and feelings in everyday life.” The cultivation of Self-awareness must therefore be a fundamental purpose of all education.

Education is about freedom, and the promotion of freedom in which ‘the Good’ may be expressed, or as Krishnamurti puts it in a letter to the schools, “goodness can only flower in freedom”. John Dewey agreed with the whole Enlightenment tradition, stating "the goal of production is to produce free people - free men." (EII)

This will naturally occur when the factors that inhibit and restrain are identified and removed.

It is important to   understand what we mean by freedom:  Is freedom to be understood as freedom from something, freedom from an ideology perhaps, freedom from doctrine, from convention or dogma, freedom to think differently, can there indeed (ever) be freedom within the boundaries of thought, which, moving within the field of time is always bound by its content. The conditioned patterns that move, often unconsciously within our consciousness, animating our actions, determining the direction of our lives and perpetuating the belief systems adhered too.

The dismantling of restrictive patterns of thought - psychological conditioning – is a fundamental purpose of the new education. Krishnamurti tells us “consciousness is it content”, well, such content is largely unconscious. Self-awareness, borne of observation is (in the first place) the conscious recognition of content, enabling [conscious] action to take place, freed, albeit partially from conditioning, which forever imposes limitation. Action without self-awareness, is we could say, action made in response to indoctrination/conditioning. Krishnamurti again, “there is an intelligent revolt which comes with self knowledge through the awareness of ones own thoughts and feelings,” and “there is radical transformation only when we understand our own conditioning and are free of it.” To be free we could say is experienced through negation, Remove the obstacles to the realisation of freedom through self-awareness and freedom will be, Krishnamurti when asked to define love, said, “in the negation of all that is not love, stands that positive we call love,” so it is with freedom. 

We sense that freedom is our nature, an aspect or perhaps the fact of who and what we are. To be free is an impulse felt deep within the heart and lodged in the minds of men, women and children throughout the world. Chomsky argues: "If humans are essentially creative with an "instinct for freedom" to pursue cooperative ventures, then states and capitalism must work against human nature, because both concentrate power into the hands of a few, thereby denying the many necessary conditions for cooperative, creative humanistic productive activity." (ETNC) Control, indoctrination, suppression, inhibition at the hands of ideologically driven bodies of authority, the state, organised religion, corporate government, all entrap the individual and deny freedom. Self-awareness will create psychological space, enabling people to lay claim to freedom, to demand their moral and human rights, and to live decent, happy lives, free from fear and conflict.  Awareness of the way we live our lives; how we behave to others, the nature of our relationships; are we honest in mind, sincere in spirit, are we critical, judgemental, prejudiced, intolerant, selfish. Do we truly love, how do we look at the world around us, are we aware of life’s beauty and grace. With what do we look and through what do we listen?

Looking and listening is an art. Our looking and listening is partial, experienced through a selective, unconscious mechanism of choice, closing off the immediate, direct recognition of that which is being experienced. Observation without judgement, choice and or comparison will enable self-awareness to grow, aiding relationship with the various aspects of the self, the mind and the world around us. This means we must examine and comprehend inhibition, understand what it is that imposes limitation. 

Education as revelation 

A purposeful deconstructive question that would profit all, in every area of education is to ask ‘Who Am I’- a line of enquiry into the nature of being given to the world by the Great 19th century Indian sage Sri Ramana Maharshi.  The nature of consciousness is freedom; to be free, to move within and without the constructs of time unrestricted, Jacque Rousseau; “it is above all in the consciousness of this freedom that the spirituality of his [mans] soul is shown.” He continues, “thus the essence of human nature is human freedom and the consciousness of this freedom.”[22] Given that, as Rousseau states, the ‘essence of human nature is human freedom’ – a fundamental purpose of education must be to create living environments in which this essence is experienced and allowed to be made manifest, for as Krshnamurti states, “it is only in individual freedom that love and goodness can flower,” (ESL)

Education that seeks to contribute to a world community based on principles of ‘the Good’ as Plato called them, needs to see the expression and realisation of freedom, in its manifest forms, as a central purpose, for all that is of worth and benefit to the life of the individual, society and the world at large, flows from this source; from ‘the Good’. If this sounds vague and of the nature of an undefined spirituality, let us ensure it is not so by building pragmatic methods of implementation. Terms are unimportant in such work, conforming as they do to the very limitations we are committed to overcoming. If such work is deemed to be spiritual then so be it. Rudolph Steiner asks, “What domain of life most calls for a dealing with the spirit? The domain of teaching and education. In education we must comprehend man as a whole; and man in his totality is body, soul and spirit. We must be able to deal with spirit if we would educate.”(SGE)

Phrased differently to Steiner’s assertion yet suggesting the same idea, Benjamin Creme, states, “the fundamental purpose of education, as I see it, is to equip people to demonstrate their divine potential,” (ENA) this ‘divine potential’ is an idea compatible in content with Rousseau’s statement that the ‘essence of human nature is human freedom’. Liberation from all that limits and inhibits, freedom being mans ‘natural condition’, and Chomsky say’s “the goals of education should be to encourage the development of the child's natural capacity.“ (TCDS)Rousseau regards the natural capacity as freedom. Crème takes it further, stating that the ‘natural capacity’ is the persons ‘divine potential’. He goes on to say, “Education should be the evocation of the potential - whether emotional, mental, or spiritual, of each individual child.“

This focuses the discussion of purpose towards a new underlying function, which is to allow for the demonstration of ‘divine potential.’ It is a function that is compatible with the various purposes stated throughout our discussion, a function that if understood in relationship will be seen to be consistent and inherent. Qualities, of freedom; love, goodness, unity, relationship, all find a common source, it is a point of wholeness without limitation, beyond definition. It is the nature of life itself and in the realisation of such, education needs to concern itself.  Maria Montessori asserts, “The most basic of all needs of the child is neglected-the exigencies of his spirit and his soul. The human being that lives within the child remains stifled therein.”[23]  Let us no longer neglect nor stifle the most basic needs of the human being, the realisation and expression of their ‘divine potential’, their innate freedom, but rather design a living approach to education that sees such noble work as key to its puspose.

We hear all too often the truism that education should help the individual fulfil their potential. Clearly this is crucial, inherent potential differs not from the nature of the individual, it is in the fulfilment of their innate individual nature that potential shall be realised, for it is the source of such. Chomsky’s view is that [current] "education is described as a period of regimentation and control, with a system of false beliefs. Based on these analyses, the goals of education should be to encourage the development of the child's natural capacity.” (ETNC)

It is common sense that education should take as a primary purpose the realisation of our human nature, which Crème suggests is divine. He of course is not alone in making such an assertion, in Rudolph Steiner’s theories of education, he makes clear, he sees the child as a ‘soul in incarnation’ and that “education becomes an aid to incarnation, to assist and harmonize the growth of the spiritual being into its physical form.”[24]

A key purpose of education then, is to allow for the realisation and expression of that which is innate, to give expression to and aid in the realisation of who and what we as human beings are. Alice A Bailey makes clear, “the increasing of soul awareness, the deepening of the flow of consciousness and the development of an inner continuity of awareness, plus the evocation of soul attributes and aspects upon the physical plane constitute the objective of all education.”  (ENA)  Whether that which is innate is described as ‘potential’ as Dewey terms it, or what Rousseau called ‘human freedom’, the ‘divine’ according to Benjamin Creme, or the ‘soul’ of which Steiner, Montessori and Alice Bailey speak. Education must be concerned with facilitating the relationship with and manifest expression of this aspect of mans nature, so long overlooked, through ignorance and prejudice. For as Krishnamurti puts it, “though there is a wider significance to life [than getting a good job, “having wider dominion over others, to achieve distinction”), of what value is education if we never discover it?” (ESL)

 

 

Endnotes

[1] Education in the New Age Alice A Bailey Lucis Trust 1954

[2] Education in the New Age (ENA) Interview with Benjamin Crème by George Catlin http://www.share-international.org/archives/education/ed_gcedu.htm

[3] Spiritual Ground of Education. (SGE) The necessity for spiritual insight Rudolph Steiner. http://wn.rsarchive.org/Education/19220816p01.html   

[4]  The Child. Maria Montessori

[5]  Education in the New Age. (ENA AB) Alice A Bailey.

[6] Faculty and Student Development in the 80s (FSD) L.Lee Knefelkamp

[7] The Educational Theory of Noam Chomsky (ETNC) http://www.newfoundations.com/GALLERY/Chomsky.html

[8] Education And Discipline" Bertrand Russell http://www.zona-pellucida.com/essay-russel.html

[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideology

[10] John Dewey

[11] http://www.chomsky.info/books/warfare02.htm (EII)

[12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crisis_of_Democracy

[13] The Essential Chomsky. (EC)  New York, N.Y.: The New Press

[14] John Dewey Democracy and Education. 1916. http://www.ilt.columbia.edu/publications/Projects/digitexts/dewey/d_e/chapter24.html

[15] http://arash-farzaneh.suite101.com/the-main-objectives-of-the-age-of-enlightenment-a105813 The Age of Reason and Natural Human Rights

[16] Carl Jung Paracelsus the Physician (1942)

[17]  http://www.ilt.columbia.edu/publications/Projects/digitexts/dewey/d_e/chapter08.html Dewey. Democracy and Education. 1916.

[18] Plato’s theory of education in The Republic, (PTEd) an introduction by A.B.Finlay

[19]  Rudolph Steiner, Spiritual Ground of Education. The necessity for spiritual insight. http://wn.rsarchive.org/Education/19220816p01.html     

[20] Robert Louis Stevenson, Familiar Studies of Men and Books

[21] J Krishnamurti. Letters to the Schools. Krishnamurti Foundation Trust Ltd England.

[22]  Language and Freedom (LF) - chomsky.info www.chomsky.info/books/state02.pdf

[23]  The Child. Maria Montessori

[24]  UNESCO: International Bureau of Education), vol.XXIV, no. 3/4, 1994, p. 555-572..  www.ibe.unesco.org/fileadmin/user_upload/archive/.../steinere.pdf