Learning and Education Enables breakthrough or leads to breakdown?
We are made of the elements of the universe and universal processes and principles bring us about. Our creation represents the creative aspect of our universe, which in its inorganic, organic, inanimate, and animate form is extraordinary and inconceivably intricate. All of it is one. The universe has evolved and perhaps, learnt all this over many billions of years by ceaseless trials, changes, and adaptation without ever violating any of the physical laws. The physical laws came into being instantaneously at the first instant
The school assigns the critical function of house parenting to teachers who relate affectionately to the children. The house parents provide the required emotional and psychological ambiance for the child to feel at home
A mother delivers a well-formed and fully equipped baby into the world. The baby does not “know” anything. He is alive and sufficient to learn, over a period, all that is necessary to live for many years to come. The child learns from the external environment about itself, and about the world around, with the help of the sensory organs. He learns to organise the knowledge and experiences in ways that we have not yet deciphered. The processes of learning and thinking seem too complex presently. Especially the processes used to create further knowledge, which is subtler and of higher order, out of the existing knowledge is just too simple and natural for us to understand. To understand our understanding we must be even subtler!
The child is growing, developing in all possible respects due to which there is enrichment, enhancement, and enjoyment in life. To what extent he will experience “living” and be aware of the processes of life? We do not know enough about this to be able to program children to experience life better. As more knowledge is gathered, learnt, and known the child discovers patterns, which become more definite and well-defined knowledge. The energy generated from this body of certain knowledge perhaps manifests as confidence and capacity. It seems that when clearer and better-defined knowledge forms in the mind, it can enable further knowledge acquisition in the same domain more rapidly or act like an inhibitor for further knowledge in the same or even different domain. The latter might be more applicable in the spheres of habits, prejudices, and responses in social interfaces.
The basic energy of “knowing”, the feeling of knowing, born out of knowing what we know, seems to prevent new knowing to happen at certain times and in certain fields. Numerous kinds of filters operate instantaneously when new stimuli or new knowledge is experienced. The feeling of knowing seems to express itself in many subtle and gross ways. We see it as resistance to change, opinionated attitude (opinions could be conclusions from receipt of inaccurate or unverified data), unwillingness to explore and experiment, and a multitude of other possibilities.
A muscle trained to perform a certain skill develops ease to do that particular operation. The ease and familiarity appears to create reluctance to learn a new skill, unless it is an extension. Could there be something similar to this happening in the mental and psychological functions too? Could formation of a value system or the cultural attributes in an individual, depending on what the child was born into, be inhibitive for the person to learn and change later on? The physical laws obviously were in action to influence and determine the origins and the nature of organic matter. They are hence essentially in all other processes, including that of evolution, which endlessly explores and cooks substances, including the living ones. Is the physical law of inertia also the reason for the mind to tread repeatedly into previously learnt patterns at subtle levels? Is that the reason for the mind not to be able to breakthrough itself and instead breakdown when something new or different is demanded?
How do some people breakthrough the repertoire of responses available to face the unfamiliar challenges? How do they graduate into new paradigms to face future better while others breakdown under similar situations? All of us have the choice to either breakthrough or breakdown. Can we educate children to breakthrough and not to breakdown? How do we make children pliable and capable of learning something new, particularly in the realm of habits, ways of thinking, and cultural practices etc.?
It is necessary to relate the above questions to a challenge we face frequently in our school so that we understand the gravity of it. The backgrounds of our children are obviously different from each other and different from kind of values and practices we would like them to learn. The ambience is quite different from what they have experienced previously. For some students, it must a cultural shock.
A few of the areas of crucial difference could be in terms of the expected attitude, ways of speaking, type of thoughts, type of language used, quality of inter-personal relationships. Some children come into our school with frivolous attitude and casual ways of relating to their work, their friends and their teachers so deeply ingrained that any attempts to influence them and counsel them leads them to feel tortured and maimed. Many of the children from circumstances in which they did not received appropriate guidance during earlier days; do not pay heed to the logical and affectionate requests. The child considers any stronger request as too much pressure and breaks down. The apathy or reaction to the demand for improvement can be such as to make a child report the incident in a different light to the parents, who would not understand the matter in the perspective required.
Situations of the type described above are often experienced all adults, both at home and in the schools we are associated with. However, as an educator we wonder if there is any magical way out of this impasse! Is there a way of explaining or interacting with the child such that he breaks through instead of breaking down? The matter conveyed and explained through an affectionate relationship may seem to hold promise. However, our experience proves otherwise in many cases. Is it that we were not affectionate enough or the child did not experience affection from us for a long enough periods?
In one of the conversations with Pupul Jayakar, J Krishnamurti seemed to hint that the breakthrough out of existing patterns and bonds is an instantaneous process. One does not need to go through the various struggles and incremental steps in knowing. He seemed to have also indicated that we as adults could speak to the subconscious of the child. This may hold the possibility to breakthrough.
It is Hobson’s choice. We must attempt and enable a child to breakthrough to new paradigms on an ongoing basis, which tantamount to learning continuously. Otherwise, he will breakdown. To attempt this we must have experienced breakthrough. Have we?