Since the publication in July 2 2006 of the Journal of Krishnamurti Schools ‘dedicated to the teacher’, there has been an increasing, if varied, response to the necessary task of educating the educator. Whether in the form of study groups for teachers (Valley School, Bangalore), the Teachers’ Academy at the Oak Grove School, California, or the ongoing series of workshops and seminars for teachers in non-Krishnamurti schools sponsored by Krishnamurti Foundation India, the focus and the flame are being maintained. Serious and important as these initiatives are, there is still, at the time of writing, no full-time residential course for teachers, including particularly prospective new teachers. We must cut our coat according to our cloth.
With this in mind, I went to Brockwood Park School between mid-April and mid-June, to work specifically with the mature students. These are young people in their twenties—most of them have university degrees—and, aside from their daily work in the community, eight of them professed an interest in meeting with me around the topic of education. Our six-week Intensive began on May 1 1, 2 2008. It focused initially on study and dialogue using topics to be found in the Teacher Education Manual, a compilation of extracts from Krishnamurti’s teachings on educational topics such as conditioning, the place of knowledge and the art of attention. For the present writer, such topics are so basic that they must serve as a launching pad for any exploration worth the name. The students responded well, but it became obvious after some time that a more active form of engagement was required. Bearing in mind the three-point objective of these schools, that they ought to, in the words of Krishnamurti:
- cultivate a global outlook
- develop care and concern for mankind and the environment
- bring about the religious mind,
it was decided to focus on the last of these, considering—by a generous estimate—that the first two had been, to some extent, addressed.
Certain key features of the religious life—standing alone, awakening intelligence, living an integrated life and such like—were presented as central to the endeavour, but there were no material constraints: the students had been gifted a vast sum of money and were free to start the school wherever they chose. From then on, all the choices were theirs. After reviewing their projects (three in all) I drew them together as the text which follows makes apparent. I also made some marginal extrapolations, but nothing that cannot be derived from their work. The title also came from them. It is hoped that, in offering this modest document, there may be some firming up of focus on what was, and remains, the deep purpose of these schools.
The School of Life
Project to Design a School where the Cultivation of the Religious Mind is the top priority
- The new human being
- Time and space as organizing principles
- Exploring conditioning through discussion and exercises
- Re-examination of academics on a questioning basis
- Atmosphere of excellence
- The importance of silence
- Leisure being at the heart of the endeavour
- No separation between relationship, work, leisure and life
- Seeing, not thinking, as the defining feature of the religious mind
- Though this cannot be cultivated by a method, it could emerge from right education
Location: This will be a developing country in Africa or Latin America with a warm climate, to aid in its aim to be low-cost and self-sustaining. The school will be in a beautiful natural setting, thus fulfilling its mission to awaken the senses and develop the feeling for beauty in students. Students may have a role in physically building, as well as creating, the place.
Sustainability: The school will have its own grounds and garden; it will seek to be independent so far as energy is concerned, using solar panels, methane gas, etc.
Management: All will be involved in the decision-making process, though not everybody will take decisions. The socio-political form will be that of a ‘consultative non-democracy’. Initially, there will be no rules; on an ongoing basis, however, these may be formulated as need arises.
Cooperation: There will be no psychological division between teachers and students, though functional authority may be required. Students work together to help one another—for instance, the older ones may teach the younger. From its inception, the school will generate the sense of an organic community where the good of each is the good of all.
Standing Alone: Each person, adult or student, will have his or her own dedicated space which, given the climate, may be in- or out-of-doors. It will be there for their use not only as a facility, but mainly to cultivate the importance of being alone and having one’s own Quiet Time. The intention is also to foster self-reliance, working out problems for oneself, be they mechanical (mending a bicycle) or psychological (reactions and wounds).
Structure: More focused learning will take place in the morning, with activities in the form of projects or ‘work parties’ in the afternoon. As part of the attempt to re-evaluate what we’re doing, the given subject categories, which come from the Greeks, will not necessarily be adopted; instead, there may be an ‘observer-is-the-observed’ approach, which includes the learner as subject, showing how consciousness itself has developed and how it conditions the human brain.
Subjects: As part of the re-examination of academics on a questioning basis (see Big Picture), subjects, even in the classic mould will undergo constant re-examination. An underlying question might be: ‘What is science?’ Or ‘What is language?’ In order to break down these classic subject categories, a move towards contextual learning will be encouraged, e.g. Literature in the context of its time, with its socio-political-cultural movements. Students should be helped to see themselves in History, and History as the story of mankind, i.e. themselves. This requires some transhistorical thinking.
Examinations: Observing the anxiety and competitiveness, which seem endemic to the examination process, the attempt will be made to find other ways and means of allowing students to enter higher education.
Inquiry: The universal and the particular, the personal and the impersonal, will not be seen as being in opposition to one another. There may, hence, be an investigation of fear in general—say, through dialogue—as well as an exploration of the individual’s fears.
Break-up of Age Groups: The school (Gk. schole = leisure) is a place for young people of all ages. The following age settings are envisaged, with vertical groupings in the first two sets:
7-10 years: The emphasis will be on learning through the physical: building, hands-on activities, playing. Intellectual development will not be forced.
11-14 years: Exploration of the physical world will continue, with the beginning of reflection and conceptualization. Here, there may be projects on themes such as water, air, combustion, etc., with physical activities such as digging, planting, sowing, reaping, and the reading of poetry and listening to music around these themes.
14-18 years: We will begin to explore in a more consistent way the more obvious areas of conditioning, distinguishing reactions from accurate responses.
Quiet Time: The day will begin with wholesome, meditative exercises, e.g., yoga, tai-chi, chi-gong (roughly half an hour) and move seamlessly into a silent Morning Meeting.
The Religious Mind: This establishes, and is the outcome of, harmony between nature, people, things and ideas. It requires energy, interest and commitment; and works through the process of not knowing. This will at all times be central to the endeavour.