It seems that more and more governments today, democratic ones at least, are claiming to have education at the top of their priority lists. In making this claim, they are responding to what they perceive to be the greatest concerns of their constituents. This is understandable because qualifications nowadays determine a young person's entry point into the career hierarchy and parents are well aware of the implications of this fact, even if their offspring are not always so. In highly populated countries, so I am told, one point more or less in high school graduation exams can make the difference between acceptance into a university whose degrees permit 'rewarding' careers, or into one where the climb out of mediocrity will likely be a lifelongpursuit. No caring parent will be unconcerned in these circumstances, whatever their philosophical objections may beto the system that gave rise to them. They are, therefore, susceptible to the blandishments of politicians even when theydislike them. And for their part, the politicians will cater forthat concern in whatever way seems most productive to theirelection chances.
What they call education, however, often seems to vary depending primarily on which of the electorate's fears they are attempting to address at the time. Perhaps the two most common are: firstly, that according to some survey, the nation's economic competitiveness is being eroded by slack teaching standards which is the fault of the previous government's failed policies or of a teaching profession ideologically opposed to their viewpoint, or both, and they will put it right; and secondly, that rising delinquency and juvenile crime statistics result from a lack of discipline which should have been taught at school but which obviously was not and that is the fault of the previous government's failed policies or of a teaching profession ideologically opposed to their viewpoint, or both, and they will put it right!
Leaving aside the selective nature of the statistics and surveys concerned ('lies, damned lies, and statistics'!), there is clearly a problem of definition here. Does education mean, as in the first instance, merely the ability to inculcate knowledge into children's minds in order simply to make them better cogs in the machine of a society's future economy, or does it also extend to creating an awareness of how their individuality might fit within that society? If this is not clear from the beginning then subsequent policy will be piecemeal and confused.
The next thing that strikes one about most government educational initiatives is that their sole method for correcting the supposed problems is to inflict ever more detailed controls on the teaching profession and the students, and even the parents. By reducing teachers to virtual automatons in pursuit of some functional holy grail, they destroy the bond which enables teacher and student to communicate openly together.
For clarity, it is necessary to make certain connections. Even assuming there is some validity in the functional objective mentioned earlier, one cannot ignore the context within which that process occurs. This appears to be relevant in two distinct but inter-related areas. The more obvious one is society, both as narrowly defined (the immediate community) and more widely so (the world, humanity, life), where the consequences of educational processes eventually appear. The less obvious aspect is the individual student's psyche, for knowledge must have some context within the mind of the individual receiving it. To extend the contextual reasoning, one has then to look at how the individual's psyche fits within the general human psyche. If there you perceive the significant common elements, such as fear, that cause human behaviour to be largely repetitive and predictable, then you can no longer justify defining 'education' as a process that simply feeds arbitrarily chosen knowledge into the minds of youth for the narrow purposes of social economic gain, since breakdown in -the individual will impact negatively on the whole. Such a miserly defmition allows no scope for the remarkable breadth of human endeavour, nor does it permit any creative input or joy in the process.
If there is any truth in the foregoing analysis, then it justifies the ongoing attempts of schools based on Krishnamurti's educational initiatives to address the wider context of education which is their raison d' etre. But it also does more than that - it makes, them potentially part of the' solution'. Having said that, it will not work simply to advise the world at large to read 'Krishnamurti. Those educators associated with such schools and their broader community must have the courage to identify what it is that they believe makes this particular educational process valuable, and then to engage in the wider debate, because they have a uniquely relevant perspective to contribute to it. This may not amount to 'living the teachings', but it does mean representing them in this particular context. There may have been a tendency in the past to withdraw too quickly into our K'fortress', where we are sure of agreement from our peers, whilst feeling distress at the futility of what we see going onaround us. That is not going to bring about a change.
It is probably necessary at this point to distinguish 'Krishnamurti education' from other 'alternative' educational philosophies and practices. Even those alternatives such as Steiner and Montesorri which tend towards a much greater regard to the individual needs of the student than is the norm, do not have as their ultimate goal 'a radical change in human consciousness' in the manner consistently expounded by K throughout his teachings. Krishnamurti created his schools within the context of his stated aim 'to set man unconditionally free'. It seems to me that this puts Krishnamurti schools ina unique position from a philosophical perspective, and makes their responsibility even greater.
So, why don't they become more actively engaged in the wider debate, particularly at a policy level? I am aware of programmes such as RishiValley's 'school in it box'and that is certainly an excellent form of participation in a wider educational process; but I think it is still fair to say that there could be more active involvement across the whole Krishnamurti educational world.
I suspect a major difficulty stems from the very strong injuction not to interpret the teachings. However, to point out the limitations of knowledge accumulation as the sole function of education is not, for example, to interpret the teachings. It is to take a stance that anyone could take and argue, even if, in our case, it would hopefully be with a depth of understanding that contact with the teachings can provide. But we are ultimately, nevertheless, on our own in pursuing that argument and it would not help to cite Krishnamurti as an authority in that context. Do we lack the courage of our convictions when placed upon the bigger stage? Do we tend to assume that we will not be taken seriously because our views are too radical? Is there a problem, outside ofIndia at least, that we may not be taken seriously because of our identification with a foreign philosopher/mystic? All of these may be obstacles, especially in the 'west', but they are mostly psychological blocks in us which do not in fact prevent our participation, only our willingness to risk doing so.
I know that the experienced educators with a deep interest in Krishnamurti's insights are more than fully occupied in their educational commitments at their places of work. But I would raise the question whether we as educators have an equal commitment to this wider interest. The Foundations have an International Publications Committee; why should there not be an equivalent international body marshalling resources in this area too?
Krishnamurti once spoke of the 'echo', or 'shadow', left by individual human beings after they die. In modern times, perhaps no one has left a longer shadow than K in the areas which he addressed, but at some point we are going to have to move out of that shadow ifhis insights and our efforts are to be perceived by others. As to how we might become involved in the wider debate, the answer is simply the same way everyone else does when they are convinced of the worth of the views they represent - by writing articles in the conventional press, by joining appropriate representative bodies, by lobbying where that is appropriate, and so on. Sitting inside our 'fortress', sharing our distaste for the ways of the mundane world and choosing to avoid engagement in its processes will eventually leave us irrelevant to it. The one thing we cannot afford to do, is nothing.