1 Education for Life – the best investment into a happy and flowering future
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“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” (Nelson Mandela)
“I think education will be one of the first issues that will come up on the agenda when dialogue begins again on the political level. Both sides are aware today that it’s important to do something to change education. In Oslo it was neglected. We see it as a problem that in Oslo and even in the Geneva Initiative there was no chapter on education. We feel that education should be a major issue in any upcoming peace agreement.” (Dan Bar On)
If there is anything in which we all can agree these days, it is the fact that our present way and system of education is a great failure. Despite of this fact, a parent truly loving his child, definitely wants to see him grow and blossom into fullness of life and spirit, that is to become a valuable and happy person, able to lead a self-sustaining life granting him inner peace and fulfillment.
As youth is not only the seed of our lives, but also the future of our nation, fostering profound education is the most effective and worthy investment into this future. A young generation that is guarded and guided with true love and understanding, wisdom and good example as to develop an inspiring vision and creative perspective for its life will certainly grow into a natural and mature attitude towards life and will easily take the yoke of responsibility on its shoulders for building up the country on a sound basis of economic, social, cultural and spiritual values, which altogether form the ground and backbone of our society.
Speaking about education, we all know, that we do not mean mere book learning nor just imbibing secular knowledge into the head of a student, but rather a holistic preparation of him for life in its entirety. Such preparation is based on kindling the light of his spirit as well as a keen interest in the quest for purpose and meaning, awakening of our G-d-given gifts, fostering an awareness of values, developing a compassionate heart, a sharp goal-oriented intellect, a strong and decided will, the right discipline and last not least a wake and active sense for responsibility and justice.
Maturity includes these five aspects: an awareness of the purpose of life, good character, the ability to use ones inborn faculties and skills, attainment of (practical) knowledge and a well-working conscience. On this ground there will also naturally grow an inner aspiration of self-realization and a feeling for the sanctity and brotherhood of life. Only the coincidence of good character and know-how in one person can grant success, right orientation and happiness in his life. And it is education alone that can provide for such condition and it is none other then us – parents and teachers – who can sow the seed of such life and upliftment into the souls of our children.
„To learn is to face transformation. To learn the truth is to enter into relationships requiring us to respond as well as initiate, to give as well as take. If we became vulnerable to the communal claims of truth, conversion would be required. Our knowledge of the atom would call us to the patient work of peacemaking, not mindless acts of war; our knowledge of human nature would call us to the difficult task of cooperation, beyond our easy instinct to compete; our knowledge of nature would call us into careful nurturing, not careless exploitation, of the earth. But we find it safer to seek facts that keep us in power rather than truths that require us to submit. Objectivist education is a strategy for avoiding our own conversion. If we can keep reality “out there,“ we can avoid, for a while, the truth that lays the claim of community on our individual and collective lives.“ (Parker J. Palmer in: To know as we are known)
Referring to our identity as a Jewish nation, education will need to walk in the spirit and footsteps of our for-fathers. As Josef was carrying on the inheritance of his father Jaakov (even in the land of Egypt), so we all should abide in the heritage (covenant) of Israel and bear witness of the spirit of Avraham, Isaak and Jaakov. In the same way, Ishmael should be integrated as natural part of our family. As heirs of our fathers to this precious land, we should always remember the promise and oath of JHWH, our Lord: “When you return to the land that I have promised to your fathers, then keep my word and commandment. ... Do not forget that I have given it to you not because of your virtues or merits, but because of my promise to your fathers and because I had mercy for you, for you are a stubborn people!” (Deuteronomy 9. 1 - 6) This word is a challenge for all of us. If we want to survive as a nation and prosper, we should pay respect and obedience to Him, who is the source and Lord of the entire creation as well as the root and origin of our soul. He who dwells in righteousness shall lack nothing, and it will be the meek, who shall inherit the land.
In order to cope with the fact of our present reality and as a response to our needs, there have been developed different private attempts and organizations dedicated to foster such a working model of education. Some of them we are embracing and sheltering under one umbrella.
One of the most profound attempts to bring about improvement in education is “Living Values”. “Living Values” is an official international association, started in 2001 and led by Ester Khavous of the “Brahma Kumari Group in Tel Aviv”. It fosters awareness of human values in schools and society in general in accord to the UN organization of the same name and is also recommended by the Israeli Ministry of Education.
The call for values is currently echoing throughout every land, as educators, parents and even children are increasingly concerned about and affected by violence, growing social problems, and the lack of social cohesion. Educators are, once again, asked to address problems, which have arisen within their societies.
Living Values Education Program (LVEP) is a comprehensive values education program. It offers a wide variety of experiential values activities and practical methodologies to teachers and facilitators, parents and caregivers to enable children and young adults to explore and develop 12 universal values. They are:
Unity | Simplicity | Responsibility | Happiness | Humility | Honesty | Respect | Peace | Love | Tolerance | Cooperation | Freedom.
In addition to programs for classrooms and parent groups, LVEP offers special materials for street children, children affected by war, and children affected by earthquakes.
Implemented in 74 countries educators report positive changes in teacher-student relationships and in student-student relationships both inside and outside the classroom. Educators note an increase in respect, caring, cooperation, motivation, and the ability to solve peer conflicts on the part of the students. Aggressive behaviors decline as positive social skills and respect increase. LVEP helps educators create safe, caring values-based atmospheres for quality learning. (See: Diane Tillman: Theoretical Background and Support for Living Values: An Educational Program; www.livingvalues.net)
So far the most approaches towards a reform of the educational system are mainly adaptations or remedies to cure some of the unpleasant symptoms of our social reality.
In order to bring about a sound holistic approach towards education and life, and to achieve optimal results in education as an entire molding of person and character, we know we have to go even beyond these efforts and to strive for the development of a total new and all-encompassing Curriculum. Such an all-encompassing Curriculum based on a holistic vision of life alone and covering our entire School System in Israel only can meet the needs of our present day society and bring about a real profound change and betterment in education and life perspective altogether.
As mentioned above, such an approach needs to bring about an awakening of the awareness of the sanctity of life in the first place and an understanding of life’s fundamental meaning and purpose. And we need to teach by example! That means we have to realize within ourselves and by our attitude what we want to teach to others. If we do not live what we teach, then there is no credibility in what we teach or say. Our words only attain power, by our living example.
It was none less then Einstein who stated: “All education is based on example – and if not by a shining one, also the negative does its work.” Obviously he had not the best experience with education himself, but relying on his intuition and inner discrimination he was able to compensate the lack by his own understanding. But that is not what we can expect by an average youth or student. It is us – parents and teachers as well – who mold the child’s character and understanding. And in education we have to do this with inner authority and compassion, with strictness and empathy (Gevurah & Hesed), using both in a balanced way.
Further we need to have a clear image of the nature of man and the purpose of our own life, a clear goal, enthusiasm, love for people and youth respectively and a vision of what we want to attain and plant. The soul is a field waiting to receive good seed and nourishment in order to bringing forth a rich harvest of flowers of gifts and skills as well as fruits of virtue and good character. Character is the highest attainment and the basis of contentment, success and happiness and the seed of our future destiny. As one sows, so he shall reap. If we sow love, joy and appreciation, we also will reap love, joy and appreciation. And if we are able to keep a pure heart, we will even see God and rejoice in His Glory.
Further we have to restore the image of man to its original dignity as an image of God, which is based on equality of freedom of choice that He has bestowed onto us. By our free choice we can become “like” G-d, or – in the other extreme – we may become devils.
In order to have a profound foundation ourselves we need to investigate and discover ourselves – the divine as well as the dark sides deep down in our souls, the true self and the ego – and to learn to sharply discriminate the one from the other. Only then we can become masters of our thoughts and feelings and not stay the victims of their unconscious uncontrolled play.
For building a new educational system, we need not begin from zero, but have pioneers who have already paved the way. And in this manner we can draw a lot from the models and experiences of all those, who have been dealing with education in profound terms before us, as there are the models of great humanists as Alexander von Humboldt, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, Maria Montessori, Rudolf Steiner, Rabindranath Tagore, Carl Rogers, Paramahansa Yogananda and many others.
In fact, to bring about an effective change in our present unhappy ways of thought and life, our whole society needs to get involved in education. And as we can immediately realize, it is at least the parents that need to be integrated in the process of change and attainment.
Therefore as said above – in long run – we need to develop an entirely new Curriculum for all stages of schooling and education in this country. Within its scope some important adaptations have to be considered.
We learn so much about physics, chemistry, biology and many other interesting subjects which we hardly need in life, but we do not learn anything about ourselves, about the nature of our soul, the operation of our mind, the use of thought and will-power etc.
So some portion should be rendered to enhance a minimum knowledge and understanding of our human nature; by doing so we could do pioneer work in the world;
Some adapted issues should deal with questions as:
1 What is the meaning and purpose of life;
2 What is the structure of inner man;
3 What is the dynamics of the soul: sensation, thought, feeling, desire, will-power;
4 The higher (divine) and the lower (animal) nature of man, and the permanent
struggle between them;
5 The third faculty: the responsible “I” and its power of discrimination, inner
choice and decision;
6 How to overcome weaknesses (anger, greed, jealousy, …) by virtue;
7 To introduce and explain a set of perennial human values;
8 To foster character building and wakeful awareness etc.
Also we should consider the results and consequences of brain research.
If we want to promote some really profound and all-embracing idea of education that deals with our human nature in its entirety and totality, we should bear witness of our holistic vision in a more accurate way. It was already more then a century ago that educators were starting to care more particular of the spiritual and psychological side and needs of our human nature and especially with the progress in brain research there was the discovery of the two complementary operating hemispheres of our brain which further-on brought some intriguing conclusions concerning the apprehension of our mental abilities and education. Since we had the mentioned models of great educators as Alexander Humboldt, J. H. Pestalozzi, John Dewey, Maria Montessori, Rudolf Steiner, Rabindranath Tagore, and Carl Rogers all of whom fostering an integral and more right-hemispheric model of education, concerned with the development of the holistic, intuitive, transcendental, spiritual and artistic side of man as well, instead of reducing us to just linear and verbal operating "computers", we should also adapt to this other side of our human existence. That means that we definitely should include these aspects in our building a real humanistic approach for the educational perspective of our future by coping also with the intuitive, transcendental side of man. As we are of a double origin - one being physical, one transcendental - we not only need to satisfy our physical and economic living conditions as well as developing our rational, verbal and intellectual (that means our left-hemispheric) abilities, but also to reach out for the realms of our divine destiny by developing our God-given conscience, our power of discrimination, the faculties of holistic understanding, imagery, music, artistic creativity and even a sense for the mysterious and mystic in our lives.
What is an Integral Education?
Integral education is an education, which is regarding man in the wholeness and unity of his human nature as body, mind and soul, equally participating in spirit and matter, and as an individual and social being at the same time.
Education to be complete must have five principal aspects relating to the five principal aspects of our human nature: the physical, the vital, the mental, the psychic and the spiritual. Usually in their development, these aspects succeed each other in a chronological order with the growth of the individual. This however does not mean that in education too one should replace the other, but rather all should continue, completing each other, till the end of life.
A) The Physical Education
The aim of all culture is permanent improvement in our qualities as man. If our seeking is for a gradual perfection of our being, the physical part cannot be left aside, since the body is the material basis and instrument, which we have to use. As an old adage says: “The body is the means of fulfillment of our destination”.
If we comprehend the ultimate aim of education as gradual realization of our indwelling divine nature, our ideal is divine life, life accomplishing its own spiritual transformation here on earth within the framework of time ad space. In the course of such training the body too undergoes a transformation towards perfection in all that it is and does. It may even in the end be suffused with light and beauty and bliss from Beyond and be transfigured into a celestial body.
The fruits of a wholesome and methodical program of physical education may be:
1. A sound and healthy body: This is a vast subject on which a good amount of knowledge has already been accumulated; The means include the acquisition of good habits in food, sleep, hygiene, and the use of physical exercises to regulate the various functions of the body. Bodily defects and malformations can be reduced or even cured by appropriate methods of corrective exercises;
2. Strength and fitness;
3. Development of Physical Skills: We should learn to use our hands in many ways, for handicrafts, skilled work, using all kinds of physical tools, in arts etc.
4. Training of the senses: A quick perception of eye and ear and a quick response of all the parts of the body to any call made upon them, a wonderful coordination and mastery over the reflexes as for instance in gymnastics and balancing;
5. Self-mastery and discipline, courage and confidence: To control one‘s impulses, reactions, weaknesses is a very important gain brought about by the practice of athletics, sports and games. We must mention here that the regular use of physical exercises has a healthy influence on the control of sexual energy also;
6. Co-operation, impartiality and fair dealings with others.
B) The Vital (or Emotional) Education
The vital aspect in man is that, which is made up of sensations, emotions, desires, passions and instincts, energies of action, will of desire, emotional reactions like lust, fear, greed and anger, in one word all that builds our lower nature. (Netzach of Nefesh)
Our vital nature embraces a vast kingdom of forces acting and reacting upon one another, the very nexus of man‘s unconscious life and the motivating power of his action – for good or for evil.
The learning to deal with this complex of forces is of the utmost importance for the building up of character.
The key to a strong, straightforward and harmonious character is to awaken in the child the will to overcome his weaknesses and eliminate his defeats. The aspiration towards improvement in attitude ad character exists in every human being, but too often the conditions in which the child lives, at home and elsewhere, the moral and mental environment are so antagonistic to the tiny little flame of aspiration that it easily dwindles and dies out. This aspiration has to be gently kindled and helped to translate itself into deciciveness.
Only what man admires and accepts, becomes part of himself; the rest is a mask. He conforms to the discipline of society as he conformed to the moral routine of home and school, but considers himself at liberty to guide his real life, inner and private, according to his own likings and passions.
The best method of suggestion is by personal example, daily conversing and through the mental, psychological and spiritual food received day by day. Despite the attraction of modern media good books are of utmost importance. These books should contain, for the younger student, the lofty examples of the past given, not as moral lessons, but as things of supreme human adoration, and, for the elder student, the great thoughts and aspirations of great souls, literature, which sets fire to the highest emotions and prompts the most lofty ideals and noble aspirations in their soul ad minds. This is a kind of good company, which can seldom fail to have its effect as long as sententious sermonizing and double moral is avoided, and is getting the highest inspiring effect, if the personal life of the teacher is itself molded according to the great things he places before his pupils. It cannot, however, have full force unless the young life is given an opportunity, within its limited sphere, of embodying in action the moral impulses, which rise within it.
To this general education of our vital nature, there should be added as early as possible, the cultivation of a sense of discrimination, the capacity to choose and take up what is good, true and of value, beautiful and harmonious, simple, healthy and pure. As the child grows in his capacity of understanding, he should be taught, to add aesthetic taste and refinement to power and precision and develop a wakeful awareness and working conscience. He must be made to appreciate and love truth and justice, as well as all that is beautiful, lofty, healthy and noble. In this way the youth will develop a sense of ethical awareness linked with aesthetic culture, which will save him from degrading influence later on in his life.
The Divine is Purity as well as Beauty and it is by the cultivation of both – the ethical and the aesthetic – that the hearts needs are getting fulfilled. On such grounds the ethical and aesthetic being of man can easily rise towards its divine possibilities.
C) The Mental Education
The greatest mistake is to make an accumulation of factual knowledge, i. e. erudition, the crowning end of education. This error distorts the whole process of education itself. Instead of learning how to acquire knowledge, the student is asked to store in his memory the knowledge gained by others, so as to keep it ready at hand – at least for the time of the examination.
The real gain that one can expect from a well organized and thorough mental education has an individual aspect and a social or collective one.
The individual aspect is culture. Culture is not erudition, it docs not depend on the amount of knowledge, but on the wav knowledge has been assimilated, integrated, transformed into a synthetic Weltanschauung, which can serve as a base to a still higher vision and understanding. In fact, it has aptly been said that “culture is what remains when all (we have learned) has been forgotten“ (Edouard Herriot). Culture is not acquired by forcefully memorizing, but by keeping a wide interest and a mind open to all sources of knowledge (books, magazines, lectures, exhibitions, human contacts, etc.): whatever is retained and assimilated will he welcome: it may be deep or shallow according to one‘s capacity.
The collective aspect of education is utilitarian and functional. It is connected with the professional life of the individual and his relations with his fellow-beings. Hence schools need to develop professional skills, like clear perception of problems, the abilities for grounded yet quick decisions, implementation of know-how according to international scientific standards, as well as invoking a spirit of invention and innovation in the young people.
Yet the acquisition of know-how and mental skills is not enough. We also need people with self-esteem, psychological independence, leader-qualities plus social competence. We know through a lot of unpleasant experiences how much intern friction and incalculable costs are caused within companies and organizations by a lack of leadership and team qualifications.
Thus mental educations should provide:
1. the capability of penetrating and innovative independent thinking, as a precondition to solve problems, set up methodologically grounded projects and to discover the secrets of life;
2. the capacity to gather old knowledge, i.e., how to use the various means of documentation (text-books, reference books, technical magazines, etc.) to find out what is already known on a subject; how to grade and organize that knowledge so that it can be made available to oneself for ready reference and to others;
3. the capability to find out new knowledge, i.e., to engage successfully in research work; how to face a problem, to analyze and get at the core of it; how to use imagination in the search for analogies and structural similarities; how to formulate and test hypotheses;
4. the capacity to use and apply knowledge (old and new) to specific cases and to deal with concrete situations; how to reach optimal decisions; how to get on with fellow-workers and engage in team work, understand others and make oneself understood.
D) The Psychic and the Spiritual Education
Till now we have dealt with the education, which can be given to all children born upon earth; it is concerned with purely human faculties. But, as The Mother says, one need not stop there:
“Every human being carries hidden within him the possibility of a greater consciousness beyond the frame of his normal life through which he can participate in a higher and vaster life. Indeed, in all exceptional beings it is always this consciousness that governs their life, and organizes both the circumstances of their life and their individual reaction to these circumstances. What the human mind does not know and cannot do, this consciousness knows and does. It is like a light that shines at the center of our being radiating through the thick cover of our external personality.
With psychic education we meet the question of the true motive and meaning of life, the very discovery to which should lead us to the consecration of individual life to the universal. This aspect is generally associated with mystic feeling and religious life, because it is the subject of religions. But it need not be necessarily so: the mystic notion of God may be replaced by the more philosophical notion of truth and still the discovery will remain essentially the same.”
In our education it is the child’s mind, which has to be consulted in its own growth. Therefore the work proposed to a child must be suited to his mental age and outlook, and he must be allowed to do it according to his own capacity and speed. A child who is given a work corresponding to his needs as a growing being, accepts it readily and does it with attention and joy.
From this it follows, that the child must be given individual attention and be allowed to proceed independently. It is the child and not the teacher that sets the pace.
There are some aims in education which usually are overseen:
1. So it should be the teacher‘s aim to train the ear of the students – and their tongue if the talking is on both sides. This is an indispensable part of the teaching of languages and we do give it its due place here.
2. The aim is further to supply a needed subject. This aim is perfectly justified, but usually the need arises in one or a few students at a time and the delivery must be made to those students alone; to the others it is useless and boring. Therefore, at least at school level, the resort to lectures of this type will arise rarely. For adults, the case is different, as we shall see later.
3. The teacher talks to his students with the view to inspire and give them guidance.
Steiner defined ‘three golden rules’ for teachers: “to receive the child in gratitude from the world they come from; to educate the child with love; and to lead the child into the true freedom which belongs to man."
And Mother Alfassa has added: „Teachers who do not possess a perfect calm, and unfailing endurance, an unshakable quietness, who are full of self-conceit will reach nowhere. … One must have the right attitude in order to be able to exact from one‘s pupils that same attitude. You cannot ask of a person what you do not do yourself. It is a rule.“
In order to being able to grant a positive reform in our educational and schooling system, we firstly need teachers who are prepared to pick up that task and secondly a newly adapted curriculum and educational plan serving as a matrix and carrying ground of such a system. Finally all success is depending on the qualification as well as the educational competence of the teacher. He should be a guide, friend and example for the student, imbibing him with true values and molding his character by the soft power of this example and his vivid inspiration.
The first step has to be the design of a schooling-plan, meaning the choice and structuring of subjects to be taught in different braches and grades of the school system. There fundamental psychological and pedagogical principles have to be taken into consideration. For the final Curriculum development, meaning the setting up of the variety of modules for the specific subjects and stages in accord with the study plan, we are about to build a professional team to work out a fit form for it, which may be introduced and implied in the actual educational system throughout the country. In doing so, we can be in touch and exchange with the present reform of education in India as a pioneering system as for human values and the apprehension of the sanctity of life and could even become an example for the entire Western world.