I remember questioning the need to learn Latin at school. I was told that not only does it help to learn other languages whose roots lie in Latin but it also helps in the process of learning itself there being too many facts in this world to hold all of them in our heads, but the knowledge and ability, in other words application, helps us to find the answers we need in knowing where to look.
I also recall the sadness I experienced with my step father who was the sweetest, most kind man until, like his father, drink got the better of him and he turned from Dr Jekyll into Mr Hyde. He was a very clever man and even cited his coaching in mathematics the boy who ended up as chairman of Shell and he a lowly pub manager! Good job for an alcoholic eh?
But the trouble with my step father was that he was unable to apply himself and his frustration led him into any means to deaden that feeling of incapacity. Whereas I, being a late developer, plodded on in my own way until the moment came when I found that the gift of the word was with me and all else just fell into place.
In fact you could say, as I did over Latin which by the way was the only subject I failed at ‘O’ level, what is the point of studying?
We saw a program recently explaining how Chinese children are so far ahead of English kids in Maths that they are bringing Chinese teachers over to restructure teaching methods in England from the communicative approach of teachers and children working together to 45 minutes at a time of just listening to a teacher and staring at a white/black board. I know which method I would prefer and I sincerely hope that our kids do not suffer the same stress as their oriental cousins!
When you look at a school curriculum there are what I call blank spots, depending on the school of course. In my case the blank spots appeared in my third year at Grammar School when I was told to give up certain subjects like history, which I loved but was just no good at remembering dates, and also geography, so those blank spots are still with me now and the balance or roundedness of my education was lost.
In my view it is more important to provide the kind of education that involves the preparation of a reasoning and balanced mind. The trouble is that the avenues of consciousness leading to an appreciation of the way we think and reason, in other words our mindfulness, is left to the four winds. Some blessed with higher I.Q. than most perhaps do not need this kind of leadership, say the top 1 – 5%, but most of us do.
A steady mind with the ability to concentrate, to focus on the problem at hand comes from the early levels of meditation or HPT but how often do you see meditation on a curriculum?
Ensuring through right-thought, do you see filling the heart with love as a subject for study? Rather than turning a blind eye or not knowing how to deal with bullying in the playground or appreciating the gifts and differences that we all posses, you know, respect rather than ridicule.
Respect for each other and also for all of the other kingdoms of the natural world which we share on this planet rather than the shoot first and ask questions later approach that some countries and communities teach!
Where does character building come on a teachers lesson chart and time table and where does applying yourself in a kind and loving way in your community and the world at large come on the list of humanities? Leaving aside Latin of course, but paying more attention perhaps to poetry!
In Eastern Schools of course there would be a time of reflection and appreciation of the interface of the physical with the spiritual no doubt via the Chakra system and its interplay with the endocrine glands of the body, naturally following times of silent meditation and awareness of the Aura followed by healing.
According to our cultures there are huge differences in the way we are taught and the way we apply ourselves in this complex world which has certainly changed in my lifetime from a period of face to face personal communication to one of electronic connection where you cannot be sure who you are talking to or communicating with.
We saw recently a group of teenagers in India helping with the ‘mundane’ task of planting mangrove saplings to preserve the coastline. My first reaction was to call their voluntary action ‘essential’ rather than ‘mundane’ and you could argue that the planting of trees should also be added to every school timetable.
Where are our priorities? Are we raising a race of computer geeks all racing for the top jobs in overcrowded pollution ridden cities where it is estimated that 50% of the 7 billion will be living in the not too distant future?
I believe that we should concentrate on our local communities, all learning to connect with the soil of the Planet, all learning to respect each other and where our food comes from to learn where eggs come from, where our fish and beef and lamb and chicken originate and what it takes to grow our fruits and vegetables.
If the sea rose by 30 metres tomorrow would you be able to apply yourself? Would you know how to feed and clothe yourself and your family? Judging by the effect of the Fukushima disaster with 100,000 people still living in temporary accommodation I would hazard a guess at a resounding NO! Is the rate of learning of mathematics all that important?
Better to learn how to be good compassionate carers in a loving community, wouldn’t you say? With Love, David
PS. I forgot, we have to win, but when will the subject of enjoying the journey to a goal that will never be reached and a task that will never be done be taught in class?