July 23, 2010

Alternative Education vs. the Looney Bin. ~ Yogitaratna Chaitanya

I can’t help thinking that we have it all wrong…

…and that our children are going through a schooling system that teaches them the ABC routine of learning, but which doesn’t teach them the really valuable and essential skills they will need once they go out into the real world. Of course I would never deny that learning the ABCs, all that arithmetic, spelling and cutting and pasting is the backbone of a five-year-old’s education, and I wouldn’t be the one to pull that out from under them, but I just feel we place way too much importance on all of this nonsensical practicality at such an early age when our focus should be on more important issues.

Why not teach them early the importance of communication? Communicating with our peers (which later become our work colleagues, mother-in-laws, roommates, etc.) correctly will help avoid misunderstandings and conflict which later turn into misery and suffering. Communication isn’t just releasing a stream of verbal diarrhea, it’s about saying it in such a way that the person who is receiving your words actually understands what you want to transmit.

What about teaching children how to deal with conflict and how to resolve conflictive situations? What about teaching them an alternative to negative reactions or aggressionhow can they help to dissipate anger and fear within them and react in less violent ways towards others? How about their emotions and how to manage their feelings? Not to mention respect, compassion and tolerance towards other religions, faiths and beliefs and sensitivity toward nature and other beings who share this planet with us.

What about appreciation and gratitude and teaching them to think and have ideals? And how about the simple yet amazingly effective yogic techniques like breath control, meditation, stillness and silence as a way of discovering more about the huge potential that lies within them, their inner self: a journey of self discovery.

This is the knowledge of the Art of Living, and then of course there would be that very taboo subject, the Art of Dying. Instead of everyone not wanting to deal with this one certainty in life for us all, why not teach children of its possibility, take away the fear and doubt enshrouding death, and let them know it’s a natural part of life. We could make this complex and intricate subject more accessible to them so they obtain awareness and gratitude for all that life may offer them and learn not to waste even one single valuable moment.

Somehow I feel that if the above were to be suggested to a school board as the bread and butter of early learning we might get some odd looks and possibly be sent away to an asylum!

But I ask myself, are these not essential skills for us all to learn? Are these not valuable survival skills our children (and even adults) need to be able to survive in this volatile world where violence, greed and war seem to be the only answers to solving conflict with often disastrous results? Isn’t it time we tried a revolutionary new prototype of education and just sit back and see what happens? Isn’t it worth a shot? Surely its got to better than the stale and outdated ways of today which don’t see any really positive outcomes, but just seem to produce yet another generation of screen-glaring little people with weight problems because they no longer wish to run, play, create, paint, have fun and laugh like we did in the days of yesteryear? Instead they choose to lock themselves away in Game Boy heaven, isolating themselves from life itself.

Why not introduce these important facets in young and mindful children and observe what a difference it can make to have balanced, thoughtful and mature individuals who actually think for themselves and find their answers not in drugs, alcohol or violence, but in literature, philosophy, psychology, science, art and internal peace.

I often wonder if we are mislead by the governments who educate us to be just another number in this consumerist world on a quest to accumulate fortunes by continuously producing more and more. They tell us that that is where this ephemeral thing called happiness lies and that anyone who dares to think outside the proverbial square box or actually turn their nose at this concept is a threat to mankind and society and a cause of revolutionary worry to the fat cats who want to fill their already heaving pockets with more while keeping the rest of us working harder and earning less in a struggle to survive for what we truly believe in: liberation for the body, mind, heart and soul.

Yogini and Yoga & Dharma instructor on the Art and Science of Living, Yogita expresses her gratitude to her Guruji, Swami Shankaratilakananda for being a beacon of inspiration, for his all encompassing knowledge, generosity, compassion, light and spirit which shines through her example. Contact Yogita via email.

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