“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Kids all over are going back to school this week.
For moms and dads, this might mean combined feelings of swelling pride, the excitement and anxiety over how it will all go (and maybe some panic over scheduling), and then some wistfulness for those years when your baby was still too young for school and you could witness the moment-to-moment joys of their development.
For those without kids, there can still be a twang that erupts come Labour Day. It’s partly nostalgia for those awkward and anticipation-filled first days back in the land of lockers and cafs:
What should I wear?
Will my crush be as cute in September as he was last June?
There’s also some dread mixed in, because blissful, vastly expansive summer days are giving way to too-early mornings and endless classes on arcane subjects.
Remember the hypotenuse theorem, anyone? (Okay, I do, but there’s lots of stuff lost in the folds of time.)
As someone who spent long, long years both enduring and revelling in those first days back (I went to school continuously from nursery school to Masters, and then went back to start a Phd after a break), the overriding feeling I get in early September is a renewal of desire to learn and a sense of wonder over what forms learning will take this time around.
It goes without saying that learning happens everywhere, all the time, in the most fascinating of guises.
Since every moment is an opportunity to learn—about ourselves, others, the world, and these are all one thing, really—I wanted to share “five and five”—five education-themed quotes and five movies to watch.
Let’s get learning, everyone!
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.” ~ T. S. Eliot
“Have you learned the lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you? Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced themselves against you, and disputed passage with you?” ~ Walt Whitman
“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination.
We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system.
Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself —educating your own judgement. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.’” ~ Doris Lessing
“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down.
She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”
There are so many brilliant films from all over the world dealing directly or indirectly with learning and education. Films have actually been a huge part of my formal and informal education, no matter what the subject, so this list is just a tiny drop in the amazing bucket of cinematic delights, as they came to my heart!
Dead Poets Society (Peter Weir): A teacher (Robin Williams) teaches students about freedom of belief. Simply a must.
Spellbound (Jeffrey Blitz): A quiet, uncannily compelling documentary centred around the beloved (and feared) spelling bee.
Project Happiness (John Sorensen): A very inspiring documentary traversing the globe with students, and winding up in India in search of the meaning of lasting happiness.
Into the Wild (Sean Penn): A chronicle of a young man eager to live life to the fullest and learn about life from the source: nature’s wild.
The Class (Lauren Cantet): A brilliant, quasi-documentary in which a teacher plays himself in his racially diverse Parisian classroom.
Bonus: H. H. The Dalai Lama on learning and never forgetting the importance of compassion.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: courtesy of the author