THEOSOPHY, Vol. 21, No. 7, May, 1933
(Pages 313-315; Size: 10K)
(Part 2 of a 3-part series)
THEOSOPHY AND EDUCATION
EDUCATIONAL progress in this country, according to Prof. Kilpatrick, quoted in the preceding article on this subject, has passed through several well-defined stages. First, lessons were learned by heart, next children were asked to tell in their own words what they had memorized, then they were required to deal with things and actual situations, and finally they are being helped to assume responsibility for their thinking and doing. At one time each of these steps singly was considered the be-all and end-all of education, but as each advance was taken, the preceding step lost something of its former prestige and value.
As a matter of fact, none of these methods of learning can be omitted, because they relate to and develop certain parts or "principles" of the nature. The young child learns by doing things over and over, his growth in intelligence depending upon the development of that department of his being in which memory inheres. But as soon as Manas is fairly seated, when the child may really be said to think, the wise teacher finds out what he understands of his memorizing. When he tries to tell it in his own words his trouble begins. He assures us that he knows, but he can't say it. Perhaps the teacher helps him out in this endeavor by questions. And in this connection it is well to remind ourselves of Prof. Withington's dictum that "the teacher should set only such questions as demand original thought." This, of course, applies only to the older children. But to all, he believes, never should a question be put which can be answered by a mere "Yes" or "No," for the reason that the child does no thinking, nor does he have the opportunity for self-expression. Often teachers practically give the answer in their questions. So the kind of questions asked should be carefully considered.
Even when pupils understand a subject, to each a different meaning is attached, due to the various types of mind, and especially to the dual nature of Manas. Madame Blavatsky says "some persons never think with the higher faculties of the mind; those who do are in the minority, and are thus beyond, if not above, the average mind. These latter will think even upon ordinary matters on that higher plane." To how many is a passer-by on the street simply a moving body? Such are "the deluded" of the Bhagavad-Gita, "who do not see the spirit when it quitteth or remains in the body." Hence it should be the aim of teachers to try to elicit these higher meanings. Theosophy teaches that everything in nature is septenary, and applies to the interpretation of any subject. Have we not its evidence when in mature years we re-read the literature studied in youth and discover depths of meaning never before dreamed of? The same holds true of all the events of life, their full significance being disclosed only after the passage of years.
Undoubtedly we hinder far more than we suspect the emergence of the "higher faculties", not alone of our children but of all whom we meet because our contacts mean so little to us. We discharge our business with people in a matter-of-fact fashion, go through the lesson in a mechanical way and that is the end of it. We give them no encouragement, leave them with no inspiration, impart to them no enthusiasm for the higher life. Yet we might do all these things were we to dwell more upon and try to use the higher faculties of the mind.
In "What is Education" Dr. Moore says the good teacher is one who can arrest the attention of the pupils and arouse interest and thought by creating situations for them to question and discuss. This is a real test for the teacher; yet the experiences of his own childhood and youth, every-day occurrences and newspaper happenings yield illustrations a-plenty for his use. To "deal with things and actual situations as well as simply with words and ideas" in the public school means performance as well as theory, either in some kind of manual activity or laboratory experiment. But even when such practical application is impossible, as in a class-room, a discussion of what might and should be done is valuable. Especially if we accept the teaching of Theosophy that the real plane of action is the mind, it should follow that thinking about any situation, proposed plan or intended action is extremely helpful.
In Theosophy School several classes have been studying the Bhagavad-Gita. A pupil reads, "He who attendeth to the inclination of the senses in them hath a concern; from this concern is created passion, from passion anger, from anger is produced delusion, from delusion a loss of memory, from loss of memory loss of discrimination, and from loss of discrimination loss of all." Perhaps this taxes the patience of the child. What does it mean to him? Possibly just a string of words. Now let us suppose that Jack and Billy meet in the school-yard and one of them calls the other a tattler or a cheat, what is likely to follow? We assume of course that these boys have never attended Theosophy School. The episode instantly reveals the gist of the paragraph, for every child sees just what happens, and will be ready to trace the effects of each cause in the series. With older groups the whole psychological process from the external contact to the result in the inner man may be discussed from the basis of the "principles" involved, and so found most interesting.
What might either of these boys have done if he had been taught something of responsibility for his thinking and doing? Angelo Patri approaches this problem by asking, "What are you going to do about it?" adding that no lesson is complete unless the teacher asks this question. It is one which all might take to heart. We attend classes, discuss questions in academic fashion, come to the meetings and feel very well satisfied. But the general attitude is negative or quietly "sattvic." Have we assumed our responsibility? "What are you going to do about it?" Mr. Judge says, "Intellectual study only of Theosophy will not speedily better the world. It must, of course, have effect through immortal ideas once more set in motion, but while we are waiting for those ideas to bear fruit among men a revolution may break out and sweep us away." So, "What are you going to do about it?"
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
H.P.B. COMMENTS ON "EDUCATION"
As to any real, sound cultivation of the thinking and reasoning power, it is simply impossible while everything has to be judged by the results as tested by competitive examinations. Again, school training is of the very greatest importance in forming character, especially in its moral bearing. Now, from first to last, your modern system is based on the so-called scientific revelations: "The struggle for existence" and the "survival of the fittest." All through his early life, every man has these driven into him by practical example and experience, as well as by direct teaching, till it is impossible to eradicate from his mind the idea that "self," the lower, personal, animal self is the end-all, and be-all, of life. Here you get the great source of all the after-misery, crime, and heartless selfishness, which you admit as much as I do. Selfishness, as said over and over again, is the curse of humanity, and the prolific parent of all the evils and crimes in this life; and it is your schools which are the hotbeds of such selfishness. --Key to Theosophy, 1888, pp. 266-7.
THEOSOPHY AND EDUCATION--III
(Part 3 of a 3-part series)
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