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Education For Peace

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News reports on kinds of violence being afflicted on almost all communities seems to dominate our lives. Merciless attacks by terrorists, unforgivable acts of violence against women evokes emotions more violent emotions amongst us. But then the question is will violence help? We all know that it won’t. A violent suppression of some communities is the main cause of this violence. Had we been given our due attention as children were treated equally men would not have imagined treating us like objects? Had the developed and the powerful been more just and less greedy and exploitative, we could have avoided such destruction. But this discussion is pointless because past cannot be changed. We can work for a better future and since I am a teacher I will try to explore the role of education in bringing peace in this world. The following section is derived from Richard Sennett’s framework as given in his book ‘The Craftsman'(2008).

Can craft centred education help us create a more peaceful world? Craft entered education is experiential in nature. This experience results from manipulation of raw materials through intellectual Imagine ourselves crafting an object. We will begin our work through an exploration of the raw materials and imagining how well we can use them to create the desired object. Playful manipulation of the object will help us understand its nature and properties. Then based on the nature of the material we will try to discipline our body in order to prevent breakage of the material. David Horsborough in his book on his experiences of teaching in Neelbagh has described this in a beautiful way. He says that the material exerts its discipline on the child and informs the child when (s)he is not using it in the right way. In the process, we learn from our mistakes and make a mental note of each mistake. We learn to deal with failures and strive harder to reach our goal. This facilitates continuous reflection. We slow the speed of our thoughts and life to match the speed of process we are engaged in. When all the hard work and patience pays in the end, we look at our crafted object with love and delight. It acquires a special place in our life.

This process helps us see in other crafted object that we come across handwork, creativity and passion of another being. Thus we develop an eye for appreciation of another craftsperson’s work.

Can destruction take a back seat in such minds? Can we see this education help in creating a peaceful world?

A Magazine FOR the Children and BY the Children

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On 1st January 2015, I shared with you about my idea of encouraging reading and writing amongst rural children on Sunday morning workshops. There have been some exciting developments on this front. After writing this post, I thought that on the forum meant for discussing Gandhian philosophy it would be apt to bring out a magazine based on the principles of Nai Talim.
Nai Talim is a scheme of education proposed by Mahatma Gandhi in 1937. Mahatma Gandhi proposed crafts to be the medium of education, that is, through the practice of crafts students will learn disciplinary knowledge.
The three principles of Nai Talim are:
1. Self- awareness
2. Self-reliance
3. Self-discipline
All these principles are held together by experience and social responsibility. I thought a magazine would be the best idea to experiment the potential of Nai Talim. So, I floated the idea, of bringing out a magazine and the selling it in the village, in the workshop amongst children and other facilitators. Everyone accepted it enthusiastically.Their energy and enthusiasm made my day.

But with it began a difficult journey. Difficult because if it was to be done through Nai Talim then students will have to be trained in all skills related to publishing a magazine.
Besides reporting, children volunteered to take responsibility of different tasks. Our work began two weeks ago when students went to collect information about their village. A group of children suggested interviewing the village head and prepared a questionnaire for it.
Today was the third week and we managed to compile 15 entries in the form of information; interviews; opinions; cartoons; social messages; drawings etc. It was heartening to see this. However, I understand a lot of work is still left to do with only two more Sundays to go before the preparation of final copies.
Based on Gandhian principles, minimum machinery will be used and everything will be in-house, as a result it printing cost will be very less. As of now, we have taken a desktop with printer and scanner on loan for bringing out 200 copies. That will be the only expenditure incurred on the magazine. Everything else will be done by hand, including designing and preparing a blue-print.
All this work will be done by the children and for the children.
Lot of work needs to be done, and I am a bit anxious now.
Wish me Luck.

School and Society- John Dewey; Chapter 1- The school and social progress


 Dewey starts the chapter by making an assertion that the basis of judging a school depends on the progress that we see children making in physical ability to read, write and figure, knowledge, manners and habits and industry. But there is a need to enlarge this scale.

He says that schooling and education system need to evolve with the society, otherwise the changes in school would just be incremental or rather transitory. The most radical change that the society has seen in the past 50 years is industrialisation. It has changed the way production happens and also how nature is used efficiently and inexpensively. It has also resulted in the change in the domestic setting. Earlier most of the work of production happened within the household and provided for participation and learning opportunities alike. This built in children a kind of discipline and sense of obligation.

The schools need to be catering to this change in society. Though we see an inclusion of occupation and manual training in the schools, but the reasons and thus motivation for it according to Dewey is not well understood. Reasons like they engage the children, or make them helpful at home or better prepared for future in the sense of self sufficiency are not good enough reasons.

The question is that if the school is supposed to prepare the children for the future community life, then thats what it shpould be able to present. Domestic setting focused around work had community involvement in it. Even now if we see the classes of cooking or carpentry we see an evolution of community.

As dewey puts it, “The tragic weakness of the present school is that it endeavors to prepare future members of the social order in a medium in which the conditions of the social spirit are eminently wanting.”

This community life focussed towards productive work provides for the opportunity where children learn the discipline which is cooperative and supportive of production which is very different from the discipline that a classroom focused towards learning/ recitation requires and inculcates.

Dewey also emphasises that when the productive work is delinked from economy, it has the potential of becoming ‘active centre of scientific insight’. He takes the example of weaving and how it allows for various enquiries; historical, scientific and sociological.

Training in manual work brings meaning/ human significance to action, thus preparing human beings who will be more mindful and knowledgeable about what they are doing.

He ends the chapter by saying that a few centuries ago, learning was restricted to very limited number of people. But with industrialisation priniting became cheap and availability of books increased, similarly travelling and communication became cheaper so the interaction of ideas has been enabled. This has affected the high status that academics and intellectual life once enjoyed. But the schools are still aimed at preparing for the profession of learning. Only 1% people are really interested in intellectual life, most others have to do things and thus need to be prepared for this. Due to this disjunct their interest in schools and the number of years they want to give to schools is very limited.

A question that Dewey has sidestepped is to present details of what will be the nature of the discipline needed for the manual work classes?

An important difference that seems in his selection of work and reasons for inclusion from Gandhi seem to be in not attaching any economic value to it. As a result any occupation can be introduced in the school and need not be relevant in the contemporary times.



School and society

Dear Friends,

We will use this forum, to discuss issues, books,news, experiences and much more. To start this journey of learning together. We decided to start with discussing a bookImage by John Dewey, School and Society