By: Swami Kriyananda
One of the greatest predicaments we face in our modern society is the education that we give our young. Should we cram our children’s heads with facts, or educate them for success as human beings?
We teach children how to solve problems in mathematics, but give them nothing to help them solve the problems they face in their personal lives. We flood them with a tide of facts, then tell them, as we send them out the door with their diplomas, “It’s up to you to figure out what it all means.”
The modern age is addicted to factual information. By “addiction” I mean that the fascination has reached abnormal proportions. It is necessary for us, now, to emphasise that facts by themselves cannot bestow wisdom. A blizzard of unsifted information offers no sense of direction, nor any knowledge of where one might go to find inner peace, poise, and a sense of life’s deeper meaning and joyous possibilities.
We forget that the discovery of some new fact concerning a galaxy millions of light years away has very little actual bearing on our lives here on earth. Knowledge, on the other hand, of how to get along with others, and how to be happy, has a great deal of relevance.
Spiritual and moral laws, like the laws of physics, never change. The excitement of scientific discovery has captured our imagination, but the laws that rule human conduct remain unalterable. It is the particular genius of ancient philosopher-scientists that they expressed these laws in their clearest, most practical form.
It is time to approach science from a fresh point of view. Paramhansa Yogananda offered an amazingly simple answer to modern scientists who claim that all life exists only as an outgrowth of inanimate matter. Yogananda replied, “Matter, too, is conscious, however dimly so.”
Yogananda also suggested that the effect of moral values on human nature needs to be tested, as if in the laboratory, by observing their actual effects on people. He suggested that spiritual communities are ideal places for conducting such observation. We have discovered that “children who learn to love, love to learn.”
Teachers and parents may complain that if we spend too much time teaching children these personal skills, they will be left behind in the race to acquire the information that will fit them to compete in the job market after they leave school. But this is false reasoning.
Children who learn to concentrate, to increase their awareness, and to channel negative emotions into constructive outlets are able to handle all the factual information they’re taught in school far more effectively.
There is another important dimension that needs to be introduced into schools. Children are made to study the composition of the atom. The most important question of all, however, is: “How can one find happiness?” Schools, Yogananda said, should above all be treated as laboratories for solving this most basic of human questions.
Primarily, what is needed is a system of education that will prepare children for meeting life’s challenges, and not only fit them for employment or for intellectual pursuits. And we need to see the whole of life, beyond the years spent in school, as education.
For if indeed, as most people deeply believe, life does have an ultimate purpose and meaning, then its goal must be to educate us ever more fully to that meaning. And the true goal of school must be to help prepare us for that lifelong learning process.
Discourse by Swamiji, “Opening to God’s Grace” on Nov 17 November, Bhaidas Hall, Vile Parle, 4:30 pm. All are welcome. 9820322313 / 9819015539, firstname.lastname@example.org