Mankind lived almost 99.9% of its million years of existence on earth without reading or writing, except perhaps for a few thousand years during its last leg of history today. Nature, did not attach or leave behind any how-to-live manual with him, whereas every machine carries along with it a how-to-operate manual for the making of which modern man, as an integral part of the highly mechanized modern society, requires reading and writing. Thus, being typically a mechanical process, writing or reading is not human but machinery. Therefore man, as a human being, doesn’t require reading and writing but, as a machine being, he requires reading and writing.
It is now generally agreed that, in becoming modern, man discovered the world, but lost himself. What does it mean for man to have lost himself? It means that man, in his specific difference as man, has disappeared from view. He has been lost.
The specific difference of man is that man, although an animal, is distinguished from other animals by his capacity to know. It is man as knower who has been lost. This might seem a paradoxical statement at least, since the glory of modern man is the modern scientific method, which provides him knowledge undreamt of by the ancients, knowledge that modern man feels gives him a decisive advantage over the ancients. But modern scientific knowledge is a peculiar thing. It is knowledge that can exist without a knower.
Knowledge is thus mechanically produced and developed in ‘factories’ (schools, colleges etc), in the name of charities then competitions then institutions of awards etc, and kept outside the knower, that is, in books, volumes, experts and in digital systems. The colonial empires used this mechanical knowledge to create system servants and other staff. Today the global corporate force use it, apart from manufacturing market products and their service providers, workers and staff, as their exclusive commodity by monopolizing and patenting it to sell it, say for example, as expertise, IPR etc.
The ancients spoke of poets, artisans, geometers and philosophers, all of whom are men. The modern man speaks of art, philosophy, math and science, which are not men but abstractions. The student in ancient Athens traveled to Plato’s Academy to become a philosopher. The modern college student goes to school to study philosophy, which is not quite the same thing as becoming a philosopher. Here abstract reality is pitted against the steadily obscuring natural reality resulting in the failure of natural reality. We moderns see no necessary relationship between philosophy and the philosopher, math and the mathematician, science and the scientist. In general, for modern man there is a gap between knowledge and the knower, and into this gap man has disappeared.
The typical modern human mindset is the most dangerous creation which is formed by a combination of bad social programming, mass indoctrination and faulty education, and it is all poised to destroy man himself. He seems to be trapped inside a mental “box” of perceived limitation set by modern culture. When John F. Kennedy said that ‘a child who has not received proper education is a child lost’, he may not have meant the whole modern education system is doling out improper education but only that certain aspects of it or certain method of its practices is wrong. But when we look at the present state of human affairs, which is nothing other than the total outcome of modern education system, the Kennedy statement seems right in summation: Mankind improperly educated is mankind lost. Man lost himself in modern society because he has not been properly educated in modern age.
How has this come about? Is it because modern education system is basically anti-human? My long experience has proved that modern education system is not only anti-human but is all poised to abruptly and prematurely end his millions years old wonderful story on this beautiful planet.
Let me explain it. Becoming an ‘expert’ seems to be the end of the road of progress in one’s life. Millions of people the world over today have been persuaded by a kind of rhetoric that the purpose of education is to prepare our children to score well on standardized tests so that we can have more well-trained workers. As the standards movement gets stronger, we convince ourselves that being a useful employee is the key to a happy and successful life. Rather than nurturing a sense of wonder and a passion for life, our schools are increasingly devoted to standardizing knowledge into lists of data, telling students what is appropriate for them to know and think, and then ‘scientifically’ measuring how well they paraphrase this data on assessment tests.
We seek to educate servants. The new rallying cries are “Raising Standards” and “No Child Left Behind,” which we all know are just euphemisms for job training. And our complacent acceptance of cultural directives that tell us what to think and feel has opened the way for the mass degradation of modern children by subjecting them to ‘scientific measurements’, as if they were soulless mechanical devices that needed to be periodically repaired and upgraded, thereby making them fool enough and cheap enough to become ‘experts’. The system is breaking our kids down; it is an unnatural system and when our children resist or express immense feelings of unhappiness, they are labelled with mental disorders. The system teaches us next to nothing about conscious awareness, so these feelings become the norm as they grow up.
What have been the consequences of this suicidal modern training practice for mankind, on the whole?
Its disastrous consequences have been all encompassing on human life on a catastrophic level. It begins by starting to remove man from everyone of his inborn root in the organic world, thereby losing almost all his human aspects, especially the VALUES which used to keep man what actually he was for millions of years. Only man is sensitive to things that are human, that is, things that we have come to identify as ‘values’. A machine is insensitive to such things and it is sensitive or responding to only things that are mechanical or artificial. That is, modern (mechanical) man is sensitive or readily responding to the man-made laws, equations and other mechanical social systems. And a mechanical man always tends to get adapted to such mechanized social systems in society. Today, what we see as the problems of education are the problems that humans face in this mechanical adaptation process while transforming themselves from humans to machines for the first time in the millions of years long evolutionary process.
For example, study stress begins for parents when the child reaches school admission age. Worry to get child admitted to good schools is the biggest concern for parents. Situation sometimes is too tensed when even parents face interviews in the schools now-a-days. Modern and good schools do not like to work hard to uplift students rather they expect students they teach should be intelligent. They pass their responsibility to the parents. Therefore, tense parents work hard to update their children for interviews and the stressed situation lasts until the child gets admission in school.
Parents’ concern about child’s future forces them to put pressure on children. Real pressure builds up on the child when he reaches the secondary education age. The study pressure messes up child’s free movement and recreation. Homework sparks off mental depression. Child has to attend school. He often has to bring a lot of homework. Most of the time, the child is involved in school and homework, and skips other essential activities equally important as school education. The clear indication of failure of education system is that children are loaded purposeless excessive of studies. Here the industrial-type education today is all about mass-producing clones. With the high level of competition children lose their originality altogether.
Educational boards have unnecessarily burdened and pressurized children and schools. Modern education system does not help the child to develop personality and own creativity. Even parents contribute their share to study stress. Their expectations are too high from their children, they expect high rather the highest performance from their children so one can claim the performance of children to neighbors and relations to seek impressive attention or avoid school notices. Parents pressurize children to show performance. Children find themselves crushed between parents and modern education systems and suffer depression to live stressful childhood developing abnormal behaviors like sleepless nights, irritation, lies, and so on.
Many humans have come to compare modern schools to virtual prisons. Suppose, if a rogue cop came and took your child to prison for no reason whatsoever, except for saying it would be for your child’s “own good,” would you not fight to the death to stop him? So why do you let school authorities take your innocent children and punish them for ten years?
What are prisons? They are places where people are locked up against their will for crimes they have committed.
What is life like for a prisoner? The warden and prison guards, in effect, take away the prisoner’s life and freedom. They force a prisoner to live in a small cell he doesn’t want to live in, eat food he may hate, work at a job he detests, associate with other prisoners who may be dangerous, and remove him from everyone and everything he loved in the outside world when he was free.
Like prisons, schools impose their will by force, by compulsion. Local governments force parents to send their children to schools just as the police drag convicted criminals into prison (even though many parents are not aware of this and voluntarily send their kids to these schools). A parent can be convicted of alleged child abuse and sent to prison if she disobeys the school authority’s order to send her child to the local school. In several western countries, governments there force parents to pay school taxes for these education prisons. If they don’t pay these taxes, their local government will foreclose on their homes and throw them out on the street.
School authorities force children to stay in school until they are 16 years old or graduate high school (these age limits vary by state). In effect, most children get a 10-year education prison sentence if they start school at age six.
All over the world, school authorities force hundreds of millions of children to sit in boxes called classrooms with 30 to 40 other children-inmates for six to eight hours a day, five days a week, for up to ten years. The children must obey the adult education wardens (teachers and principals), who they may fear or dislike. They must study subjects they may hate or that bore them to death. They must associate only with other children their same age who may be bullies, violent, or emotionally disturbed. They must do homework and study for tests they must pass or be left back in school.
The children are removed from their loving parents and put under the control of teacher-wardens who may not love them, care for them, or simply even have the time to pay attention to them. They are stopped from being free-spirited. They are told to keep quiet. They are told to obey the rules. They are told to march from classroom cell to classroom cell every 50 minutes to study different subjects that may mean nothing to them.
We seem to punish the next generation although they have not committed any crime. Today, certain perceptions persist among the public, particularly in the West, that school violence is a growing problem. In the last decade, the punitive and overzealous tools and approaches of the modern criminal justice system have seeped into our schools, serving to remove children from mainstream educational environments and funnel them onto a one-way path toward prison.
In response to sometimes irrational fears of school violence, school administrators have developed a variety of over-zealous discipline policies—including mandatory “zero tolerance” policies—that remove students deemed to be “problem children” from their schools. The reliance on disciplinary methods that remove students from school has reached alarming levels. Throughout the United States in 2000, there were over three million school suspensions and over 97,000 expulsions. In some states there, the number of suspensions exceeded 10% of the number of students enrolled in school in those states. This kind of wholesale exclusion from the educational process does nothing to teach children positive behavior. Although concerns about school violence are used to justify these policies, many suspensions, expulsions and even arrests are for minor conduct that is typical, adolescent behavior.
Well, we cannot blame the parents or the modern education system, much less the children, for this dismal state of schooling system in modern society. Our thoughts and hence our actions are constrained by the socio-cultural systems in which we are nurtured, socialized, educated and indoctrinated. In the highly mechanized social system we have today, we seem to have few other choices left. But the question is: how have we arrived at this sordid state?
My purpose here is not the scrutiny of the modern education system. Here, I was just sharing the general concern of the public, particularly the people of the developed nations, about the modern education system. My purpose here is to go deep into this crucial question and question the very EDUCATION itself.
Prior to modern history, mankind, for millions of years, lived their life without education or schooling. Of course, there were a few schools and studies in the past, but that was largely confined to the children of the few ruling class and the subjects centered over royal politics at the centers of certain past civilizations and their number was so microscopic that it cannot be considered as the practice of the general mankind in the past.
In primitive cultures, education often involves little formal education and perhaps no schools as such. Education or schooling, as such, is more or less a modern history practice, particularly and largely a Western and Christian practice. As the modern learning system began to develop in the West and started to demonstrate its effect during the 18th century, the famous French philosopher, Rousseau, sounded a caution of alarm and panic. He wrote: “It was even a saying among the philosophers themselves that since learned men had appeared, honest men were nowhere to be found. Consider the frightful disorders which printing has produced in Europe. Wherever science arises, the moral health of the nation decays. I venture to declare that a state of reflection is contrary to nature; and that a thinking man is a depraved animal. It would be better to abandon our over rapid development of the intellect, and to aim rather at training the heart and the affections. Education does not make a man good; it only makes him clever–usually for mischief. Instinct and feeling are more trustworthy than reason.”
What is education? “Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten”, wrote B. F. Skinner. Thus knowledge acquired is an organic whole, a self-ordering process. Awareness of human values results in heightened intuition of social intelligence which is necessary for effective adaptation to the complexities of changing social conditions i.e. ‘adaptability’. Human values are the universal moral values required for survival of the species as a social species. Human adaptability depends on preservation of the integrated functioning of the personality as a whole… the basis for personal power or ‘self-empowerment’. Self-empowerment is a function of the integrity of moral consciousness or ‘conscience’ (moral values of humanness) of spiritual growth as development of conscience and involves the attainment of knowledge of one’s true nature or ‘higher self’, ‘self-knowledge’ as the source of personal power required for adaptability… i.e. transformation or ‘enlightenment’ of ‘spiritual emergence’.
The prevailing view of the ancient Greeks, certainly from the time of Socrates on, was that we do have immortal souls. So their education aimed at the care and nurturing of the soul, as being more important than the body. Since the fate of one’s immortal soul hinged on its goodness, then the pursuit of goodness became the principal occupation for the ancient Greeks. Goodness for them consisted of the virtues or habits of good action and thought, in proper order and harmony, leading to wisdom. So to pursue wisdom, and goodness, was to be on one and the same path. But what is the best way of advancing on this path? Socrates, beyond all of his philosophical dialogues, felt that one thing in particular was most important: “I thought that, because I loved him, my company could make him a better man,” [Socratic Aeschines fr. II c, p. 273 Dittmar]. This was the Socratic approach to education in its core: education through love.
What then is modern education? It is just the opposite of truthful learning. Modern education is simply a pure mechanical process: one’s ability to remember—no, not at all forgetting– as much as one study or learn. Modern, progressive education, in either denying or ignoring the soul is left with nothing else but the body – the brain, to educate with competitive spirit. The brain thus conceived as a sort of computer that moves about, rather than goodness or wisdom the goal of human education becomes knowledge in the sense of data storage and retrieval (in the better of the modern schools), and mere political indoctrination in most. Love is irrelevant in such an environment. And that is why modern learning has become a lifelong process. One has to undergo periodic training and other refresher courses to make him as perfectly remembering and repeating as a machine. And that is how machine—computers—having come to outperform humans in hundreds of times better in modern mechanical life. And that is why mankind is fast turning as ‘machine kind, is speedily reaching the stage of obsolesce—as human– in modern society.
Over-remembering is neither natural nor manly but meanly and mechanical (artificial); Over-remembering actually helps only to resurrect the past and the dead. In live forms, dead ideas decay and new ideas are born. This is the law of nature. Life cycle goes on smoothly unhindered, in which if the past does not decay, the cyclic process is disturbed and broken as is the case today with all the non-cyclic synthetic life process that goes on today.
Man forgets; machine remembers. Man lives; machine writes. Dependency on history—past events and ideas–ends up as the right to manipulate information. Science thus ends up as the history of machination, manipulation that literally is the story of modern (mechanical) man. Thus history became “the science of man.” It is only the “memory” in human brains which causes us to enquire “reasons” for everything. Actually every moment is independent to itself. It is our memory which links one moment to the previous moment or to the next moment. This is the cause of thoughts and thinking. No memory and we are free of thoughts.
“To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember” Confucius wrote in 5th century BC. Man of the jungle was happier, for he had no techniques to remember, and he lived for millions of years. “Happiness? That is nothing more than health and poor memory.” observed Albert Schweitzer. We usually say that the great-heartedness and great minds always forget and forgive. But the narrow minded, the soulless mechanical minds never do that.
Writing is the art of civilization. In the beginning, only priests and merchants patronized writing and languages. However, very many cultures with a rich language and a traditional mythology have no written language. It is possible to construct a written language for such people and to provide them with books. This was first done by Christian missionaries — it was the Christians who, like the Brahmins in ancient India, preserved the oral and written word for posterity.
Writing has its early association with temples, which, with their priests, were of the greatest importance in the early centuries of Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilization and the whole of the eastern culture. The priests formed permanent colleges or corporations, accumulating power and property, and engaged in much economic enterprise. They organized schools, which were provided with scripts and copybooks. At first confined to the servants of the temple, the art of writing soon spread outside the temple walls; and when the monopoly on writing disappeared, the reins of temporal power began to pass from priestly hands.
A civilization is like any other living species having its own cycles of life: it has a childhood, where it struggles to learn; an adolescence where it discovers – sometimes painfully – the hard facts of life; an adulthood, where it enjoys the fruits of maturity; and an old age, which slowly leads to death and oblivion. In this manner, since the dawn of human history, civilizations have risen, reached the top where they gravitate for some time, achieving their enduring excellence -and then slowly began their descent towards extinction. Usually, old age for these civilizations meant that they had fallen prey to barbarians, because they had lost the vitality and the inner obedience to their particular genius, which they had possessed at the time of their peak and which had protected them. This has been a natural process and barbarians have played an important role in the evolution of humanity, for they made sure, in the most ruthless manner, that civilizations did not stagnate; because like a human being, a civilization must die many times before it realizes the fullness of its soul and attains divine perfection.
There have been many such great civilizations which rose and fell throughout the ages: Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Africa, China, Greece, or Rome. Human nature being what it is, most of these civilizations established their might by military conquest and thus imposed their order and their views upon others, a process which some have called civilization, others colonization. Modern education, as the politics of royal education and as the engine of modern civilization, was only just that part of modern civilization. “The Western education which we have chanced to know is impersonal. … develops an unnatural craving for success; and our students have fallen victims”, wrote the great Indian poet and Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. Today, students not only in India but also in the whole world have fallen victims to it, thus leading the whole world up the garden path. Many prominent educators have voiced their alarm at this dismal state of educational affairs and have recognized its evils and dangers—yet confess their utter helplessness to break the drift or change the direction.
Even though there is so much negativity propaganda in homeschooling almost everywhere, where education has become a highly commercialized industrial sector, I think homeschooling is the only alternative. Parents are the best teachers: they have always been, since millions of years, and for millions of other species in nature.
Note: Through the question as to how we lost our ancient wisdom and primal consciousness, I have been trying to find answer to this question in my article THINKING ON A CLEAN SLATE, which I wrote as PREFACE TO THE HUMAN STORY in my books Life On Meltdown, and the latest Booklet:
Note: This essay has been taken from the book, LIFE ON MELTDOWN