Beyond Sustainable Economy: Aparigraha in School Education

Published: 25.07.2017

TSC Jaipur [1]

One of the major causes of poverty, suppression, inequality, terrorism, and inefficient and harmful behavior of individuals and groups in the society is lack of education. To those who can not read one can tell any story. They have no possibility to compare. If the things told to the illiterate would be honest and genuinely meant for their wellbeing, spiritual elevation and general awareness, the situation would be better than it is. But regrettably hosts of corrupt officials and tradesmen serve themselves by telling lies to the ignorant, so that they remain not only ignorant, but also are deceived and cheated. But even if the more educated would serve the benefit of the uneducated, they would still be deprived of all information that is not directly given to them by mouth, and they are deprived of every decent function in society as well as the possibility to intellectual development and access to philosophical and spiritual ideas. How many potentially great professors, doctors, functionaries, teachers, technicians, leaders and other great people are missed by the society and the global community because society did not give them the opportunity to self-development by withholding basic education? What does it mean for people to yearn for knowledge, understanding and development, but to find every door closed because they can not read the information?!

Another educational activity is to teach people to eat healthy, live healthy (perhaps with the help of exercise, yoga, meditation etc.), practice cleanliness and basic health care.

Selfish competition within the education should be abandoned. At present even the smallest children get marks at school (and therewith praise, presents and more pocket money) and can compare themselves with others, which leads to greed, judgment of others, haughtiness, fear and psychological suffering even up to suicidal frustration. It prepares children for a society where everyone fights for oneself, if necessary at the cost of others.

Instead, school children should get a much more individual approach, and the educators should be taught to have an eye for each individual's needs. Children should be taught to share and to help each other, each according to his own inherent qualities. Of course a child can "fail" to be strong in a particular subject, but in that case he or she should receive extra attention, or helped to develop what is his potentially strong in his character and individuality. Stimulation is always better than punishment, except when a particular (probably exceptional) character is actually stimulated or strengthened by punishment, which should in any case be a just punishment. In the West quite a few experiments in this vein are already done. Apart from reading, writing, math and geography, sports etc. children should abide in an environment which is free of competition, verbal, psychological or physical violence, and where teachers are helpful and understanding.

The philosophy and practice of aparigraha could be a major addition to the present curricula. This should of course not be done by suppression the natural tendencies of children. Children want to and have to learn the skills they need later. This includes possessing some instruments like computers means of transportation and communication etc., but never for greed's sake only. Schools can forbid bringing gadgets and status articles just as today they forbid smoking and drinking. The best is to point out to children values that can not be grasped, such as awareness of nature, high quality art and music, awareness of each other's feelings and a giving and helping attitude. In a classroom the financially richer can be stimulated to share with those who have less as a matter of brotherly justice, not by exposing superiority. They can regard the things within a class as common property. Children can also be taught to be happy for others: for what others have, because it makes these others happy, and to be genuinely happy with the successes of others. Feeling happiness for another is at least as pleasant as feeling happy for oneself. At a particular day (not necessarily the same day for all, one child should make a gift to another one - one person by choice and another by lottery. Those who are more fortunate in their means, skills or intelligence will adopt the natural task of helping and stimulating the others - naturally - that is, by conviction, not by force. It is the general attitude of the society that lays the basis for change. Children of diverse ages can understand that competition is a harmful attitude to be avoided.

In economy lessons in the higher grades, aparigraha, sustainability, social justice and the influence of economy on the ecological environment can be taught and discussed on higher levels.

Nature gives, and we can take what is given. But exploiting nature can be taught as a sin one should never take refuge to. Picking a flower or disturbing a bird should be as reproachable as taking things from others or harming other people.

Sports can be sportive rather than competitive. Skills can be applied for the good of all in stead of building up the possessor's pride and distinction.

At the same time children should not become a 'moral elite', which will, later, perhaps by frustrating experiences, become vulnerable to the coarsenesses of the society in which they have to live. Then they become either haughty or withdrawn. Every child can be taught some general psychology, which includes the understanding of selfishness and greediness within people and within society, without disdain for those who have not yet been educated in these modern values.

The philosophy behind these ideas interferes in a positive way with the quality of the things that everyone must learn: reading, writing, calculation, language, math and all other things that belong to the generally accepted curricula. The basis of accomplishment is joy and enthusiasm, not fear, competition and high scores. 

It makes no difference whether we are talking about village schools or up-class city suburb schools. If such a system would be adopted by the government and educational institutions, it should be done all over the country, and among all social classes - otherwise new imbalances will be created - the opposite of what we strive for.

Suggested compulsory subjects in school curriculums:

  • Information and discussion of ethical values of different cultures (including non-Indian high cultures, such as the Chinese, Japanese, Native American, Greek, European and others.)
  • Giving each other attention and support or help
  • Friendliness towards people and other living beings as homework
  • The meaning and practice of aparigraha
  • Nature experience
  • Practice of compassion to people and other beings
  • Fine music and arts
  • Nonviolent conflict resolution
  • Learning to understand other's points of view
  • Basic knowledge about the essences of religions
  • Basic knowledge about lifestyles in various countries and regions, and the beauties of them.
  • Meditation or reflection on the well-being of all beings on earth and in the universe.

And others could be added.

Most important is that teachers understand inwardly where they stand for. By their example the should teach rather than by their intellect alone. They should have regular evaluation sessions - not about marks and problematic children, but about the success and perhaps failures of their efforts.

Last, but not always least, is that applying the above ideas cost nothing whatsoever - it might even be cheaper than conventional education. It is the quality that counts, not the size of the school swimming pool or sports' facilities.

There should be continuous pliability within the system and its practice - no fixed methods - always keeping in mind that education means guiding individual and respectable souls in the best possible way along their self-chosen path.

Footnotes
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Sources


Title: Beyond Sustainable Economy
Author: Dr. Rudi Jansma, Dr. Sushma Singhvi
Publisher: Prakrit Bharati Academy
Edition:
2016


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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Aparigraha
  2. Environment
  3. Fear
  4. Greed
  5. Jaipur
  6. Math
  7. Meditation
  8. Pride
  9. Sustainability
  10. Violence
  11. Yoga
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