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Chapter 45 - A teacher is deeply involved with the flowering of human beings
We seem to think that education stops when we leave school or college. We seem not to treat the whole of human existence as a process of self-education that is constant and perhaps never-ending. Most of us limit education to a very short period, and for the rest of our lives carry on in rather a muddle, learning only a few things that are absolutely necessary, falling into a routine-and of course there is always death waiting. This is our life really: marriage, children, work, passing pleasures, pain and death. If this is our whole life, which apparently it is, then what really is the meaning of education?
We never ask these fundamental questions; probably they are too disturbing. But as we are teachers in colleges and schools, we must ask what the purpose of education and learning is. We know it is to prepare us for some sort of job and responsibilities, but apart from that preparation, what do we mean by teaching and what is the teacher? As it is generally understood, a teacher, having studied certain subjects, informs the student about them. Does this constitute being a teacher, just passing on knowledge? We are inquiring into the nature of the teacher and the taught. Who is a teacher? What are the implications of teaching apart from following the curricula? very few people are dedicated teachers. They are dedicated to helping the students in their studies, but surely a teacher has far greater significance than that.
Knowledge must inevitably be superficial. It is the cultivation of memory and employing that memory efficiently, and so on. Since knowledge is always limited, is it the function of the teacher to help the student to live all his life only within the limitations of knowledge? We must first realize that knowledge is always limited, as are all experiences. This employment of knowledge with its limitations can be very destructive. It is destructive in human relationships. In relationships, knowledge, which is the accumulation of various incidents, experiences, reactions, cultivates the image of the other person and obscures the reality of that person and of the relationship. When there is continuity, a tradition put together by knowledge and handed down from generation to generation, then the past, which is the accumulation of knowledge, obscures the actual living present. When knowledge becomes routine, mechanical, it makes the brain limited, rigid and insensitive. When knowledge is used for the support of nationalism through wars, then it becomes bestial, appallingly cruel and utterly immoral. Knowledge is not beauty, but knowledge is necessary to bore a well. The whole technological world is based on knowledge, and that world is taking over our lives. If we allow knowledge to be the sole authority, and hope through knowledge to ascend, then we are living in a fatal illusion. We are saying that knowledge has its place in everyday life, but when knowledge is the only substance of our life, then our life must be confined to mechanical activity.
Is the communication of knowledge the only function of the teacher: passing on information, ideas, theories and expanding on these theories in discussing various aspects of them? Is this the only function of a teacher? If this is all a teacher is concerned with, then he is merely a living computer. But surely a teacher has far greater responsibility than this. He must be concerned with behaviour, with the complexity of human action, with a way of life that is the flowering of goodness. Surely he must be concerned with the future of his students and what the future is for these students. What is the future of man? What is the future of our consciousness which is so confused, disturbed, messy, in conflict? Must we perpetually live in conflict, sorrow and pain? When the teacher is not in communication with the student about all these matters, then he is merely a living, clever machine perpetuating other machines.
So we are asking a very fundamental question: what is a teacher? It is the greatest profession in the world, though the least respected, for if he is deeply and seriously concerned the teacher is bringing about the unconditioning of the human brain; not only his own brain but the brains of the students. He is conditioned and the student is conditioned. Whether he admits it or not, this is a fact, and in relationship with the student he is helping both the student and himself to free consciousness from limitation.
A relationship is a process of learning. A relationship is not a static affair but a living movement. So it is never the same; what it was yesterday it is not today. When yesterday dominates in relationship, then relationship is what it was, not a living thing. Love is not what it was. When the relationship between the teacher and the student has this element of companionship, of mutual unconditioning and humility, sensitivity and affection are natural.
A teacher might say all this is impossible when school authorities demand that there be fifty students in a class and every kind of idiocy. Then what is a teacher to do? Obviously, in that situation he cannot do anything, but we are talking about schools where this does not take place, where the teacher can establish this relationship. And there he is deeply involved with the flowering of human beings.