What is the responsibility of a parent? Perhaps it might be of interest to discuss that, even though there are very few parents here. Why do we, as parents, want to educate our children at all? It is generally understood that parents desire their children to be educated to fit into society, to adjust themselves and adapt their thoughts to society, which really means helping them to prepare for a profession of some kind so that they can earn a livelihood. They want their children to be educated to pass examinations, to take a degree at some university, and then to have a fairly good job, a secure position in society. That is all most parents are concerned with. To put their children through college they pay so much money, easily if they are wealthy, with great difficulty if they are not; and to them, education is a matter of adding a few letters after the student's name, which they hope will make him a so-called good citizen, a respectable member of society. What parents are primarily interested in, especially in a country like this where there is overpopulation and a heavy burden of tradition, is to help the student have a job so that he won't starve. I am not criticizing, but merely stating a fact. Here, fortunately, the problem of war is not imminent, whereas in Europe and America conscription in various forms has been introduced and the boys have to go through the military system; they are trained in a particular military unit to fight, to destroy, and are released only after three or four years to enter a civilian occupation and carry on their life. In India this is not insisted upon.
So, what is the responsibility of parents? Does their responsibility end the moment the boy or the girl has taken a degree and is married off? What do we mean by responsibility? To what are we responsible? Is it our responsibility to see that the young people fit into a particular society irrespective of whether that society is good or bad, revolutionary or corrupt? Is it our responsibility to make the boy or the girl conform, regardless of what he or she wants to do and is capable of? Is that what we mean by responsibility?
Question: Whether he lives in America, in Russia, or in India, a parent who really loves his child will be deeply concerned to insure that he has an ingrained sense of social obligation which will be natural to him and which, as he grows up, he will express in a certain way according to his capacities.
Krishnamurti: The parent spends so much money on the education of his child, which means putting him through the university and all that. Such education may enable the student to fit into society, but will it help him to be creative?
Questioner: The parent will judge education on the basis of whether or not it makes his child an asset from the social point of view.
Krishnamurti: That brings up the complex question of what is the cultural or social background of the parent and the educator, does it not? It means, really, investigating to find out what society is, and whether education is merely a matter of conditioning the child to serve society according to the established pattern. On the other hand, when he grows up and leaves the university, should the student be in opposition to society? Or should he be capable of creating a new kind of society altogether? As parents, what is it that we want?
Questioner: There is one thing we don't want: that a young man who has had a good education in an expensive school should just demand comforts from society. Such people give nothing in return, and they are impoverishing the country.
Krishnamurti: That is, how can education help the student, from childhood right through adolescence to maturity, not to be antisocial? Now, what do we mean by being antisocial? If a boy is educated not to be antisocial in Russia, it means conditioning him to fit into the Communist society. Here, when we talk of educating him not to be antisocial, we also mean conditioning him not to break out of the established pattern. As long as he conforms and stays within the pattern of a particular society, we call him a social asset, but the moment he breaks away from the pattern we say he is antisocial.
So, is it the function of education merely to mould the student to fit into a particular society? Or should education help him to understand what society is, with its corrupting, destructive, disintegrating factors, so that he comprehends the whole process and steps out of it? The stepping out of it is not antisocial. On the contrary, not to conform to any given society is true social action.
Questioner: If education makes the student so self-centred that when he leaves college he has a complete disregard of poverty and no feeling for the poor, then surely that education is wrong, and a thoughtful parent will be concerned to see that such a thing does not happen.
Krishnamurti: Then how can education help the student not to become mediocre, not to fall into the mediocrity of the rich, of the poor, or of the middle class? What kind of education should there be in order to break up the mediocrity of the mind, if we can put it that way? Not to be mediocre, surely, the boy must be able to do things with his hands as well as with his mind, he must not say, `This is good', `That is bad', he must be neither Brahmanical nor anti-Brahmanical, neither pro-this nor contra-that - which means, really, that there must be an environment in which the student is stimulated all around and not merely on the intellectual side.
Questioner: As a father, what can I do at home to prevent mediocrity in the child?
Krishnamurti: If the father is mediocre, that is, if his tastes are conventional, if he is traditional in his outlook, if he is afraid of his neighbours, of his wife, of losing his position, then how can he help to prevent mediocrity in the child?
Questioner: Granting that the parent is mediocre, how is he to approach the problem of his relationship with his child?
Krishnamurti: Education, surely, is the understanding of the relationship between oneself and the child, between oneself and society. The understanding of relationship is education. But is it possible to understand relationship if the mind has a fixed point?
Questioner: What do you mean by having a fixed point?
Krishnamurti: Having a belief in something, a religious opinion, a dogmatic conclusion, a narrow attitude to life. And will such a parent be able to understand the relationship between himself and his neighbour or his child? Obviously not, because he starts from a fixed opinion, his thought is already formed. After all, relationship is a living thing, whether it be one's relationship with people, with property, or with ideas, and if one starts with a preformed attitude towards people, property, or ideas, then there is no understanding of relationship.
Now, what is our relationship with people? If I am a parent, what is my relationship with my child? First of all, have I any relationship at all? The child happens to be my son or my daughter; but is there actually any relationship, any contact, companionship, communion between myself and my child, or am I too busy earning money, or whatever it is, and therefore pack him off to school? So I really have no contact or communion at all with the boy or the girl, have I? If I am a busy parent, as parents generally are, and I merely want my son to be something, a lawyer, a doctor, or an engineer, have I any relationship with him even though I have produced him?
Questioner: I feel I ought to have a relationship with my child, and I am hoping to establish one on which he can depend. How am I to proceed?
Krishnamurti: We are discussing the relationship of the parent with his child, and we are asking ourselves if there is any relationship at all, though we say there is. What is that relationship? You have produced the child and you want him to pass through college, but have you actually any other relationship with him? The very rich man has his amusements, his worries, and he has no time for the child, so he sees him occasionally, and when the child is eight or ten years old, he packs him off to school, and that is the end of it. The middle class are also much too busy to have any relationship with the child, they have to go to the office every day, and the poor man's relationship with the child is work, for the child must also work.
So, let us establish what the word `relationship' means in our life. What is the relationship between myself and society? After all, society is relationship, is it not? And if I really had a feeling of deep love for my child, that very love would create quite a revolution, because I would not want my child to fit into society and have all his initiative destroyed, I would not want him to be weighed down by tradition, by fear and corruption, bowing to the highly-placed and kicking the lowly. I would see to it that this decaying society ceased to exist, that wars and every form of violence came to an end. Surely, if we love our children, it means that we must find a way of educating them so that they do not merely fit into society.
Questioner: How best can we equip the child to meet the present society?
Krishnamurti: We know what society is, with its corruption and all the rest of it. Is it the function of education to help the child to fit into any particular society, whether Communist, Socialist, or Capitalist? When he does fit into society, he is in constant rebellion there, is he not? Are we not at each other's throats in society, actually or psychologically?
Questioner: How can we help the child not merely to rebel within society, but to break away from this society altogether?
Krishnamurti: That is just the point. Do you as a parent want your child to rebel in the deepest sense of that word? Do you want to help him to free himself from this society and create, not a society which is Communistic, this or that, but an altogether different kind of society, a new culture?
Questioner: We can help him with our limitations.
Krishnamurti: Then we shall limit the child also. Is it possible to educate the child not to conform to your limitations or my limitations, but to understand himself and create his own society? Is it possible for us all, both inside and outside the school, to help the student to bring about an atmosphere of freedom in which there is no fear, so that he understands the whole social structure and says, `This is not a true society, I shall step out of it and help to build a society which is totally new'? Otherwise he merely falls in line.
So, what is the function of education? Is it not to help the student to understand his own compulsions, motives, urges, which create the pattern of a destructive society? Is it not to help him to understand and break through his own conditionings, his own limitations?
Questioner: I think it is first necessary for the child to understand the society in which he is, otherwise he cannot break away from it.
Krishnamurti: He is part of society, he is in contact with it every day and sees its corruption. Now, how are you going to help him, through education, to understand the implications of this society and be free of it, so that he can create a different kind of social order?
Questioner: A common child inevitably conforms to the pattern of society.
Krishnamurti: There is no such thing as a common child, but there may be a common teacher who is scared stiff. That is why the educator needs educating. He also must change and not merely conform to society.
Questioner: Since we have our own limitations, should we impose them on the child?
Questioner: It is not imposition, it is helplessness.
Krishnamurti: So, being aware of our limitations and our helplessness, how shall we bring about the right kind of education?
Questioner: We want to hear that from you, that is why we are here.
Krishnamurti: Unless the educator himself is educated, it is not possible to help the student to break down his limitations, is it? The education of the educator is the one essential factor. Now, is the educator willing to educate himself? That means, really, is he willing to understand his own status, to be aware of his limitations and break through them as much as he can, thereby helping the boy or the girl to break through?
Questioner: One can try.
Krishnamurti: If the educator himself does not see the necessity of breaking down his own limitations as much as he can, he will obviously impose those limitations on the child.
Questioner: He sees the necessity of breaking down his own limitations, but however much he may try, he is still limited.
Krishnamurti: So what do we propose to do? Are we prepared as grownup men and women, so-called mature human beings, to understand our limitations and break them down? Otherwise, through our influence, we are bound to impose these limitations on the children. First of all, as parents and educators, are we aware of our limitations?
Questioner: I am aware that the limitations are there, but I don't know how to get out of them.
Krishnamurti: Do we know what the word `limitation' implies? Is it a limitation to call ourselves Hindus?
Questioner: That cannot be a limitation.
Krishnamurti: But it is, because it divides people. Are we prepared to break through all that and cease to be Hindus or Moslems?
Questioner: I think one is prepared to go that far.
Krishnamurti: If the teachers, the educators are prepared to do that, then the implications are tremendous. After all, when you call yourself a Hindu, what does it mean? There is not only the geographical division, but also the division that is created by belief in certain forms of religion, in certain traditions, in a certain kind of social order. Are we as educators prepared to drop these beliefs, which means going against the present society? Are we prepared to go that far? Unless the educator dedicates himself to education, and particularly if he has daughters to be married off, as he generally has, he will merely conform. Should not the educator dedicate himself to education in the right sense of the word? And will the parent help the teacher to dedicate himself to right education?
I think most people throughout the world recognize that the present system of education has failed, because it has produced wars, moral decay, and all the rest of it; and also, except among a very few people, all creative thinking has ceased. So, what is the right kind of education, and how are we to bring it about? It obviously cannot be brought about through somebody saying, `This is right education', and all of us merely agreeing and following the pattern, but rather the teacher and the parent, the whole lot of us, must sit down together and find out what right education is, which means that the parent and the teacher have to be educated as well as the student.
It seems to me that right education is to help the student to be free, because it is only in freedom that one can be creative. Freedom implies, not courage, but having no fear, which is entirely different. To have no fear is a state in which there is no conformity, no imitation, and therefore no following of any authority. All that is implied in freedom? To find out what it means to have no authority in education, one has to go into the implications of it. Having no authority does not mean that the boy does exactly what he likes; but the moment the boy knows there is authority, he is afraid, therefore we have already introduced the initiative process.
Now, are we as parents prepared to relinquish our authority so that the boy is really free, not just to pursue superficial distractions, but free to find out what is true, to question all tradition, to question the very authority of the parents? If we really mean that the boy should be free, all that must follow.
Questioner: Unless we are free we cannot give freedom to the child.
Krishnamurti: That means you will have to wait for centuries. Is what you say an actual fact, or merely a speculative idea? All initiative and creative thinking are obviously destroyed if there is no freedom for the child - which does not mean allowing the boy to do whatever he likes. But is the parent willing to let go of his authority, with all its implications, so that the child finds out what is true? Are the parents willing to educate themselves to that extent?
You see, the parent must feel the necessity of this as strongly as he feels the necessity of his next meal. Freedom implies self-knowledge. To understand oneself is the first step towards freedom. And are we prepared to say, `I want to understand myself so that the child will understand himself and create a new society'? Or are we only concerned with helping the child to conform? Will the parents help to create an educational centre where there is no fear? Superficially that means no examinations, because examinations do bring about a state of fear, a sense of competition. Are the parents prepared to create an educational centre where the boy is not taught to surpass some other boy, where the students are not given marks and divided as the stupid and the clever, but where each boy and each girl is an individual to be helped to find his or her vocation? If the parents are not prepared to create educational centres of this kind, then how do you expect them to come into being?
That is why, sirs, I raised the question of whether parents have any relationship with their children. If the parent loves the child, this will be the consequence. He will want the child to be free in the deep sense of the word, not merely to do amusing and sensational things which are destructive. As parents, are we prepared for all this? It is because the parents do not demand it that educational centres of this kind do not exist; but the parents do demand that the children pass examinations, and so you have the thing you demand.
Banares January 27, 1955
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