Read part 2 of this article here.
Children in indigenous communities
Children in indigenous cultures are like any other newborn animal. The nature has its ways to make them grow and all the skills of an adult world are introduced in the games and toys that children make. Children from sustainable cultures make their own toys. Toy need not be anything in particular, but anything that catches the interest of the child. The toy is most often incomplete without the toy maker. Most of these toys are made from materials found around the place. Children’s world in the traditional communities is always populated and mixed with the adults’ world unlike the modern culture, where every category is fragmented and compartmentalized.
To the young child, play is life itself. A child engrossed in play is innovative, free and happy. Through the variety and depth of play the child learns and grows. It is serious business; it is her / his world. For the adult, play is seen as recreation, something that takes place in leisure time. Somehow the adult has learned to believe that play should occur at a time when one is not working (Evans 1974).
The real question is what prevents us from seeing or what distorts our perception.
What makes us see the child the way we want to see and not the way child is?
Medium is the message; children learn to be teachers!
The Teaching teacher teaches the child to teach. They also teach authoritarianism, mindless obedience, blind fear of power, authority etc.
Children imitate, absorb and internalize what they encounter and experience. They absorb the world as it happens in front of the child. That is why children play ‘teacher games‘ at home. Play is the manner in which children internalize and concretize whatever they experience. This is what learning is in the real world. So the linguistic information – knowledge as per the adult- is only a minor part of what children learn especially in their formative years. What the children need to see, to engage, to experience is a leaner learning or knowledge being created in a natural and organic manner and not a teacher teaching. A learner engaged in learning cannot be authoritarian, but the teacher has no choice. Just the fact that they ‘teach’ makes them authority and the child also learns that the knowledge needs to be obtained from an authority – teacher, text, now the internet etc, because the child never sees knowledge being created as this can happen only in the real contexts and not in the artificially created schools.
‘Teaching‘ teaches ’authoritarianism’ and ‘learning’ teaches ‘democracy’. That is why we find amid ourselves that only the ‘tribal‘ people practice true democracy. A tribal father hardly ever says no to a child and hardly ever teaches.
Irrational, compulsive reasoning!
Repeated use of reasoning to comprehend transforms knowledge into a mental activity with no authentic role for experience and senses. Throughout our education, we have never once seen nor experienced ‘knowledge‘, that we are supposed to have learned being created. We ‘believed’ in the knowledge. What is superstition then? If we mug up the terminologies, which are called as science, do we become scientists? Even with the help of reason, aren’t we only believing in readymade knowledge?
In fact, conscious reasoning short – circuits comprehension. Comprehension like digestion is involuntary act of the human being and like the digestion, comprehension also happens and like the way the digested food gets integrated and transforms the person, comprehended knowledge also gets integrated and transforms the person. What has been comprehended due to self-organization has semblance of order and this order is misunderstood as if this has been achieved through reasoning. Talks about creativity are pointless, as the creator has been removed from the cognitive act, but mental tricks – divergent thinking, lateral thinking and all that stuff – are misunderstood as creativity.
The beginning of teaching and instructing
Literacy had to be purposely introduced to the children by teaching unlike everything else and as time went by, the act of teaching spread to everything that children learned naturally. As literacy spread the act of instructing, the practice of teaching children also spread throughout the society and it got established as the culture of the western world. When western educational paradigm got introduced in India and literacy spread here, the same behavior also got implanted here. Teaching and instructing the children became the norm. Literacy also established the primacy of thought and the act of seeing receded.
My proposal is to try to explore what can be called the cognitive system just like digestive system, nervous system, muscular system etc. as a function of the living being. We need not wait for the expert to tell us, but by using our own uncommon common sense, we can explore.
But more important than all this is to recover our natural, biologically rooted cognitive system, in which the self organizing system with us function to ‘understand‘ and not reason. Can we get back the habits of seeing, sensing, feeling?
Can we trust life and not boast about man’s achievements, which are nothing in front of life.
The objective is to create a school for children so that they truly learn what is necessary for them to be sensitive, independent, intelligent, creative, self-reliant and sustainable and at the same time be rooted in their cultural practices and wisdom – knowledge (Content).
To develop a totally new kind of school / space/ condition, that includes the whole community and enables the growth of the natural, biological process in children to lead sustainable, contended and harmonious lives – in harmony with nature, culture, society, family and self (Space).
To develop a sensitive pedagogy that will allow the natural flowering of the child’s innate potential (Pedagogy).