Saturday, June 25, 2005

allowing a critical spirit to develop and thrive

I was asked recently to describe the underlying philosophy or "mission statement" of Moo Baan Dek and I found that I couldn't quite explain. The style is based upon .S. Neill's Summerhill school in England. Neill believed that there were no "bad" children, only children who had been negatively affected by an adult imposition of social codes and morals which they believed to be benificaial in the development of the child. Neill asked: "What is education for if not the child?" Often, we overlook the needs of the child in our pedagogical techniques. Or rather, we emphasize one facet, academic acheivement, over all others. We attempt to raise the next genereation generation to meet the standards and norms of our own generation, but what does this do ultimately? and what does it say about us?It may say that we are deniers of difference.
We are apalled at the behavior of the younger generation because their behavior is unlike our own. But where would we be if the younger generation did not challenge the previous one? What if every generation actually succeeded in churning out a new one just like itself? We would have become stagnant, unchanging, and dull. In a way, it seems lucky for us that we have not succeeded. Who would desire stagnation?
Change is inevitable. It defines ourn lives. Who could say that he or she has experienced anything unchanging? Our environment changes, our bodies change, our ideas change, and our relationships change... every single second. Everything changes in some way or another, in every passing moment... yet for some reason, we cling to the idea that something might stay the same. This clinging only causes us to suffer because our wishes, in this capacity, are never fulfilled.
I want my mother to love me as she did when I was a toddler, full of life, full of questions. I want my father to cherish me as he did when I was five years old... to fix my hair every morning,buy me strawberry milk on the way to school, and push me on the swing every night when we arrive home. But I'm not a toddler anymore and I'm far from five years old. Clinging and wishng to retain this relationship in this particular way causes me to suffer. Realizing that I have changed, my parents have changed, and our relationship has change and that this change is inevitable allows me to be free, happy, and at peace with the truth of change.
So, as a teacher, when I punish a child for rebelling against me by talking out, not paying attention, throwing spitballs... whatever minor disturbance... am I essentially denying change? Life is change. am I denying life?
Understanding that all of life is change and that my wanting things to remain the same only causes me to suffer is one task of Buddhist thought. Embracing change and refraining from denying the right of children to rebel against those who attempt to fit them into the mould established by those who have come before is the task of Summerhillian education. The two seem to go hand in hand.


Blogger Rebecca said...

WOW. Sarah, it looks like you had an amazing time at Moo Ban Deck. I'm happy for the opportunities this experience is giving you to really explore alternative education possibilities. The community seems really awesome, and the kids seem fun. Keep writing more, I love reading about your experiences! I look forward to seeing you when you get back.

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