“Dignity in Education”–Daily Metta

September 3:

gandhi-21“I hold that, as the largest part of our time is devoted to labour for earning our bread, our children must from their infancy be taught the dignity of such labor.”

–Gandhi (Young India, September 1, 1921)

Nai Talim, or new education, besides having an emphasis on character-building and local-regional languages, put value on the dignity inherent in the work of the hands, which he felt strongly was the driving force behind personal and political independence. More than anything, he wanted students to feel that they did not receive only an education–they would be gifted a vocation. He began his experiments in Nai Talim in his ashram school. This, by the way, is a principle in nonviolence (svadeshi): begin your experiments at home before testing them on a wider scale.

His first iteration of the program had an over-emphasis, the students felt, on the handicraft work. They felt that they were somehow deprived of literary learning. Gandhi, in all of his experience, humbly disagreed with their assessment, maintaining that even the best of schools in the world would crave the kind of handiwork education they were getting; nonetheless, he took their feelings to heart and found a middle ground for the handicraft and literary work, namely, the literary study would serve the vocational training. Reading, writing, mathematics, science — all would find a concrete context within the substance of the craft itself.

As a budding weaver myself, I knew exactly what Gandhi was thinking: you cannot prepare a warp for your loom without mathematics; and you also need to understand the nature of fibers. The curious student would be able to take this deeper: what is the history of this plant, and what does its production process require? Such an education draws upon our natural curiosity and puts it hand in hand with the higher ideal of a practical purpose!


Experiment in Nonviolence:

Look at your clothing. From what material was it produced and from where did the material come? These are questions Gandhi might ask you if you had a one-on-one with him today.