“Primary education–a first glance”–Daily Metta

September 1:

gandhi-21“The foundation that Macaulay laid of education has enslaved us.”

–Gandhi (Hind Swaraj, Chapter 18)


Thomas Babington Macaulay went to India on what was in his eyes, a “civilizing mission” to reform their system of education to create a class of civil servants for the British Raj. For him it may have been “civilizing,” but what we’re really looking at is colonialism in the raw. It’s what we call today cultural imperialism, another way of saying cultural violence.  In his words, “We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.” Gandhi tells us in his Autobiography that as a child, he was sent to such schools as Macaulay had laid out for them, and he was “an average student,” who was otherwise bored in class, bored by the subject matter, though we might glean from his description–and later passion for educational reform–that he was sensing that the English educational system had ulterior motives for being what it was. Yet he still fell for this as a young man.  Having been sent to England to study law by his family, he returned to India an English gentleman in manners, but certainly not in respect to equal rights or treatment. The system in India was established to create servants for those in power; not, as it is often sold, to “empower” anyone.

So when Gandhi first begins his deconstruction of the Macauley system, he started by pointing out that mere knowledge of the sciences, literature, reading and writing are not the foundation of a liberatory education. Real education, he maintained, was character-building. With a strong foundation of character, you ask the purpose of reading and writing. You will not write anything if it harms others just because someone tells you to; you become a trustee of those skills and knowledge tools, and use them for the well-being of the whole. Whether you have a degree or not, this kind of education was, to him, “primary.” Whether you have a degree or not, you have dignity. This is nonviolence education at its core.


Experiment in Nonviolence:

Do you think that we can build a nonviolent world without looking closely at our systems of education? Why or why not?