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Thoughts on Education

Imre von Soos
Copyright©1987,1996,2004

        The claim of the child on his parents I would not call "Children's Bill of Rights", but rather "Parents' Bill of Obligations"; obligations, that involve the period from pre-conception to the coming of age, to the time and condition when the child becomes a man by having acquired the potential of independent survival and positive life-value as such.

        Human life – life with the potential of independent survival and positive life-value as a man – carries a quality and a standard. Those who responsibly undertake the bringing an offspring to the world, must know beyond any reasonable doubt that they can provide both the biological – that is, genetical – and the environmental conditions to secure for him both the quality and the standard. (That quality and standard do not mean wealth, the present day wealthy are proving beyond dispute.) This is a innate obligation, and forms part of the natural attitude on which any future system that is progressive, constructive and syntropic – evolutionary – will have to be built.

        About the genetical aspect I will only suggest that healthy and well-balanced parents will have healthy and well-balanced offsprings without any genetical engineering, and that unhealthy and unbalanced people's genetically reprogrammed freaks will remain, in their unhealthy and unbalanced company, but freaks, and no artificial environments will ever make them any different. Pre-conceptional and pre-natal examinations can ensure the procreation of good genotypes and phenotypes, for – as J. B. S. Haldane has put it – "we have a duty to beget and bear the best-endowed children possible."

        Environmental influences start in the uterus: physically through the kind of nutrition and poison the foetus receives, and psychically through the general state of mind and the sentiments the mother transmits towards it. As a result of malnutrition the infant may be born with 20% less brain that will never be recuperated; and the adverse sentiments of rejection will intensely and negatively influence his whole inner life.

        Quite obviously, man is not born free, for freedom means independence. The new-born child does not have it, which is why he needs the constant reassurance of love and protection, that goes very much beyond physical actions. Only a family or a family group is capable to give this to a child: a children's home or a day-nursery never. Those who have tried it proved it conclusively on their progeny, who with thirty or sixty years of age are still trying to find, using all the imaginable social crutches, the feeling of belonging and security that they have been missing as a child.

        This is the most crucial point as far as the building of the new man is concerned, for this dying age, with its sick Zeitgeist produces nothing but spiritual cripples – and it will strive until its last breath to do so –, and a new civilization cannot be built on crutches. But which parent elbowing around in the rat-race – that he himself spinelessly supports and sustains –, or which prostituted teaching institution from the nursery to the university – that is sustained by it – will stand up against the political and commercial interests of the 'System', and make a man and a social marginal out of his young? Curiously – thanks to psychogenesis – it still happens, and in the hope that it will happen as a rule and not as an exception, I will elaborate further on the subject, where I will talk as little as possible about the present trends, which – incidentally, I believe – do not have to be reverted, but discarded.

        The greatest individual development possibilities, producing free citizens of the world – expression that is synonymous with the symbiotic member of the life-community of our planet –, can happen only in a family and in a society with the greatest amount of self-disciplined liberty. Discipline – where it means self-control, orderliness, punctuality and the respect of the liberty of equal value of the others – is indispensable and fundamental, for the lack of it means not freedom but anarchy; but if it means unquestioned, bovine obedience, submission and subordination, then it is mental poisoning, fundamentally destructive; so fundamentally, that the child has to be taught, from the earliest age, not to accept any statement or follow any suggestion – and command even less –, unless he analysed it intelligently and accepted it as being in accord with his own thinking. Changes of behaviour has to come from within the individual – self-generated and self-activated – but never induced, for induced behaviour is never natural, not even if it appears so in its effect. Freedom is an individual institution, I could say quality, and represents primarily independence, that originates in the individual, that nobody can give him, or implant into him. In the spirit of freedom, wisdom, culture and self-discipline, the might elevates into leadership.

        Because the child is not born free, all his education must be directed towards him becoming free and independent. He must be distanced from the mass-state and be cultivated into an individual. This is the one single purpose of his upbringing. This criterion defines the content and the duration of all his education, that must be individually directed, and that must be continued by the man himself in the fast expanding environment, where the half-life of a university education is – depending on the subject matter – five to ten years, meaning that the value of a professional man will be reduced to one quarter in ten to twenty years, if he does not educate himself constantly to keep up with the progress in his profession. Thus the man needs knowledge and competence above his diploma in order to keep his freedom; for an incompetent man is never a free man; incompetence referring not only to work but to every manifestation of life, its enjoyment and understanding.

        As a child learns to walk on his own two feet through the co-ordination of his own nervous and muscular system, so must he be taught that thinking is just as much an individual affair, and that any crutch he would want to rely on in this respect, would only turn him into a psychological cripple. I have no doubt that the child knows that basically, and the refraining from teaching him the opposite would practically suffice; and that the things he has to be protected from in his early years far outnumber those he has to be taught; for his future cannot be built on false pretences or propositions, neither can it be shaped to accommodate the present man, because the present man is but a depraved aberration. The working of the computer is a good example of the 'implanted instincts', the 'fixed pattern behaviour' referring also to mental processes, which, once implanted and fixed, are irremovable. Through his trust the child will accept any suggestion that comes from those close to him, and can be accordingly "programmed" for any type of social character, behaviour-pattern and way of thinking – including unquestioning obedience to so-called authority –, and also for the automatic rejection of any idea contrary to it.

        Disciplining through fear or by any other method without rational consistency, or indoctrinating under the pretence of instructing, is a crime against the child as it is against Nature, should it come from the parents, from society, from the church, or from the state. The Jesuit maxim: "Give me a child for the first seven years of his life, and you may do what you like with him after.", also adopted by the nazis and the communists, expresses the impressibility of the child, and its monstrous potentials for both church-religion's and national-religion's abuse. Against this God- and life-eclipsing malpractice I suggest that no man or soi-disant society can set, specify or evaluate the personal life and goals for any man, or put a claim on his being; that a child has to be taught to become an independent individual fully responsible for his actions, and not a mass-man, for as an individual he will naturally form with other independent individuals co-operative societies that will be as free as he is; that the only flag that is holy is the flag of his own independence – flying high above any other possible flags – and representing that he is neither exploitable, nor an exploiter; that the only God that there is, is the One also within him, in direct personal connection, and not through some organized exploiters of his deepest sentiments; and that nothing that is not beneficial for each individual person, can be beneficial to their association that is society.

        The child also must be taught how to establish a frame of free thinking that cannot be dependent on the subject, and how to acquire, handle, co-ordinate, analyse, compare and criticize each information; that his ‘why’ is valid towards fools and sages alike, and that he is old enough to ask a question when he is asking it. The Uncertainty Principle – that applies to man and child also – means that a free man’s actions are non-mechanical and unpredictable, because they are according to his free decision based on the way he sees the world; and it is wonderful that it should be so. The child also has to learn that interpersonal competition is a natural evolutionary instrument only if it is based on the competence (talent, skill, knowledge) in that field – everything else being corruptive –; and that this competence enables him to express himself, is the measure of his natural life value, and is the prime motive of his learning. (The present youth's resistance to learning is due to the very understandable lack of motivation and to the teaching contrary to their natural values.)

        To make children live a miniature adult community life is fundamentally wrong (and not only because the present full-size adult community life is fundamentally wrong also): the young have their own, naturally young reality, environment and community life, and should not learn but grow into and create in their own time and with their own pace their own, particular adult reality, environment and community life based on their young ideas. The trouble in this tumbling age is not that older people will not accept the ideas of the young, but that most people – old or young – will not accept young ideas.

        To put a child in front of a television set – that feeds him with utter trash, from idiot cartoons to idiot cow-boy and other murder stories reflecting but the human paranoia, stuffing wrong values into his brain, that only teach him a cock-eyed world-view and irrational demands on his parents, on his environment and even on his God, – means mental and physical poisoning. It will not enhance his imagination, but substitute it; it will not raise his intelligence, but make him dull-witted, dependent, exploitable. He will diligently participate in the decaying of this system, but never in the building of a new one.

        Introduce goodness, beauty and truth in the child's life, but do not try to define them; enrich his life with his own values, not with yours. Do not try to separate him from Nature, that he is born knowing to be part of not only in a quotidian connivance but in a psycho-physical unity with all. Encourage his attitudes in these directions, so that his actions will be motivated by if it is syntropic? if it enhances life? Teach him freedom – or rather: let him be free – and let him generate all the rest; let him dream his own dreams and be aware of his own reality. And above all: let him play!

        Up to now it was not teaching, it was rearing: the raising, bringing up, cultivating of a child, so that he may stand on his own feet without mental and psychological crutches. It applies to every child, regardless of his level of intelligence or the activity he intends to pursue in life. It applies, in fact, to every offspring of every animal that raises its progeny, and where the parents' aim is not towards creating a better future for a whatever progeny, but a better progeny to be able to face a whatever future.

        As the how to handle it is founded on the correct rearing, so the actual acquisition of relevant knowledge happens through methodical learning. The correct rearing and the relevant knowledge represent competence, and are the inseparable prerequisites of independent survival. Evidently, this competence defines for every individual his right position within any system, not only from the individual's point of view and interest, but also those of the systems, which are, in the Natural order, one and the same thing. The higher and wider is a person's education – and competence –, the higher will be his natural position, and the more systems he will embrace.

        It is a fallacy to believe – as many social scientists do – that high education creates greater material demands: it is the low education that does so. Those are the poorly educated but materially well-to-do nobodies of the rich countries – and also of the poor ones – who have great demands, believing that by hoarding it all, they will become somebodies. Their limitless appetite can be attributed to the fact that they never really do. This, however, will hardly be a problem in the future, for poor education and material plenty united in one person represent utter natural contradiction, and neither will gluttony and hoarding be institutionalised and widely accepted as positive social characters.

        When I talk about future education, I also talk about education for the future: a future that is not only not the linear extrapolation of the present epoch, but one that has not even the vaguest resemblance to it, for it will be built on exactly what education is supposed to be serving: culture, knowledge and intelligence.

        Basic education has to be defined as the minimum knowledge required for a man to be able to fill – as an independent individual – a work-place and a social niche, that provides the minimum acceptable human conditions, and to be able to contribute competently and rationally to his community's life and decisions at the level of his participation. Putting it simply: everyone has to know enough to carry his own weight, whatever that weight may be, neither exploiting nor exploitable, neither parasite, nor host. In this form the definition satisfies the requirements for any position an individual may occupy in any system.

        The criterion allows for variation within a very wide spectrum, being quite obviously different when applied to an autonomous New Guinean or an European major human community. However, due to the dynamic, natural interpersonal competition caused by differential individual growth, inter-community population-exchange, or changing intra-community demands, the minimum or for that matter any requirement regarding competence must – even within a single community – constantly increase. Under natural conditions – on which all these thoughts are based – one, loosing out on his position, would compete for another within his competence. Thus the dynamically growing community (growth referring to quality and not numbers or possessions) would constantly increase its own competence, and with it the level of minimum competence within its system. The respective fall-out, responsible for his own relative incompetence, must look for his survival in another community with lower minimum standards, increase with that their level, and displace the one he was competing with, keeping the general dynamic growth in motion.

        The justness of this system cannot be denied on logical grounds. The phony charitableness and sloppy sentimentalism of the dying epoch has only kept on increasing the misery and is disintegrating because of it, while the natural system can indubitably boast of three and a half billion years of existence and evolutionary success.

        Education enters into the evolutionary process by increasing – through an organized direct information exchange – both its rhythm and its quality. This means the providing of equal opportunity of teaching and learning, that enables anybody in possession of an information to make it available to all, and all to have access to any kind of learning and information he desires. Thus the principle of equal opportunity for all in learning means that each and every individual should have the opportunity to receive tuition according to his talents and mental capacity. The opportunity, that is not attached to any compulsion, renders everybody the agent of his own education, opportunities, participation-sphere, progress and survival. Obviously, both motivation and learning capacity are reciprocal functions of the individual intellect, and so we are back again at the much-discussed intellect-pressure as the driving force behind evolution.

        The computer – the fourth brain, the exo-cortex – is becoming increasingly the extension of the neo-cortex. Extension: and not substitution; and most emphatically not a crutch. Being the extension of the intra-cranial mental processes, its own processes become the functions of its user's intellect, and will reflect brilliance, as it will reflect dull stupidity. Evidently, it never could replace literacy, for the one who is too dull-witted to be alphabetised, is also too dull-witted to handle even a primitive computer; and in any community, where the computer will play any role at all, such level of intelligence will never have survival value. And here I refer once more to my Cartesian Parastatement, and reconfirm my conviction that the solution lies in the stimulation of the child's intellect through arousing his interest and motivations, and providing him with all the material he wants to know, and not in the dreaming up of some electronic crutches that will replace the functions of his natural organs lost through the use of some other electronic crutches.

        Many anthropologists believe that education should be concentrated on specialized training right from the beginning, so that the young may start their professional carriers at an early age. The disadvantages of this, regarding the breaking up of family life, and the marrying, having children and making life-decisions at an immature age, are quite obvious. Its disadvantages from any other angle are just as grave. Apart from the fact that it requires a very premature decision of direction-taking of life importance, a predominantly specialized training produces an unbalanced personality, an "inverted cripple" – as Nietzsche called them – with an overdeveloped member, whose freedom is restricted within the limits defined by the specialization. He will view his profession, and indeed the world through the narrow visor of his speciality, a view that he never will have the opportunity to enlarge, due to his specialized work, his having to keep up with its novelties, and his complete lack of contact with anything outside of it. Narrow-spectrum knowledge can be only factual, for anything that it can be based on or related to is out of sight. It is a quasi-closed system with rigid processes, little chance for innovations, none for change. It becomes consequently the jealously guarded life-line of the specialist, whose very survival depends on the maintenance of the status quo in his field. In Nature, specialization is regressive.

        A further, very heavily weighing disadvantage is the fact that if people start to work at the early age of fifteen or twenty, they will also have to retire at the early age of fifty-five in order to surrender their place to the young, and then be condemned to pigeon feeding at the most equilibrated and mentally active time of their life. They cannot recuperate their lost years of wide-spectrum learning, for by that time, due to their one-sided education, they are very hard-set; and even if they could, they have lost the advantage of it for all their professional years. And so has the product of their work. Advantage I can see none for the individual, only for the somatotonic system set on his exploitation.

        I repeat once more my conviction that all education must be directed towards the child's becoming free and independent. The wider is the knowledge of a man, and the more informations and situations he can handle, the greater is his independence.

        The training of the mind is as indispensable as is the training of the muscles. Factual instruction will provide factual knowledge and will train the memory, but will not induce or train thinking; mathematics, logic, philosophy, scientific research, the systematic study of phenomena and noumena through analysis and synthesis will. Religion belongs to philosophy and should appear under systematic studies and not under factual instructions.

        The training of memory and of thinking must be open for every child at his own level of intelligence. No average standard of instruction can exist, as no average intelligence exists, only as a statistical abstraction.

        There is no point in asking a six year old child what he wants to learn, for he will not know the choice; neither is there any point in forcing him to do so: like with the proverbial horse, only his presence can be guaranteed.

        The interest of the child must be awakened and his natural curiosity nurtured from the earliest possible age on the widest possible spectrum, and maintained for the longest possible time. The capacity is always there if the love is. School-work might be easy or difficult, loved or hated, but is most decidedly not repetitive, and will lead to the rejection and not to the acceptance of a treadmill toil.

        Educating is not a job, but an art, and carries the greatest responsibility, whether its medium is the home, the class-room, books, radio, television or the computer. Evidently, the responsibility extends to anything adverse produced in and through any of these media.

        All this comes under the heading of general cultural education, and should last – I believe – up to, but not necessarily limited by, the age of eighteen, depending on the intelligence and interest of each individual. With this foundation no subsequent professional education will ever make myopic and shielded inverted cripples, but free and responsible men out of the young. The additional educational costs, even if the community undertakes its full coverage, are more than offset by the pensions and treatment of illnesses, both consequences of the early retirement, and by the value of wide-spectrum education and more developed intellect in the efficiency of life- and general performance.

        This will produce the future man, who will be a slow developer, with more muscular skill but less strength, learning all his life; he will be more rational and intuitive, and less instinctive, emotional and sexual; less open to rage or to herd-behaviour; he will be of higher intelligence and more motivation; an educated man according to Hegel's definition: "He who is capable to do anything any other man can do."

        Materialist ambition is not a personal realization, as economic growth is not a progress: spiritual, academic, intellectual, cultural growth is. Its effect is reflected in all nature that it comes in touch with. The tools of this growth are factual knowing and logical thinking, its results individual and universal evolution. Not only can you "take it with you", you can also "bring it back", and find its results on return. This is not a prophecy but a condition that the future will be built on it.

        How many parents have the capacity to provide this kind of education for their offsprings, I don't pretend to know; but their number is exactly the number of those parents who should have offsprings. It is a natural rule with the higher mammals and even with the birds: why not with man? It is also the one and unique condition the honest and humanly dignifying compliance with which would solve the problems of the wide-spread ignorance and irresponsible overpopulation and devastation of this beautiful planet; the fundamental causes of all human predicament.

        In conclusion: The criterion to enable a being to turn himself free, independent, demands an organic-dynamic, extensive and diversified – universal – education that enhances mind and character; a holistic, integrated-brain, talent-oriented learning through the provoking of curiosity, motivation and initiative, enlarging the sphere of interest and field of operation, memory training, development of intellectual and intuitive faculties, and the dynamising of the higher thought-processes: conception, comparison, abstraction, generalization, analysis-synthesis, association, reasoning, perception of continuity and arriving at the concept of cause and effect, imagining the results of a contemplated action, deliberating and finding the means of reaching a desired goal.

        It means to cultivate all positive qualities, to vitalize and enrich the personality through the transmission of all that is beautiful and enlightening, that he may face all the information-input with an open mind, and the world with a general life-efficiency and self-awareness, aided by an integral insight through perceptual, intellectual and intuitive processes and spiritual experience.

        It requires the development of life's highest creative potential, the faculty of independent thought and expression – and with it the independence of the individual –, that he may reach truth by his own elemental, individual thinking, know Nature in participant observation, and re-establish his natural rapport with the All, promoting the development of a whole, autonomous and balanced personality.

        To arrive at this goal it is peremptory to establish a favourable climate for the cognitive, intellectual, emotional and social development; to provide all who want to learn with access to available resources regardless their age; to help all who want to transmit knowledge to find those who want to receive it. To educate and be educated at the same time through the exchange of knowledge, using direct contact or world-wide information-banks and nets of audio-visual telecommunication and computer systems, to bring the most honest and intelligible account of new knowledge to each individual who is desirous to learn, and to bring culture to everyone open to it, by way of action in an atmosphere of truth and beauty, through simple and clear presentation by active intelligence, that it may penetrate and find resonance in the natural human reason.

        The Universe being an evolving psycho-physical entity with its content constantly expanding, and life being eternal, the necessity of every of its fractions keeping up with the evolution defines the duration of the education as permanent.

        The actual system not coinciding with these conditions, and even being in opposition to it, and there existing little or no possibility to change its value-purged structure, it is of necessity to create a parallel educational system embracing all levels, that does not interfere with and neither depend on the conventional one. That is using guided autodidaction instead of directed, prefixed learning, promoting wisdom instead of knowledge, understanding instead of information storing, cultured sentiment instead of sloppy sentimentality, enlightened mind instead of conditioned mind. A system to counteract the negative influences of the present day public media; to liberate the child and the man from the institutionalised values schools and the society instilled on them; to reverse the tendency to produce people with stereotyped behaviour-patterns; to redirect human values from the material (money, goods) to spiritual (knowledge, intelligence, culture) possessions: to introduce an educational system which will withdraw the greatest number of beings possible from the mass-state of abasement and alienation.

        To bring this into reality, a universal college must be created, built by and consisting of individuals, with an active ethic and enriched by art and science, spirituality and philosophy, truth and beauty generated by them, that in turn can create places and conditions – using study-circle, information-banks, seminaries and workshops – for the individual man to acquire knowledge and to produce it through research, where he can form new syntheses, find a part of art and science which he had not known before – and which are not accessible to him through conventional institutions –, in the association of scholars and students, all both teachers and taught, where the analogies, insights and harmonies of scientific discovery, literature, art, music and philosophy – theory joined with practice – can find their way into the wider life of man, and where he can bring himself into a spiritual relation with the Infinite through logical thinking and intuitive perception, where knowledge is no more power, but obligation.

        This college – characterized also by its revolt against the spirit of thoughtlessness, where man is perverted with irrational consistency by the very process that should prepare him for life, by being schooled down to size into a to him assigned slot – has to be dedicated to assist the individual to raise himself out of the mass-state of ignorance, insensibility and indifference, bring himself back to the biologically normal behaviour, restore his own balance, and reintroduce the purpose in his own life; to keep awake the faculty of independent thought that will generate freedom through the progressive elimination of all forms of dependence; to rekindle an activity of his spirit strong enough to awake a new mental and spiritual disposition: to create exceptional men of integrity within integrality – who can also resist the hostility of the herd –, with common purpose and interest binding them together both in freedom and in co-operation to build a new race of pioneers in dynamic, regenerative interaction with their environment.

        This education, discipline and daily work, tending towards the intellectual, emotional and personal wholeness of an integrated individual with outward freedom and inner discipline, will help him to unfold his own awareness of life, and resolve his own inner contradictions; enable him to keep up with the changing world – and even with a hostile environment – without loosing his equilibrium; to develop his own personality, ideals and values, intellectual vision and scientific curiosity – his own non-compromising truth –; and to be non-submissive, non-conforming, self-sufficient and competent, all through self-generated and self-activated action. He will have the autonomy and the motivation to grow on his own, maintaining the responsibility for his actions and for his growth. Standing in an active relation to the world, he will control his life by the power of his spirit, and walk after the imagination of his heart.



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