It's an add-on to Dola's post, and a.. well, response to parts of some extensive comments under it.
A lot of talk in education sector today revolves around training and bolstering the "perfect" teachers, and I think they're partly chasing that elusive all-wise "guru" of the Gurukuls past. I've personally seen these efforts lead to some pretty messy consequences, like sending "highly qualified" people in to replace regular teachers in govt schools, thinking they're some silver bullet that'll fix all problems. However glorious our past was, the fact remains that as Indians we messed up royally and got owned. Accept it and analyse it. Could it have been because of our addiction to being dependent on external entities for guidance, our reluctance to follow our own instincts? For all their glory, I don't think there's any Gurukul that took a stand against the inhuman caste system that divided our society and enslaved a large part of it (apart from maybe Buddhist ashrams that were destroyed by the Hindu rulers); In fact I see plenty of evidence that they propagated it. The British deserve a pat on the back for at least exposing us to the idea that all humans should be treated equal, even if they didn't really practice it.
In all this obsession with teachers and gurus, the child's inborn ability to learn and humanity's inherent social nature (ie cross-pollination of ideas, people wanting to care for one another) gets ignored. Every human being, every bird and animal, every rock and river is a teacher. Why outsource something to a single person when it's available in abundance? Darwin, Galileo, Einstein OBSERVED life and the cosmos. Nature was their teacher. They didn't prat on "Yes Guruji, I will do as you say, Guruji" all day long.
IMHO (in my humble opinion), there is no such thing as the perfect husband or wife, the perfect son or daughter, the perfect government or prime minister, the perfect rickshaw driver or mechanic, the perfect reality show contestant or judge, or the perfect Student or Teacher. It's a myth, a mirage and we are fools to run behind it, to seek relentlessly in one person what is available in abundance all around. It's like expecting one heavenly body to have all the qualities of the sun, the moon, the planets and the stars and galaxies and black holes and quasars and supernovae all put together and then getting disappointed when it doesn't happen the way were expecting it to. We'll only end up missing out on the true beauty and wonder of the sky this way.
To me, liberating the child from following someone else's orders (no matter how wise) allows the next stage of humanity to flourish. Sorry, but unless the Gods themselves come over and offer themselves up, I would never go back to something like a Gurukul. (and maybe not even then) I believe in learning and free will. I do not believe in perfect teachers.
You should check out Australia's Stolen Generation history to understand where dreaming about Gurukuls and kids going off for all of childhood can take us. Heck, absence of children from various parts of society is already causing so many issues (would the bankers have been so damn reckless betting on futures if there were children sitting in the room? Would you give orders to massacre whole towns if there was a child tugging at your finger?), if all children were to vanish into Gurukuls till adulthood, I shudder to think of the consequences! If the current model of factory schooling is bad as it is, then please people, DO NOT take us into something even worse! Please cure yourself of the Perfect Teacher Syndrome, and embrace the abundance all around you.
- If you want to know my most honest opinions about India's legendary honorary Gurus, please check out Eklavya 2.0
- You should really try reading Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society, or John Holt's Learning All the Time, or A.S.Neils, Summerhill, or Daniel Greenberg's Free At Last or John T Gatto's Dumbing Us Down.
- Watch the Summerhill Drama
- Watch the lectures from Conference on Alternatives to Compulsory Education
- Watch The Forbidden Education