Hello again, dear Readers. It has been some days since I have written in this blog, because I needed some time to digest all that I have been experiencing in regards to the energies which are swirling around us all on Earth during these remarkable days. Tonight I wish to share a bit from my little piece of the world here in the countryside of Sjaelland, Denmark.
Here in northern Europe and southern Scandinavia, the light changes dramatically with the seasons, and now the sun remains low in its arc as it crosses the southern sky during these short days. By about 4 o’clock in the afternoon it is already becoming dark. The Jul season has begun in earnest, and people are thinking about upcoming gatherings and meals, decorating their homes with greenery and candles, red cloths and the ever-present Nisse, the Nordic version of elves and Santa Klaus-type beings who visit Danish homes during the holiday season. There is a certain charm to this season in this part of the world which pre-dates Christianity, as the Nordic Jul is far older than the church, and has long been the time of year when people celebrated the return on the light after the Winter Solstice.
In the little Steiner school where I am working, there was a Julebazar, or Holiday market day, last Saturday. It was a cozy affair where parents came and decorated the rooms with greenery and candles, made a big feast for everybody, and the children performed songs, had a violin recital, and performed a play they had written themselves. It was a shining moment in an otherwise not-so-shiny daily school life. My feelings were mixed; one part of me was so glad to see how they had spruced up the school and made it so welcoming and nice, while another part felt a bit affronted: why was it not so well-tended the rest of the time? The strings of hypocrisy tugged at my heart and mind.
Then Monday came and my meeting with the main teacher, an interesting and unusual man named Brian, for the upper classes. This school is suffering this year from the lack of one of the class teachers, who, for mysterious psychological reasons, decided to not return after the summer holidays. The other teachers decided to wait and see what would happen with her, and so did not fill that position, instead the teacher of the upper class has been sort of tag-teaming both classrooms with some help from a part-time woodworking teacher (who happens to be one of the only humans left in Denmark who practices the ancient craft of blacksmithing), and me. Our meeting was to discuss the next several weeks when we will combine both classes into one in order to study, and then perform, Alice in Wonderland (known as Alice in Eventyrland in Danish, which is the language we will use to perform it, of course.)
It is an ambitious undertaking for this school. My idea, of course. However, the meeting went on into more pedagogical meanderings as Brian attempted to explain to me in English, at my request, his philosophy of education. As you may recall, dear Readers, this school is not ordinary in any way that I am used to. From my perspective, the structure of the day is skeletal at best, and often after the main lesson (the first two hours), dissolves altogether into a kind of randomness, with kids here and there, left to their own imaginative devices until the end of the day. Hmmm…. not my idea of a well-run ship. But. I listened to Brian for over an hour, interjecting when I felt it necessary, but mostly just listened. The gist of what he said was, that to him, school is not about filling the children with knowledge or even getting them to become ‘lifelong learners’ as the signs up during the Julebazar displayed, no. It is rather, about creating, or allowing, human beings to be free in themselves. Freedom, said Brian, is the ultimate goal of humanity. And the importance of self-respect cannot be overestimated. He talked about his view that there are two main pathways, to educate children. My idea of a well-ordered structure, where children sit quietly and undistractedly in order to do their schoolwork, listening to the teacher, and behaving well, is all fine, but he vastly prefers the other path: letting the impulse for learning and growing come from within each person, at their own time and in their own way. Well-behaved students who are able to re-produce tasks which have been given to them do not interest him, for that is not creating free human beings, he told me. But learning from oneself, and dealing with life’s circumstances, even though it be messy, chaotic, and not very structured, that will go a long way towards a person’s freedom.
Not so very long ago, I would have probably disagreed quite strongly with him, and fought to assert my perspective, feeling it to be somehow more right, more workable, and surely more manageable as far as dealing with students is concerned. But these days I am becoming ever more open to hearing others without so much judgement as in the past. He also told me that education of the children is a process, and takes time and patience, that these children are special in many ways, that I should not expect so much of them so quickly, that I am giving them something valuable when I come and I should have more patience with myself. He was very kind, and I have pondered his words for the past days. In the highest sense, I have to admit that I agree with him: Education is about freedom, freeing the human soul in order for them to grow and learn and find out what they want and need to for their lives to have value and meaning. I do not agree with his methodology, and yet, I see a lot of wisdom in his words.
Today I gave the kids in the 8th class, where I am working as their temporary main lesson teacher, a small lecture. It was titled by Søren, one of the cleverest boys, as “Leigh’s philosophy” and it went something like this:
Yes, imagination is more important than knowledge, I agree with Albert Einstein on that. And yet, we need knowledge too. You all have tremendous imagination, and that is wonderful. But it is important to gain knowledge of the world, how it works, and what it contains. Look, you can be passive, sitting and waiting for someone to come along and give it to you, (and also decide what it is you ought to know) or you can yourselves be active, decide what you want to learn, and then go out into the world, or into the internet and find it. Maybe you want to explore what is out there in space, for example… who else is out there on other planets, in other galaxies… yes, I believe that you will be able to do this in your lifetimes! Or maybe you want to find out what lies at the very bottom of the vast oceans, or any number of a thousand other things. Whatever you want to do, you CAN do it, but you must find out HOW. So, take your education into your own hands. Don’t believe everything your parents tell you: Respect them, yes, but realize that they, just like your teachers and all adults, are simply people too, and don’t know everything and aren’t always right. And stop telling yourself that ‘I am not especially good at this or that” because that surely won’t help you a bit. Sure, there are some things you might not be so good at, but so what? You can become better if you want to, if you practice and try. But the main thing is to TRY! Not one person on this planet is more important than another. We are all important, every single one of us. And we are all here for a reason. But, it is up to you to find out what that reason is. Please go home and think about what I have said. Really think about it. About your life and about what you want. And why you are here.
Dear Readers, today I finally found my tongue with these Danish kids, and in so doing, was able to give them a gift of the heart. For those few minutes today, I know I was heard. They heard me, they felt the power of my words, they received the gift. Afterwards I felt so free! Today I planted some seeds for the future. These kids, all kids, are our future. Shall we keep them boxed into classes and feed them our ideas of what the world is about and what we think they ought to know, or shall we help them to think for themselves, so that they can become free and noble human beings? Can we live with the chaos and mess of starting over in our humanity for the higher purpose of creating a new society, a new Jerusalem, a civilisation of peace, dignity, respect for self and for others, where creativity and uniqueness abound, where culture flourishes? The question is up, and it is the most important one we have to work with now: What kind of a future do we, collectively, want? By giving our children the freedom to dream into this future, to gently remove the obstacles and distractions in their way, and let them naturally shine, we give ourselves the greatest gift, a future of Freedom and of Love.