There are many graveyards in this world that house the bones of humanity. These particular places are not, however, the cemeteries of the dead, but of the dying. Here the bones of the poets, the growers, the dreamers, the whistlers and the singers, are ground up and placed into moulds for reshaping. Similarly, traces of the painters, the artists, the actors and the thinkers may be found if you look hard enough … bare traces in the surrounding scrubland.
Listen to the whispering that curls like smoke from the buildings. Hear the laughter that is not forced by cruelty, the joy that is a celebration of being together, the silence that connects with all that is living. These places are where the powerful coerce the young into conformity: some of these places are made mostly of glass, some of mud, some have no light, some have shade in the fierce glare of the sun. You may come across in these places the hum of electricity, like vast crematoria; others in which can only be heard the dry rustle of paper, enough to light the funeral pyres. Dull eyes watch screens on which endless movement distracts, heads held in invisible clamps, neatly locked by headphones. Whilst in other worlds heads are down and bodies with backs arched on the hard ground, endlessly repeat words in monotonous rhythm; too scared to look up at the sound of a bird, stomachs cramped by inertia and fear.
Meanwhile, in the corridors of the rich there can be heard the clipped footfall of the caretakers of the dying. Trim, and bearing rules and regulations, they are secure in the knowledge of their corrections. Outside they survey the limits that keep the bad guys out and the good guys in, fresh keypads ensuring that the adventurous may only pace around the fence like caged tigers. Thousands of miles away where money is sent to ensure that the standard choking grip of conformity is carefully put to good use, the keepers of the dying threaten the adventurous with their own poverty – starvation is a powerful master.
Dry knowledge crammed into bodies like Tagore’s parrot*; furnaces of wrong and right burn in the minds of embryonic humanity. Nothing is learned except the noise that inhabits the graveyard; for learning is now worth only what can be remembered, dragged from the chatter of the knowledgeable mind and spewed out to demonstrate such cleverness, like the raking vomit of the diseased mind.
It is time, my friends, to add our voices to the quiet stream that is questioning the view of learning that has given rise to current view of what education is, and to question fundamentally how we bring up successive generations of humanity. It is time to, in the words of Roger Waters, ‘tear down the wall’.
*The Parrot’s Training by Rabindranath Tagore
An integral element of this quiet stream of questioning is the film ‘Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden.