What name should we give to Krishnamurti education?

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What name for Krishnamurti education?

The purpose of this website is to explore the educational ideas and insights of J. Krishnamurti. But while the starting point is Krishnamurti’s work, the deliberations and practical proposals made are our own. So, right away, we need to acknowledge that what is written here is but one way of interpreting his work on education. What is more, the reason for exploring Krishnamurti’s educational thought is not to erect a monument to the person, but to come up with a viable educational approach that makes sense in its own right. Because of this, it makes sense to refer to the proposals and observations made on this website by a name that says something about the approach itself rather than the person who inspired it.

Where do educational approaches get their name?

The question of what to call an educational approach that is inspired by a particular person or group of people is not new, and there are at least three options for naming the educational approach of a school. The first takes the name of the originator of the approach, as in Montessori or Steiner schools. The second takes the place where the approach was first put into practice, as is Waldorf (the location of the first Steiner school) or Sudbury (a valley in the US where a specific form of democratic education was pioneered) schools. The third takes one of the key characteristics of the approach, as in democratic or Christian or clasical education.

With regard to Krishnamurti education, people tend to talk about Krishnamurti schools, when referring to those schools he himself founded, those that have an official connection with one of the Krishnamurti foundations in India, the UK or the USA. But the picture changes with schools that, though deeply informed by Krishnamurti’s work on education, were set up after his death and independent from the Krishnamurti foundations.

Thus there is the Centre for Learning near Bangalore, which states on its website that the work of Krishnamurti ‘has been of particular relevance to the teachers of the school both in their own lives and in their concerns about education’, but there does not appear to be much of an attempt on the website to further define the Centre for Learning approach as Krishnamurti education (Learning 2019).

What is implicit in the name Centre for Learning, however, is that Krishnamurti gives a specific meaning to the term learning—so the name does pick out a significant term in Krishnamurti’s work on education, albeit one that is recognized as such only by those who know this.

Taking a key characteristic to name an educational approach

In writing about Krishnamurti education, my own preference is to pick one of its key characteristics.

The first advantage is that the focus is moved away from the inspiration of the approach to the approach itself, away from what the right interpretation is of Krishnamurti’s work on education.

Second, it does not hurt to talk about the issue rather than the person, because someone may not be interested in the person Krishnamurti but still see the value of a holistic education that is inspired by him.

A third advantage of using the word holistic is, as indicated earlier, that whatever practical suggestions emerge, I will not be claiming to speak for Krishnamurti, and I am not setting myself up as an authority on the true nature of Krishnamurti education.

In writing about Krishnamurti education, my own preference is to pick one of its key characteristics. The first advantage of this is that the focus is moved away from the inspiration of the approach to the approach itself, away from what the right interpretation is of Krishnamurti’s work on education. Also, it does not hurt to talk about the issue rather than the person, because someone may not be interested in the person Krishnamurti but still see the value of a holistic education that is inspired by him. Another advantage of using the word holistic is, as indicated earlier, that whatever practical suggestions emerge, I will not be claiming to speak for Krishnamurti, and I am not setting myself up as an authority on the true nature of Krishnamurti education.

The name holistic education is suitable for Krishnamurti education

For reasons that will be set out in other posts, I am opting for the name holistic education. I am not the first to notice the resemblance; Scott Forbes, a former staff member and director of Brockwood Park School (the Krishnamurti school in England) refers to Brockwood as ‘a holistic international boarding school’ (Forbes 2019). Taking the word holistic has the practical advantage that it is a versatile adjective, which can easily be used in phrases like holistic thinking and the holistic community, where using the name Krishnamurti can begin to sound strained.

Of course, the term holistic education is already being used for several forms of existing education. But rather than this being a disadvantage, it opens the door to engagement with an existing conversation about what constitutes right education.

Note, though, that to argue that Krishnamurti education is a form of holistic education is not to reduce Krishnamurti education to existing forms of holistic education. If anything, it raises the challenge of deepening the category of holistic education, by showing that much of what Krishnamurti had to say about education needs to be taken on board, if education is to be called holistic. This is analogous to a writer on, say, democracy, pointing out in that for existing democratic institutions to be truly democratic, they will need to embrace additional principles, for example, extending the vote to all citizens or curtailing the power of business lobbies.

So, to say that Krishnamurti education is holistic education is to engage in the ongoing conversation of what a truly holistic form of education entails.

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