©2015 Peter Fritz Walter. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
— Chapter 6 : The Value of Silence
‘Creative-C Learning’ presents a pre-school curriculum for a sane, holistic, brainsmart and systemliterate education of small children. The author’s educational approach is tailored to how our brain works and develops from ages 2 to 6. It’s a functional approach, not an idealistic one, based on the actual constitution of the human being, with all the complexity inherent in it.
The author contends that children are born sane and are rendered more or less insane by an educational system that till now considers the human being as the impossible human, that is, a creature that is basically faulty and has to be improved and upgraded by education, and morality. The present view opposes this age-old educational paradigm and shows that traditional education brings about fragmentation, ignorance and widespread violence.
The present curriculum emphasizes the natural integrity and wholeness of the small child, who is by nature a systems thinker. The curriculum builds upon this fact and presents a way to raise pre-schoolers in a learning environment that fosters systemic thinking capabilities, so that children become systemliterate at a young age.
The author also emphasizes the need for teaching emotional awareness to teachers and presents techniques to be applied in the vocational training for early child care workers and pre-school teachers that teach how to cope with stress, and that show the details of the trustbuilding process both between teachers and students and between parents and teachers.
The audience for this guide are all those involved in educating children, as well as educational policy makers, also parents, educational associations, politicians, pediatricians and child psychologists, and also the lay public, especially those who are looking for a new way to educate children now and in the future.
Chapter 6 : The Value of Silence
Silence is essential for the mind. Without silence, the mind drowns in the turbulence of daily life, and of all our conflicting desires, thoughts and feelings. Traditional education hasn’t understood a bit of this fact. Children are silenced by force, held in shut-up compliance with ‘law and order’ by the use of educational violence, only to explode into outbursts of hatred and stupidity, once the class is over, and they get out of the school house.
In most of the old Asian cultures, the functioning of the mind was traditionally better understood than in the West, but today, there is not much left of the glorious culture, as I have seen with my own eyes. The young people have no idea of it, as they are enthralled by American lifestyle, gadgets, hamburgers, and video games; their parents are for the most part enthralled by their children, and just run behind, trying to catch up with their unreasonable demands. It’s chaotic, and that balance that was given through the wistful culture has been totally lost.
You don’t see that as a tourist, only when you live there for several years and bond with the locals, and see how they live, and what the children do and want, you get an idea of what’s going on. It may be to a lesser extent in China, but I know it’s the case in all of South-East Asia, and in Japan, and I have seen it in India as well in the merchant class, and all circles of society that enjoy a certain standing, also with young couples who belong to the new middle-class.
There is not much left of their culture, and what is left, is fake, and is taken up as an adornment, and for showing the foreigners that contrary to the West, in India one still cherishes culture. When you see them in a restaurant, you see the children order hamburgers, and roll on the floor when they don’t get what they want; and the same scenario you see in department stores, just as in any of our cities. They run today after the same fake values as in the West and believe the same lies, and besides, their culture is even more moralistic than Christian fundamentalism.
Many diseases start in the mind, through turbulence, through lack of silence, and rest. We know this today both through studying the old wistful cultures and through our modern research. So we know it kind of twofold, and that means it’s a fact that can’t be overlooked, and that must not be discarded from the political agenda.
We are responsible to raise our level of public sanity also by reducing the noise level wherever this is possible. Great progress has been made in recent years in this respect regarding public transport. In Asia I have seen how it was before, and I have seen and heard it as a child even in my own country. Today, public busses, trains and subways, and even commercial trucks, make a fraction of the noise they used to make twenty years ago. This alone has considerably sanitized our public environment, not to talk about lesser air pollution.
I am not an apostle of protection, and when we sanitize our public places and our public intercourse, we must be careful not to apply this approach to the education of our children, for there it’s certainly misplaced.
Children need to grow up with their inner contradictions, not without them, for if we sanitize them away, children can never learn to handle emotions, and inner conflict. So in matters of education, too much sanity is not wise, as too little sanity is not wise; the proper balance is all the art!
Let me get in a little more detail here. To begin with, silence cannot be imposed upon the mind. It’s a fundamental error to discipline children for silence; when children lead a balanced life, and when their emotions are respected and rendered conscious, children are not any more noisy than adults. It’s typical for our modern-day ignorance to state something like ‘Well, children are children, and so they are noisy.’ No. That’s a projection, and a prejudice. There is no reason why children should be substantially louder, and substantially more unruly, than adults. It’s through imposed discipline that children become noisy, and unruly, not through a sane and understanding education.
I often asked parents, when I saw in which many cruel ways they mistreat their children in moments of crisis: ‘What about if I inflicted upon you what you are right now inflicting upon your child? Would you find that okay?’
Then they reply either nothing or they righteously utter ‘But I wouldn’t behave like that child,’ whereupon I say ‘But look only what you are doing!’
I have seen the most cruel of behavior displayed by parents and educators in moments where they felt observed, ashamed, in public, and wanted to ‘get that child shut up.’ And of course, they reach the opposite of what they want, and the child begins to scream to a point that people begin to look at each other and shake their heads. There is not a flight Europe-Asia or back, where I do not see at least one of these dramas displayed in public, for everybody to watch, and take as food for thought regarding so-called ‘modern education.’ All this comes from a basic lack of silence. All modern education is noisy and thinks it has to be noisy, because it posits the dogma ‘a normal child is noisy.’ I say, it’s not.
First of all, when children are noisy on a constant basis, you can be sure that their parents and educators are noisy as well. Modern life doesn’t need to be noisy. To have a television doesn’t imply it must yell. The same is true for a stereo, a video game, or whatever. But I have seen time and again that parents who have noisy children are just as noisy, inviting you for a drink while having the television run at full volume, and then shout at you because ‘it’s so noisy in the room today’ so we have ‘to speak a little louder.’
Many of them are so used to their constantly running televisions that they don’t even hear them anymore consciously; so as a matter of automatism, they begin to shout instead of talking. And then I want to see the child that doesn’t adopt such an example and becomes a noisy rat!
In most schools I was working it was so noisy that after two hours I wanted to run outside, because constant noise triggers anxiety with me. The educators yell at the children every two minutes because ‘the children in this school are so noisy,’ so they shout louder, fighting noise with noise. It’s insane, really!
When children are noisy you have to whisper, for that will get them back on track. What helps in the long run is meditation, or silent relaxation, or yoga, any activity that makes sense only when done in silence. And you will see how much children will begin to like that, how much they ask for it!
I have talked with educators from Krishnamurti schools in India, and they told me that to conclude from their experience, most problems with discipline result from the mind being too turbulent, and to remedy that, silence was needed, only silence! When they start their day, they go outside with the children and watch the sunrise, for no more than about ten minutes, the same in the evening, they go out watching the sunset, for another ten minutes. So that means twenty minutes per day silence, real silence. They told me that twenty minutes of silence per day is enough for a child and even for most adults to keep the mind silent for the whole day!
Research has shown that a silent mind is much better coordinated, that the brain hemispheres work more in sync, that the mind is more open to absorb knowledge, and that emotional balance is easier to maintain.
I think everybody can understand that, it simply makes sense, and it’s not something that ‘works only for Asians.’ Krishnamurti schools are not imbedded in Asian culture, they are imbedded in international culture. In ordinary schools in India, children are as noisy as in the West, and they are as much, or even more, admonished ‘not to be noisy.’
An educator anywhere in the world who day by day has noisy children around him or her, is a noisy person, do what you will, a person with a noisy chatting, turbulent mind, and unruly emotions!
This is simply so, as a matter of action and reaction. Put a group of children around a sage, do you think they are noisy or will be noisy after ten minutes sitting there? They won’t. I have seen it at several occasions in Asia, in Indonesia. The sage will talk so softly that every child, in order to understand what he says, will keep a completely silent posture, and you can hear a needle fall on the floor. Why? It’s because the silence of the sage’s mind fills all the minds in the room; it’s his aura, his intrinsic energy that does that. And his attitude. He speaks softly and all of his gestures are soft, and yielding — and he smiles. There is not one word he utters that is said out of balance, there is not one movement he does that is not graceful and beautiful to watch.
The children absorb the man, eat him virtually with their eyes, in awe, watch attentively everything he does, says, how he cuts a fruit, to eat a small piece, and then offer the rest to the children. And they leave radiant, but silent, and their faces say ‘I have received a gift!’
It’s an enchanting experience, one that you never forget, and it teaches without a word that for sane education, no discipline is needed, but wisdom, and silence — which is exactly what K said throughout his life.
And he also said that silence can in no way be imposed, because when it’s imposed, the result is artificial conduct, not authentic behavior. This is generally so, and it’s even more true when you try to impose silence upon children. For you will have to cope with total failure, you will see that it’s all going to go in the opposite direction and that you will drive out the last little bit of silence from the children’s minds. So don’t even try, but first practice to be silent, yourself, even if it’s only for five minutes a day.
Before you do that, and regularly, don’t even think you could work around poised and halfway silent children. Forget it. If your mind is a clutter box, do you think you are going to make order in the mind of the children sitting around you?
And keep this in mind, in all matters spiritual, coercion does not work. It’s not important how you find inner peace, only the result counts. The only thing you can do for the children is to render them conscious and sensitive to noise, by at times gently telling them to listen to all the sounds around them, and identify each sound, and then the whole symphony. This will by and by render every child conscious also of manipulatory input, advertisements, ambient music, and the like.
Silence, all silence comes about spontaneously, it cannot be invited. In the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tzu wrote: ‘If you want to expand something very much, you first have to contract it very much.’ When children are very much disciplined for being silent, the result is that they become hyper-noisy, every moment they step out of the constraint, every time they leave the room, go to the toilet or do whatever, go home or meet other children. Then they explode. Then they fight, they hurt each other, they yell, they kick, they spit, they curse, in one word, they do all they are not allowed doing in class. Hence, discipline is useless, or even counterproductive, or let’s say that any kind of discipline is useless when it is based on coercion.
Self-discipline is not useless, not counterproductive. What we learn from that is that the goal is not teaching discipline, but the educator teaching self-discipline, first to himself, then to the children. Without having learnt self-discipline, no educator can convey to children what it implies. The educator must walk his talk before he can expect the slightest improvement with the children he cares for. This is so much the more the case as self-discipline is not really a behavior; it’s an attitude. And attitude cannot be transmitted verbally, it’s always transmitted nonverbally and most of the time unconsciously.
When we give up coercion in all of education, we put an end to the insane dualism that has pervaded our culture since the beginnings of patriarchy. For when we stop coercion, we open the door to self-regulation, which is the functional modus vivendi of all living systems. Dualism manifests in our cultural history as mind-body dualism, male-female dualism, right-wrong dualism, noble-ordinary dualism, rich-poor dualism, win-lose dualism and constraint-freedom dualism.
The latter is probably the most destructive of all these forms of either-or dogmas as it’s against life itself. Life is freedom, not constraint, not coercion, not imposed will or domination, and its motor is self-regulation.
There is self-regulation to be observed everywhere in nature, in our own organism, in the tides and the weather, in the growth cycles of plants, animals and humans, in the moving of the planets, and so forth, and even in our global economy. Self-regulation is considered one of the most important principles in the functioning of markets, national, regional or global.
Markets that lack self-regulation, that are planned, that lack creative freedom and follow the will or fancy of a central bank’s president are not productive. Communism has shown that, Marxism has shown that, Maoism has shown that, Stalinism has shown that. All these highly regulated markets were poor and their growth insignificant, because all self-regulation was weeded out from them through state-ordained planned economy.
Today we see the same in Myanmar and North Korea that are poor countries when you look at their economic performance, while they are very rich countries when you look at their national resources. To get a rich country perform poorly, all you have to do is to curtail down all inherent self-regulation in the market, and plan and regulate everything, including human behavior. It’s a recipe for failure.
And when this is so, when this is so both economically and politically, why then should rooting out self-regulation have any positive effects in matters of education? The truth is that it’s only self-regulation that has a positive effect in education, to a point you can be sure your school will be successful, provided you build enough self-regulation in the daily running of the school, in its curricula, in the formation of the teachers, and last not least in the relationship parents-educators.
Children, when you let them free, are naturally self-regulative in all they think and do. They simply obey nature, and nature is self-regulative. And self-regulated children are stronger, and have a better immune system, they are healthier, and they can endure more. Children who have been impeded from regulating themselves are emotionally fragile, and physically sickish, cranky, and frail. It’s the babies that were put in dark rooms for sleeping alone, instead of sharing the bed of their parents, it’s those that were hung at the wall, as infants, in bandages, and those whose hands were attached to the bed, to keep them from enjoying themselves. It’s also those modern children that are TV-regulated instead of self-regulated, the TV having been their babysitter, and their pacifier.
Being self-regulative, children at certain moments do make noise, but that’s not the obsessionally noisy behavior I was reporting previously in this chapter. It’s rather short moments where the child needs to ‘pull the registers’ so to speak, like an organist pulls the registers of the organ before he sets out to play. For example, when the child comes home from school, they often shout, or they throw their jacket in a corner, and they do that in a ‘noisy’ way, and that noise says something. It says ‘I am glad to come home.’ That’s all.
To resist the noise in that moment and admonish the child is as good as telling the boy or girl ‘I do not like you to come home, better you stay in school.’ And that really hurts. So it’s okay when a child pulls the registers for a moment, which is, to repeat it, not the ‘noise.’ It’s a different story, not a noise triggered by an unruly mind, but simply the body talking a moment for balancing the mind.
Have you seen children and toddlers jumping in the arms of their mothers or fathers — and have you heard the noise they make when doing that? They howl, or they yell, or they sing, but it’s almost never silent. These noises are natural and they must not be complained about or you tell the child implicitly ‘I do not want you to live.’ And that, then, is what I call death education.
Often, when children pull the registers they do a suite of rapid movements together with the noise they make; it’s kind of coordinated, like a stage clown practicing one of his sketches, a twist, a turn, a click, a stamp, a shout, and a yawn, all that in fast playback. In my experience, boys pull the registers more often than girls. And these moments, I equally observed, are almost always getting the child into a yielding, relaxed mood, and what they most like, then, is to be caressed and sit quietly, for some time, next to their preferred educator, or, at home, with a parent. So it seems to me that pulling the registers has for the child a relaxation effect, and that may be the hidden reason they do it. It’s not unlike the saying of Lao-tzu I quoted above, first they expand and tense, then they contract and relax.
But here I am talking about basically sane children, not those raised in authoritarian schools and homes, who are obsessionally noisy.
In general, it can be said that the sane child expresses himself or herself in a varied manner, never the same behavior pattern, but a smooth sequence of motion patterns.
This is perhaps how children most differ from adults, as the behavior pattern of adults is much more uniform when you compare it with the rich patterned structure of children’s behavior. And this variety in behaving, and the rapidity of changing behavior patterns, may have a balancing effect upon the psyche and emotions, and that may be one of the reasons why children generally are emotionally more balanced than most adults.
To finalize this section, let me talk about the often-mentioned topic of children’s concentration span. First of all, I believe that the faculty to concentrate is directly related to the silence or turbulence of the mind; the more silent the mind is, the more and the deeper the person is able to concentrate.
I observed that with myself at the time when I was going to leave the boarding, to drive home from school every day, and started to take piano lessons. I had to realize that eight years in that noisy awful boarding, and another eight years spent previously as a child in a Catholic home that was not less noisy and brutal, got me to a point that I was unable to concentrate for more than ten minutes when practicing the piano.
While I was exercising often for hours, I was not really concentrated when doing so, and that is why I needed so long for learning even the most basic piano technique. I was most of the time absent-minded when I played my etudes or musical pieces. I was not really there, not really present, and the reason for that incapacity to concentrate simply was that my mind was one big chatterbox all day long.
The faculty to concentrate is not something the small child possesses, and it’s harming toddlers and small children when educators force them to concentrate. Small children do not need any concentration ability; the faculty to concentrate is intrinsically something belonging to the mature mind.
Only a mind that is trained, that is focused, can concentrate. The child’s mind is contemplative, which is a mind that is always fresh, and open, it’s also a mind that thinks holistically because it is not fragmented.
Krishnamurti often said that concentration impedes the mind from contemplation and from meditation; this is so because concentration is goal-centered, purposeful, teleological, while meditation spontaneously comes about when the mind is not purposeful and not focused, and when concentration was dissolved by relaxation.
Small children are most of the time in that meditative mode, and to get them out of it by training them to concentrate is really insane, as it deprives them of their intrinsic wisdom; in addition it can render them sick and depressed.
Typically, the faculty to concentrate goes along with the fact that the mind contains an observer. In the small child, there is no observer, as much as the other inner selves are not yet built. As a general rule, the observer is built when social awareness begins to form, and a sense for society’s morality codex, from about age seven to twelve. Before the observer is built, the child is in a state of bliss, for all their perception is direct and immediate, because the intellect is bypassed.
You can also say that concentration is thought-related, and where there is no thought, because the mind is contemplative and perceives reality directly, no concentration is needed.
Such a tranquil and poised mind really doesn’t need to concentrate, for concentration is skill-focused, and it’s for learning skills that we need to concentrate. Thus it borders insanity to tell parents their small children were suffering from ‘poor concentration’ at a time when the child has no thought structure in place.
The very fact that I became aware of my lack of concentration ability only at age eighteen, and not before, says it all. It says that I didn’t need that faculty for learning the usual school knowledge and for passing my bac; however, I well needed it for learning a musical instrument, and score reading, thus for learning a specific skill.
©2015 Peter Fritz Walter. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.