I like traveling by bus in London. Especially on the upper floor of a double-decker. You get wonderful views of the surrounding streets, see people feeding the pigeons in parks. You see into shops. You get to take a quick, nosey peek into the upper floors of buildings. You see almost in close-up the things people in flats and apartments put on their window-sills. Plants in pots, toy animals, books, newspapers, dying flowers, half-drunk mugs of tea. And sometimes, stuck on a window pane, a cry for support and understanding – a small sticker which can be read only by people such as myself going by on the upper decks of buses – ‘Men govern but women rule’; ‘Say No to Lydd Airport’.
But however attractive traveling on the upper deck is there is one particular time of day to avoid – the two hours from about half-two onwards in the afternoon. Weekdays, that is. And in school term time. If you’re unlucky enough to be on a bus when the wrecking hoards pour forth from the school gates and invade your space – then hunker down, grit your teeth and hope lots of them get off before you do. They will gather together in a heaving knot, shout, laugh and cackle like hyenas, argue, scream (the girls, that is) throw things at each other and generally form such a cacophonous, out-of-order rabble that it makes your journey and that of all the other non-schoolchildren (don’t know if ‘children’ is quite the word) on the vehicle something of a misery.
I say that not as a judgmental curmudgeon with a thing against young people. I say it as someone who feels their pain. For that is what this behaviour in public is a manifestation of. What you see any weekday afternoon on the bus is not childish, teenage fun and high-spirits. They are not happy; they are not having fun; this is not simply the age-old conventional ‘rebellion’ against the world of their parents. These young people are not at ease in their own skins. There is about them a sense of mania bordering often on panic; an intense frustration at something they feel but don’t understand. They are flagging up, if we would look in their direction, the fact that something in the forefront of their lives is profoundly wrong.
I believe we do not truly educate our children. We groom them for work. (Assuming there’s going to be any for them to do by the time they’re old enough). It’s not the same thing. If we were to educate them in the true meaning of the word we would start from the point of view that in every individual of whatever degree there is, from birth, something unique, something of worth to give to the society in which they find themselves. The function of the education system then would be to suss that something out, to nurture it and to bring it on.
We are still employing an educational philosophy which dates back to eighteenth century England. As the new manufacturing towns grew up then with their cotton mills and their iron foundries, people from an impoverished countryside flocked to them in order to provide a better life for themselves and their families. The vast majority could neither read nor write. They had no idea about a wider world; the world to them was composed of, ‘my village and not-my village’. In order to help them understand and to fit into the sort of society which was developing in these new industrial towns, these people had to be given the rudiments of learning. And inevitably, that learning was geared to the needs of those in whose satanic mills they would work – the mill owners, the iron-masters etc. – all those entrepreneurs whose vision, hard work, egotism and lust for power had brought about this apparent gold-rush.
And that’s how, in principle, education remains today. We groom for employment and the illusion of ‘security’. It is in dire need of root and branch reform. But governments and those in authority whose grip on power depends upon maintaining the status quo resist all such fundamental change. There is what could be called a national consciousness that develops in a society across time. And that national consciousness, seeping through into the lives of these young people today, is telling them just that – that this is not the way. They put up with it in school during the day, but – to judge by the horror stories we hear every day about the behaviour in schools – only just. And then there are those pathetic young souls who, in a desperation we can only guess at, go tragically over the edge, kill their classmates and then themselves.
In each of those young people on the bus, there is something unique that could be brought out and nurtured. Instead of that, that inner creative talent – which is at the heart of each human being – is forced to one side so that a form of brain-washing can be applied. And that talent, forced to keep its mouth tight shut, creates the mayhem we are seeing. We need to seek it out, look at it and have the humility to ask of that talent what it needs in order to grow. Then perhaps we would see a change; then maybe we would begin to create, via our education system, a race of young people more at ease with themselves and the world which they, sooner or later, will be running.
On that subject, I quote here a ‘meditation’ (I’m not sure that’s the word but it’ll do) I am including in the book of meditations I am preparing –
“Few of us are educated in the true meaning of the word. Nor do we truly educate our children. For if we would do that we would be concerned not only to teach them the essential skills of literacy and numeracy but to draw out from them and encourage to flower in this world that which is in each of them by nature. For every one of us, of whatever estate or degree, has his or her contribution to make. That way, they would grow toward wholeness and balance. As it is, we pay scant regard to their inner selves, imposing on them from without a system of essentially short-term, superficial and pre-digested disciplines whose primary purpose is to prepare them for future employment and the illusion of ‘security’. Thus confined to the shallows and distanced from their own hearts they grow out of true. What they most profoundly are is pushed aside to bide its time in a locked room where it will work mischief – for be in no doubt, God denied becomes the Devil.”