“Freedom from the desire for an answer is essential to the understanding of a problem,” wrote J.Krishnamurthi, the well-known Indian education philosopher, who lived from 1895 to 1986 and founded a number of progressive schools in India.
On September 22nd and 23rd, Harvard alumni in education gathered together at The Valley School, one of the schools founded by J.Krishnamurthi. On the outskirts of Bangalore, nestled amidst a verdant forest, The Valley School and its attached study center is a perfect place for a retreat. Walking into the beautiful campus, with its lush greenery and its range of colorful birds, I could feel myself relaxing and recovering from the hectic noise and traffic of Bangalore.
We began the retreat on Saturday evening with a moderated session on “What we see as the central problem in education.” Although we initially located the problem outside of ourselves – our exam-oriented school systems, the mindsets of teachers and parents, the lack of engagement and deep learning in classrooms across the country – the conversation eventually turned inwards. Perhaps we had to start by questioning our own conditioning, by thinking about ourselves as educators. True to the Krishnamurthi philosophy, we explored the questions instead of the answers. Sunday began with meditation and a nature walk, followed by moderated sessions about what makes a meaningful education.
While the moderated sessions were very interesting and thought provoking, for me the most exciting part of the retreat were the informal conversations with other HA Ed members. On Saturday night, after our session, we ate dinner together and stayed up late talking about the inequities in our education system, the responsibilities that come with our own privileges, and the contradictions and paradoxes we all live with every day. It was a wonderful way to get to know other HA Ed members -- not through superficial social talk but through rich and layered conversations about issues that we all wrestle with.
The HA Ed India chapter’s mission is to help alumni form deep and meaningful relationships with each other around our shared commitment to education – this certainly seemed to happen at our retreat!