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On the pathway to Man
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The integrity of the child as an individual - indeed, the integrity of the environment - this is the mutual relationship of the two basic principles underlying the concept of the school as shared by myself and my like-minded colleagues. The very first lesson in the school ought to touch upon the meaning of human existence.
In our world today the whole educational curriculum is divided up into divergent layers, isolated from each other. The world of perception is transformed into isolated 'corridors' to such an extent that it is sometimes hard for the pupil to believe that they are all part and parcel of a single whole. Art draws its very strength from the fact that it synthesises fractionalised phenomena, offers a holistic system of education and child-raising, and inculcates a holistic world-view.
But art cannot fully address this question if children are not immersed in an atmosphere where genuine life-values are affirmed - an atmosphere of shared labour and searchings, where every lesson is permeated with a sense of creativity. Then we have something to think about. Then we have a basis on which children will be able to appreciate art with understanding. For if there is no opportunity to live and experience this high ideal first-hand, then the high ideal is not truly perceived - it remains an ideal in word only, and hence begins to compromise itself.
In our educational process we work on the basis of a three-part harmony: "I see - I analyse - I act."
It is not just that we place our own tremendous emphasis on music, visual art and dance - they should make themselves felt in the school on a day-by-day basis, and this is the crux of the whole thing.
No programme, no methodology can in and of itself guarantee success in child-raising on the whole.
Together with the educators of the Children's Music School in Kizliar (Daghestan), we emphasise the direct dependence of success in music on the level of a person's overall development, rather than on any special, isolated musical talents. It turns out that skill on one area is manifest when skill is shown in many areas of life.
Young people often conquer summits simply because they have never been persuaded that these summits are unattainable. It is our view that skill in one area of activity is made up of skills in others. Talent is a whole network of different gifts. Which means the task of developing one set of skills is expanded when all of them are set in motion together. And to bring up a specialist, consequently, one has to bring out the overall Man - Man as a unified whole...
...Years are behind us now. I have held on to the conviction that Man can do everything! It is precisely through making sense of this saying that our multifunctional school, the whole school complex, the whole school-Man, has been developed. Our purpose is not 'knowledge-know-how-habits'. It is not endless drilling and rote-learning, or the spoon-feeding of information. Rather, it is the raising of Man to live harmoniously, to act in harmony with society - a Man who, when he sees and analyses the phenomena of life which surround him, can feel their interconnection, can perceive the world as a whole. And no matter what he becomes - an engineer, physicist, chemist, builder, teacher etc. - he will understand that he is going out into a whole, complete, unified world!
We are in the process of shaping Man's ability to get along in this whole, unified world from a very young age. Right from childhood Man must be raised beginning with his roots, with his very essence. And the essence of Man is his humanity. And this consists in re-uniting, one way or another, his life-forces in the struggle against the forces of chaos and disintegration. But the development of Man's essence is not only the goal - it is at the same time the means to achieving this goal.
After all, why is the idea of the harmony of the individual so attractive and so productive? Because it alone is capable of appreciating the harmony of the world as the most valuable treasure, capable of preserving this integrity, this very harmony that has been in the making over millions of years of evolution...
In regular schools we notice how our once attentive, wide-eyed pupils seem to fall away from us. We see education gradually turning into a two-edged lie: the young ones pretend to study, the older ones pretend to teach. The mighty energy of the human spirit gets squeezed out by the rigidity and inflexibility of educational technology. It freezes up, only rarely causing faint and pitiful ripples of disturbance to monotonously long and boring classes. But just look at how the school's energy boils over between classes! During these long moments of despair it reminds one of the convulsions of a dying giant.
As a rule, the overwhelming majority of pupils have only two or three classes a day in which they are active, attentive, concentrated and participate as active creators in the learning process. More than two-thirds of the time spent in school is given over to inactivity. It is as though the brain were asleep. But this is not a sleep of relaxation. It is a sleep that is harmful to one's health.
The activity of exchanging information engenders the activity of energy exchange. A state of sleepiness and a sluggish flow of thought processes is reflected in a slowing down of psychophysical functions, in a retarded flow of energy exchange. The body and its nervous system are literally undergoing a slow death. The situation of the one who is 'sleeping' is exacerbated even further by being in a state of anxiety and tension resulting from an attempt to avoid being discouraged by one's inactivity...
The result is that for most of the time the body is in an oppressed state. Perhaps this is why the health curve on one's educational record falls from grade to grade, along with the extinguishing of one's mental forces. The traditional school is not in tune with children's nature. It is not really for them. It does not contribute either to the flourishing of their talents or to the development of their spiritual, physical and moral health. Like a knife-blade, it is aimed at a very narrow target: knowledge-know-how-habits. The focus is not on the child, not on the individual, not on the development of the immeasurable range of the abilities he is endowed with, of his whole universal selfhood, but simply on producing a product of the instructional process.
Mikhail Petrovich Shchetinin "On the pathway to Man"
Contemporary Pedagogy ( Pedagogika nashikh dnei)
ed. Shalva Amonashvili et al.
Krasnodar : Knizhnoe izdatel'stvo, 1989, pp. 381-401.