Freedom and Mastery

Mother. You have said that the student must be given full freedom. Now, some interpret this as meaning that there should be no fixed classes, for the student should be left free to do what he likes, to come to the class or not as he likes, etc. So in this case, there should not be fixed hours for each class. And in this case the organisation becomes very complicated—how to arrange the classes?

 

Quite impossible! But when did I say that the student must be left free to come or not?…

Excuse me, you must not confuse things. I have said and I repeat that if a student feels quite alien to a subject, for example, if a student feels he has an ability for literature and poetry and has a distaste or at least an indifference for mathematics, if he tells me, “I prefer not to follow the mathematics course”, I can’t tell him, “No, it is absolutely necessary to go to it.” But if a student has decided to follow a class, it is an absolutely elementary discipline that he follows it, goes to it regularly and behaves himself properly there; otherwise he is altogether unworthy of going to school. I have never encouraged anyone to roam about during class-hours and to come one day and be absent the next, never, for, to begin with, if he can’t submit to this quite elementary discipline, he will never acquire the least control over himself, he will always be the slave of all his impulses and all his fancies.

If you don’t want to study a certain branch of knowledge, that is all right, no one can compel you to do it; but if you decide to do something—anything in life, if you decide to do a thing—you must do it honestly, with discipline, regularity and method. And without whims. I have never approved of anyone being the plaything of his own impulses and fancies, never, and you will never be able to have that from me, for then one is no longer a human being, one is an animal. So, here is one of the questions quite settled, without any discussion.

 

Ref : Questions and Answers 1956