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Jiddu Krishnamurti's Philosophy of Education

Updated on August 19, 2010


In The Function of Education Jiddu Krishnamurti argues that the purpose of education is to prepare people for life.  That is done by making students feel free, so that they can think freely, and won’t conform to society.  Society is corrupt, violent, and oppressive.  If students don’t think freely they will also be corrupt, violent, and oppressive.  They must think freely so that they will rebel against everything that is wrong with society, so that they can change society.  That is completely true, but Krishnamurti doesn’t account for how students will learn to rebel, if their education is not oppressive.

Jiddu Krishnamurti argues that the purpose of education should not just be to prepare people for a career, but to prepare people for life.  If people are not educated to understand the whole process of life; “the constant battle between groups, races and nations… the subtle, hidden things of the mind-the envies, the ambitions, the passions, the fears, fulfillments and anxieties” (Krishnamurti, xl), then they will miss the whole point of life, that life is actually extraordinary, all life is extraordinary, the earth and all the animals and plants on it and everything else, all are extraordinary.  If people do not understand how extraordinary life is they will not live it to their upmost potential, and instead will decay, deteriorate, and whither away.  If education does not help people to understand life then it is meaningless, because in order to live a good life it is necessary to know what life is all about, and it is necessary to have intelligence; the capacity to think freely without fear, without having to conform, in order to discover what is true.

It is necessary for young people to live in an environment without fear so that they can learn to think for themselves, and not feel like they have to conform.  Most people become frightened as they get older, because they have so many responsibilities, and are unable to think freely, which makes it that much more important that young people feel that they are free to think freely, in order to understand life.  Life is beautiful, but people have made it out to be an ugly thing, and because they believed it was so horrible they have made it horrible.  Every part of society is based on the belief that life is horrible; the education system, organized religion, everything.  For that reason “it is guided by politicians who are always seeking power; it is a world of lawyers, policemen and soldiers” (Krishnamurti, xli), and endless wars.  Everyone is struggling against everyone else in order to be safe; in a position of power or comfort.  People are divided by ideology, by class and caste, by nationality, “by every form of stupidity and cruelty” (Krishnamurti, xli).  People are educated to fit into this insane world, they are encouraged to fit into it, by the education system, by their parents, by nearly everyone, and most people want to fit in. 

  If people had a proper education, an education that allowed them to think freely, then chances are they would decide they don’t actually like the world the way society is.  So they would revolt against it, discover what is really true, and change the world.  But people are discouraged from doing that, because if they did they would become a threat to society and to the false premises it is based on; that life without it is short cruel and brutal, and people need it to protect them from each other.  In fact society is what is cruel and brutal.  When people conform to society they become as corrupt as it is, they become afraid, so we must rebel against it, in order to change the world.  The world must be changed because it is in chaos, it is decaying, dying.  Society’s problems can only be solved if people don’t think in terms of the formulas they’ve been given by society and are expected to conform to, but are in revolt against society, against the ambitious acquisitiveness it is based on, and think as complete human beings.  When people are educated to do what they love to do, they can solve societies problems because they will be doing what they love, not doing what will give them more profit, and they will not be competing with anyone else, and contributing to the problem.

There is no way the education can completely prepare everyone for their lives, because they will come across obstacles they weren’t expecting.  However, if people receive a proper education, that encourages them to think freely, they will be able to deal with those obstacles, because they will be able to think of ways to deal with them.  By not having to rely on formulas, they will be able to educate themselves on situations that they weren’t expecting they would have to deal with.

There are many careers that require a great deal of knowledge about one particular subject, careers in medicine for example.  For that reason people who are interested in such careers should focus on getting educated in the relevant field.  It is also impossible for everyone to learn everything, and people will be more interested in some subjects than others.  However, there are things everyone needs to know about in order to be fully functioning human beings participating in society, for example, “the constant battle between groups, races and nations… meditation… what we call religion, and… the subtle, hidden things of the mind-the envies, the ambitions, the passions, the fears, fulfillments and anxieties”.  It is also generally a good thing for people to have more than one interest, historically the most successful, creative, and intelligent people have had many interests.  It is likely that they led such productive lives because they had many interests, and didn’t grow bored and fearful.  Education is also not just something you have to get before you can get a job, it’s a life-long process, and over the course of a life it’s possible to learn about many different subjects.

            Direct experience is the best kind of education.  It is impossible to learn everything there is to know about any subject just by reading about it, it is necessary to actually do it.  Experience prepares people for life, and in fact it is life.  Life must be experience to the fullest degree possible, in order to live a full life, and receive as much education as is possible.

            Krishnamurti says that people whose educations have only prepared them for a career have unfulfilling lives, and are afraid of life because they don’t know how to deal with it, so they conform, and become complacent in a corrupt society.  For the most part he is right.  However, there are many people who receive such educations and go on to live fulfilling lives.  They usually learn to educate themselves, and they develop interests outside of their field.  Krishnamurti says that people must feel free in order to get a good education.  That is also usually true, but in order to really be free people must choose to be free, that is, they must choose to rebel against everything that is oppressive.  Krishnamurti knows this, but he doesn’t connect it to his concept of a good education.  An education that simply prepares people for a career can be oppressive.  When people are oppressed, the majority will conform out of fear, but some will choose to be free, choose to rebel.  When people rebel against their oppressive education, That’s when they learn to educate themselves, and they get the kind of education that Krishnamurti is advocating.  Or actually a better education than that, because it is chosen out of rebellion.  When people are given a good education, chances are they will never learn to rebel and wont value their education.

            There is absolutely nothing problematic about revolting against a corrupt, violent and oppressive society, if that rebellion results in being uncorrupt, free, and respectful of others freedom.  It is absolutely necessary that society change so that there is freedom and not oppression, and everyone can choose to help it change, or to take part in the oppression and be oppressive themselves.  There is no other choice.  Those who choose not to be free also choose not to allow others to be free.  They become part of the problem, not the solution, and lead unfulfilling lives.  The more productive the rebellion is in changing society the more satisfying life is.

            The purpose of a good education, Krishnamurti believes, is to make students feel free so that they can think freely, and will see the problems in society, the corruption, violence, and oppression.  Then they will revolt against everything that is wrong with society, and change society, so that society will not be corrupt, violent, and oppressive.  If they do not feel free they will conform to society and be part of the problem, not part of the solution.  Krishnamurti does not account for how students will learn to rebel if their education is not oppressive.  Somehow there must be something else in their lives that do oppress them, but anyone who would receive such a good education is likely to have a fairly good position in life, and not be oppressed by any other situation.







Works Cited

Krishnamurti, Jiddu.  “The Function of Education”.  From Socrates to Cinema; An

Introduction to Philosophy.  Ed.  Di Leo, Jeffrey.  McGraw-Hill.  (New York, 2007).


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