Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

tolstoy on education

What then must we do?” is tolstoy’s social analysis from the 1870s-80s through his experience to try to understand urban poverty (in Moscow) and solutions.

Am just getting started on it, but it is so rich in its analysis and am totally staggered by some of its imports.

For eg, here is his commentary on education…
What the common folk call ‘education’ is, fashionable dress, refined conversation, clean hands, and a particular kind of cleaniliness. Of such a man in contradistinction to others, they say he is an ‘educated man’.

In a rather higher circle they mean by ‘education’ the same that is meant among the people, but to the conditions of ‘education’ are added piano-playing, a knowledge of French, ability to write a Russian letter without mistakes in spelling, and yet more external cleanliness. In a still higher circle by ‘education’ is meant all this, with the addition of a knowledge of English, and a diploma from one of the higher educational institutions, and yet a higher degree of cleanliness. But the first, second and third kind of education are essentially one and the same. “Education” consists of those forms and that knowledge which will separate a man from others. Its object is the same as that of cleanliness – to separate us from the mass of the poor, in order that those cold and hungry people may not see how we make holiday. But to hide oneself is impossible, and they do see.

And thus I became convinced that the reason it was impossible for the rich, to help the town poor, lay also in the impossibility of coming into close touch with them, and that this impossibility we ourselves create by our whole like and by the whole use we make of our wealth. I became convinced that between us – the rich – and the poor there stand a wall of cleanliness and education that we have erected and reared by our own wealth, and to be able the aid the poor we have first of all to destroy that wall, so that we may apply Sutaev’s method of distributing the poor among us. And from this side, too, I reached the same conclusion to which the course of my reflection on town poverty had bought me: that the cause of that poverty is our wealth.
the range of experiments that tolstoy has indulged in his life is quite amazing. here is his experiences as a school headmaster.


Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

Most Interesting!

csm said...

i swear.
it has twisted all my theories firmly on its head.