Need for Experiments in Education
There is too much of make-believe, self-deception and submission to convention. The field of education which holds the seeds of the future of the children of the soil requires absolute sincerity, fearlessness in the pursuit of truth and boldest experiments, provided always that they are sound and based upon deep thought matured and sanctified by a life of consecration. Not every tyro in education may make such experiments. If the field is vast enough for sound experimenting, it is too dangerous for hasty and ill-conceived prospecting such as people in feverish search of gold delight in.
Young Indian, 30-9-1926
Education in the Home
When I landed at Durban in January 1897, I had there children with me, my sister'7s son ten years old, and my own sons nine and five years of age. Where was I to educate them? I was loth to send them back to India, for I believed even then that young children should not be separated from their parents. The education that children naturally imbibe in a well-ordered household is impossible to obtain in hostels. I therefore kept my children with me. I could not devote to the children all the time I had wanted to give them. My inability to give them enough attention and other unavoidable causes prevented me from providing them with the literary education I had desired, and all my sons have had complaints to make against me in this matter. Whenever they come across an M.A. or a B.A. or even a Matriculate, they seem to feel the handicap of a want of school education.
Nevertheless I am of opinion that, If i had insisted on their being educated somehow at public schools, they would have been deprived of the training that can be had only at the school of experience, or from contact with the parents. I should never have been free, as I am today, from anxiety on their score, and the artificial education they could have had in England or South Africa, torn from me, would never have taught them the simplicity and the spirit of service they show in their lives today, while their artificial ways of living might have been a serious handicap in my public work. Therefore, though i have not been able to give them a literary education either to their or to my satisfaction, I am not quite sure, as I look back on my past years that I have not done my duty by them to the the best of my capacity. Nor do I regret not having sent to them to public schools. I have always felt that the undesirable traits I see today in my eldest son are echo of my own undisciplined and unformulated early life. I regard that time as a period of half baked knowledge and indulgence. It coincided with the most impressionable years of my eldest son, and naturally he has refused to regard it as my time of indulgence and inexperience. He has on the contrary believed that that was the brightest period of my life, and the changes, effected later have been due to delusion, miscalled enlightenment. And well he might. Why should he not think that my earlier years represented a period of awakening, and the later years of radical change, years of delusion and egotism? Often have I been confronted with various posers from friends : What harm had there been, if I had given my boys an academicals education ? What right had I thus to clip their wings? Why should I have come in the way of their taking degrees and choosing their own careers ?
I do not think that there is much point in these questions. I have come in contact with numerous students. I have tried myself or through others to impose my educational 'fads' on other children too and have seen the result thereof. There are within my knowledge a number of young men today contemporaneous with my sons. I do not think that man to man they are any better than my sons, or that my sons have much to learn from them.
But the ultimate result of my experiments is in the womb of the future. My object in discussing this subject here is that a student of the history of civilization may have some measure of the difference between disciplined home education and school education, and also of the effect produced on children through changes introduced by parents in their lives. The purpose put of this chapter is also to show the lengths to which a votary of truth is driven by his experiments with truth, as also to show the votary of liberty how many are the sacrifices demanded by that stern goddess. Had I been without a sense of self-respect and satisfied myself with having for my children the education that other children could not get, I should have deprived them of the object-lesson in liberty and self-respect that I gave them at the cost of the literary training. And where a choice has to be made between liberty and learning, who will not say that the former has to be preferred a thousand times to the latter ?
Autobiography (1926), pp. 245-48