I want to place the three notions of instinct, insight and maturity into an “educating naturally” context and develop the implications.
Instinct is nature’s protection for the vulnerable. This can best be seen in the relationship between mother and child in which both instinctively relate. The child needs milk from the mother, and the child’s glee brings an infectious response from the mother. This bond exists throughout the child’s life, is broken through the “double bind” (Gregory Bateson) – although for many perhaps it is never truly broken. We call this mother’s love but it is rather a valuable but disposable instinct.
The word “disposable” is crucial, and the lack of disposability is a significant weakness in our education system. The system makes little effort to dispose of instinct – naturally, and we are very much dominated by an adolescent youth-orientated culture because of this.
The instinct of mother’s love is perhaps our best instinct but it is also restrictive. Mummy’s boys never outgrow the mother’s influence, occasionally they are ridiculed for their immaturity but it is not a significant social stigma.
Adolescent sexual interaction is an instinct that does cause damage to society – more so than “mother’s love”. Adolescence is dominated by the growing pains that revolve around relationship and procreation. For the adolescence the relationship between the sexes is dominant. Our education system tends to run in parallel to this sexual development neither encouraging nor in general educating about such relationships. However that adolescent desire for sex continues throughout adult life especially amongst males. I suggest that nature’s way is that adolescent searching leads to marriage, procreation and child-rearing. But society’s focus is not on family because of capitalism – the pressure of accumulation (the instinct of greed at its worst). Rather than the focus on child-rearing the family is often conditioned to be a consumer unit, and again because of the lack of focus sexual digressions occur because that instinct has not been “disposed of”. If the focus was on child-rearing then sexual fulfilment would be satiated within the relationship for the good of the children.
This distorted development of instinct within society gets reinforced through conditioning. What might develop from adolescent searching into a mature family focussed on child-rearing gets distorted by the media messages of consumerism and sexual dalliances that threaten the mature development. Insight sees through conditioning – it could perhaps be understood as seeing without conditioning, and it is the very process that begins maturity. Instinct and conditioning are interlinked within our society, our society is based on instinct and the conditioning reinforces that. Education ought to be seeking to move beyond instinct to maturity, and the process that can take us there is insight.
It is therefore an essential aspect of natural education that strategies for developing insight be researched and introduced. Creativity is the nearest recognised strategy that exists in our current education system. Through genuine creativity we break out of our conditioning, and the process of genuine creating is the same as that of insight. Unfortunately what passes for creativity in our schools does not focus on genuine creativity but more on imitation. The skills of imitation are valuable but in themselves are not creative. Within our existing education structures creative art, music and writing are the best methods we now have for creativity.
But insight is not only gained through creativity it can also be developed through meditation. Whilst introducing the methodologies of meditation into education cannot guarantee insight, as a tool for adult life such methodologies need to be introduced into education.
In practise our education system prepares people for the world of work – in a negative but true perspective the purpose of education is to provide consumer-oriented wage-slaves. In theory education ought to be providing us with the skills to lead a mature life. Getting rid of nature youthful survival crutches – instincts – through the development of insight that sees through the conditioning ought to be a natural priority of education, and the development of insight would give us the main tool for living a mature adult life.
1) It is interesting to note that I first picked up the process of divesting instinct as part of growing-up from Ajaan Buddhadasa somewhere.
2) It is also interesting to note how this became a Matriellez blog. In the middle of writing The Arico Chronicles Chs 2.5 and 2.6 this became a significant theme.