One is aware of the increasing violence: systemic, institutionalised and accepted as a matter of course.  All religions preach peace, but many form an integral part of this aggression as they are divided, factionalised and have, in the past, contributed to some of the most spectacularly violent passages of human history.  A materialistic outlook breeds violence.  It searches for its own gain, devouring everything in its mechanistic blunderings.  The earth is exploited, animals are exploited, and all that is living is exploited for profit of the few.  This is the value of the modern world: everything has its price and we are all consumers paying whatever we are charged.

There is tremendous exploitation and, consequently violence in the education system in the UK.  Competition is the underlying motivational force; school pitted against school through league tables; young people forced to perform against narrow measurement of success; standardised tests are the guidelines of learning and data driven decisions ignore the intricate diversity of human abilities.  Conformity is ensured by an inspectorate that disempowers educators, dehumanises children and squeezes the process of learning into consumable packages.  The political mantra of ‘raising standards’ exists to convince the electorate that central Government  should be the sole arbiter of how our young are educated.  History shows that the instigation of a centrally controlled education is a very effective way of brainwashing a whole society.

Language is very revealing if you want to understand what has happened in education.  Young people are now ‘learners’ who ‘access the curriculum’ which teachers ‘deliver’ – all terms that indicate that learning is a matter of the consumption of knowledge.  Parents are given the illusion of choice and that they are encouraged to complain about their children’s education as if it was something they had purchased from the supermarket.  They want to see at what level their child is performing: a term better used for animals in a circus or actors on a stage.  So education is a transaction of knowledge and skills, not the exploration of life.  In this operation, or perhaps business deal, the teacher gives as an authority and the student receives gratefully so that she or he may become a fully operational economic unit in an aggressively material world.

The child must be only three or four years old.  A few moments ago his older sisters passed us laughing and chattering excitedly, pausing to glance shyly in our direction.  This little boy is strolling slowly towards us staring with the direct gaze of absorbed fascination.   It is quite early in the morning and the air is still cool.  Around us is the noise of so many birds going about their business.  But the boy has no awareness of this.  He sees only the pink faces, reddened by the past few days’ exposure to the increasing heat of the sun, and it is quite likely in this dusty remote part of the country that in his short life he has rarely come across Westerners; he appears to be enthralled.  We are not accustomed to being held by such an unwavering stare.  He has slowed to almost standing, but there is no sense of fear or anxiety, just freedom and wonder.  His shirt is a dirty blue and his shorts are ragged and stained, he wears nothing on his feet.  Behind him the lane stretches back to the village, he is making his way to the fields where his parents are working; high with sugar cane ready for harvesting.  His sisters are almost there.

We are close now, still his gaze holds us, a look of such innocence it is if we are touching a life unsullied by suffering.  In a moment we both move in an involuntary gesture of respect, folding our hands in formal greeting.  Bringing his hands together with a clap, he laughs with delight.  An instant of such stillness and perfection we are lifted up into his world of pure joy.  It passes and we are left with the perfume of something that will never be repeated.

Now the little boy has broken into a run to join his older sister who has turned back, realising that her brother is not with them.  On turning to watch them we are rewarded with smiles and waves.  Then they disappear into the field.  Such is the experience of freedom.