Sarah: I’m really interested in this emotional education, tell us some more about that.
Gilbert: Emotional education is really about love. But love is not the only part of the story. You need discipline as well. There needs to be a balance of both love and discipline.
There is an analogy of a potter. The potter puts the clay on the wheel, and sets it spinning. He puts one hand into the clay. That’s the hand of love that pushes outwards for expansion and for growth. It is a nurturing and a careful hand. That is the hand that pushes outwards so the child grows in wisdom and knowledge and understanding and character.
But the other hand is very important as well, because if the potter only uses the hand of love, the hand of expansion, the pot falls to pieces, it becomes weak and collapses.
The other hand gives the pot support and shape and prevents it from becoming weak and falling to pieces. That is the hand of discipline.
You need love and discipline in a fruitful balance. If there is too much discipline, human beings shrink into themselves and become hard and resentful. This is what people are frightened of these days so they pull back on the discipline. But that can mean that there is too much love, and then the child can become willful and needy and greedy and demanding. And, in fact, they never grow up, or develop inner confidence, and they are not ready for the challenges of the adult world.
So you need both love and discipline, and the teacher needs to be able to manage those two very well in a classroom. Children will flourish under that care. That’s the proper mixture of love and discipline. This is real emotional education.
Sarah: I know as being a staff member in your school, you talked a lot about what Plato said, in terms of his advice to teachers. So how did you use that practically in Sydney, Australia in a modern school?
Gilbert: Plato has a lot to say about education, some of it needs a bit of interpreting, but one of the things he advised was to overcome fear in children by the time they were three. One of the methods he suggests is to carry them around, and, he says, by this gentle movement fear is banished. Then he says you cure them of self-will by the time they’re six. And that is done by reasonable boundaries set by parents and teachers. One of the lessons here is the simple fact that the child learns that there are boundaries, they learn that yes means yes, and more importantly, no means no. That’s setting boundaries, and that cures self-will.
Plato had interesting things to say about teachers. Because teachers can fall into a bit of a trap [laughter] I know I did, with the discipline side of things. You can become a ‘rule generator’, and an ‘admonishment’ generator, and the discipline generator.
Plato has very simple instruction, which can be a bit unsettling for teachers. His rule is don’t admonish children, but first live up to your own admonishments. So, if you want children to be respectful, then be respectful of others, including, of course the children. If you want the children to be courageous, you have to show courage; if you want them to give their attention to their work, then you give attention to whatever you are doing, if you want the children to be quiet, then you have to find a quiet place within yourself. We worked on this a lot at school.
People talk nowadays about children being ‘lifelong learners’. So I would ask the teachers, well, are you lifelong learners, what are you studying? What learning are you actually doing? Are you pushing the boundaries, testing yourself, expanding your horizons? Just like you require the children to do. Are you learning new things and struggling with that new learning? [Laughter] And of course I had to be doing it too, or else Plato would be looking over my shoulder shaking his head.
Sarah: So you retired as Headmaster a few years ago. Tell us a little bit about, what you are doing now.
Gilbert: Now I’m writing. My first book, 7 Steps to Freedom, was on self-awareness and mindfulness, a sort of practical How To Guide with stories and exercises. Much of what we have spoken about today is in it, but it’s for adults not children. The seven steps start with an ‘Aha’ moment of waking up to the possibility of freedom, and it ends with limitless self-realization.
[Laughter] So when I got that out of my system you suggested I write a novel. I wasn’t so sure at the time, but I signed up for a writers’ course and that trained me up. So I’ve started writing novels—thrillers, but they do contain a certain element of the paranormal, and a bit of mindfulness. But they’re fun, I’m hoping they’re not too preachy.
It’s a series of novels actually, the first one is called The Revelation of the Elders. I’ve finished the second one, The Warriors of the Elders. That should be available on Amazon by Christmas (2019). And I’m well into writing the third book, The Flight of the Elders. It’s been a wonderful, creative experience.
Sarah: The Revelation of the Elders, and 7 Steps to Freedom, and a few other things that Gilbert has written are available on Amazon. Go to amazon.com and look up Gilbert Mane, that’ll come up on Amazon and you can get his books and download them.
Many thanks Gilbert, this has been a fascinating conversation.