How then does Brockwood go about ensuring that this exploration takes place, that a genuine community of inquiry is fostered in the School and that students receive an education both in academics and in the art of living? Students at Brockwood range in age from 14 to 19 years. The School is international and fully boarding, with students attending from around 20 different countries annually. Living with their peers from all over the world is an excellent way of heightening teenagers' awareness of their own particular likes, dislikes and cultural quirks, as well as those of others. Prejudices emerge early on and are discussed and gone into. What students quickly come to realise is that the differences are generally superficial and that fundamentally they have much in common with their classmates, whether they come from Berlin, Bangalore, Boston or Brighton. These contacts foster a global understanding, which goes beyond the acquisition of knowledge about "foreign places" and into the realm of unity in human consciousness and life-long relationships and friendships. Staff, too, represent a mixed bag of nationalities, but those who live at the School - a few come in on a daily basis - do so because they are interested in the intentions and wish to engage in the inquiry.
True to Krishnamurti's wishes, Brockwood remains small, with only 50 to 60 students attending in any given year, and an average class size of 6. The intimacy of such a setting means that the relationships that form between teacher and student do not have to be based on authority and control, but are able to be close, supportive and sustained. "Nothing of fundamental value can be accomplished through mass instruction, but only through the careful study and understanding of the difficulties, tendencies and capacities of each child ...," wrote Krishnamurti. He realised that such schools would be difficult to set up, expensive to run and could "...flourish only on self-sacrifice". But he was adamant: "If parents really love their children, they will employ legislation and other means to establish small schools staffed with the right kind of educators; and they will not be deterred by the fact that small schools are expensive and the right kind of educators difficult to find." At Brockwood the school fees do not cover the running costs, but staff receive nominal salaries only, and trustees, friends and donors help cover the difference.
The day-to-day life and curriculum of the School is also shaped by the underlying intention to cultivate the total human being. During the first week of the school year full attention is given to orientating students and preparing academic programmes, but time is also set aside to introduce the process of inquiry and the central role it holds in a Brockwood education. The programme for the first four days of the last school year included workshops on: Understanding Ourselves; Meeting Fear; Questioning Authority; Understanding Freedom. The intention in each case was not to provide answers and explanations, but to raise questions and to create an atmosphere in which the students felt comfortable to ask any question, knowing that they would be taken seriously by all present. This spirit of inquiry carries over into other activities within the School. One afternoon a week is devoted to Inquiry Time, when any topic can be raised and pursued through dialogue or presentations. Recent sessions have included topics as diverse as Beauty, Desire, Sex and Violence. The latter was approached through the controversial lyrics of rap star Eminem.
Once students begin to feel that the actual content of their own lives warrants deeper thought and consideration, they become excited about the learning that is possible. As Ryan, a first-year student from the UK, recently explained to visiting trustees: " After being at Brockwood I feel like a completely different person and can deal with things in my life that I could not before. I can communicate my feelings and ideas much better. I can discuss philosophy, which is one of the most enjoyable and stimulating things I have done here. I have also learnt to admit problems I have. I have found that a lot of the tensions I have accumulated over my life have calmed ..."
Brockwood offers AS and some A Level examinations, but there is no undue emphasis given to exams, and the wish to approach learning differently carries over into the classroom. The School is constantly looking for ways to have real-life questions and activities drive the curriculum, where students become the creators rather than the recipients of knowledge. As Toon Zweers, a history teacher at Brockwood, recently put it, "The School is a 'community of learners', which means among other things that learning is an authentic activity that involves the whole person and knowledge construction is first and foremost a collaborative or social process. "While Krishnamurti was not interested in creating a new educational methodology, he felt that systems and theories could be useful to the teacher - though they should never be allowed to get in the way of direct relationship with the student - and he recognised that it was important for the teacher to keep informed of the latest developments in educational theory. Educators at Brockwood are encouraged to regard themselves as reflective practitioners, writing narratives on their formative experiences as teachers while also keeping journals on the ways in which they incorporate the School's intentions into practice. Kathleen Kesson, a professor from the USA with an impressive background in holistic education,has visited Brockwood to work with staff on this. She has also helped staff clarify the learning outcomes they wish for the students, some of which include 'awareness of conditioning'; 'integrated development of body, emotions and mind '; 'appreciation of and care for nature'. These are not lofty ideals designed to pad out a prospectus and receiving only lip-service in the classroom, but are the foundations on which teaching practice at Brockwood is built.
Morning Meeting marks the beginning of the day at Brockwood and introduces the other important means by which the School encourages self-reflection, namely silence. Occasionally, someone will read a poem or an extract, or play a piece of music at the 10-minute meeting, which is attended by both students and staff, but more often the time is spent in complete silence, with the aim of drawing attention to the psychological 'what is' and to the benefits of silence itself. "The art of learning is the act of silence ...," wrote Krishnamurti. "What is of the highest importance for learning is for your whole mind to be quiet, to be completely silent. Then you have the energy to learn all the time." A number of Brockwood teachers choose to start lessons with a few minutes of silence and School Meetings always end with a period of silence. Students, who at first may be indifferent or resistant to sitting in silence, often come to value it as it begins to reveal itself to them. Claudia, a 15-year-old student, writing for the School's newsletter, is clear what it means to her: "The silence that means the most to me is the silence of the mind. Without it, even though it may only be occasional, I would probably go insane, for it is too difficult to function for long without the space that silence brings."
So what becomes of these students after they leave? Do they really turn out to be ëgood' in the deepest sense of the word, demanding the best of themselves, managing to sidestep mediocrity and a safe but sorry existence, or do they have the stuffing knocked out of them by a world too commercial ,too crass and too competitive for them to cope with? The results are anecdotal, based on feedback from the more than 1000 students who have now been through the School. Suprabha, working as the Educational Coordinator of a botanical sanctuary in India, refers to "...the deep and abiding affection between so many individuals which can still be tapped today ..." Armin, now working as an art dealer and hotelier in Madeira, travelled extensively after leaving Brockwood,"...overcoming problems, finding happiness, experiencing sorrow, moving on in life, understanding more and more the importance that Brockwood had and still has in my life." Anne, an archivist and photographer in New York, speaks of her search for something beyond as the 'Brockwood curse', for "that was where I learned to question everything. But I know it is the only way I can live and keep growing."
Brockwood has its critics. There are students who feel the School failed to prepare them for the 'real' world by not supporting those values that the world holds in high regard. Some felt academics were sidelined due to the School's concern with inquiry, self-reflection and a broader education. Some people express concern about the apparent exclusivity of Brockwood's commitment to Krishnamurti's teachings, at the expense of a more inclusive, eclectic approach. Others refer to its fees (currently £10,800 a year), which they feel make it an elitist centre, solely for a professional class who can afford a social conscience. There is no simple response to these concerns, although the last one is ameliorated by the fact that, despite its modest yearly income, the School manages to provide scholarship assistance for almost half of its students, ensuring that students come from a broad range of backgrounds.
The educational legacy of Krishnamurti is still very much alive at Brockwood. The relationship of the School to the founder is a little like that of the apprentice to the master painter of old: Rembrandt had his students eager to learn from a genius, but at the end of the day each of them had to take responsibility for their own canvas, their own life's work. The teacher can only offer so much and the student must make it his or her own and then move on. The art lies in the living of it.
What we do with education is up to us. To leave it in the hands of politicians and experts is to deny our own intelligence, creativity and love, which is regenerative. "Those who love their children and the children about them, and who are therefore in earnest, will see to it that the right school is started somewhere around the corner, or in their own home." Brockwood came about because of the love and concern Krishnamurti felt for the young of this world. He acted, and created a school that was to concern itself with the regeneration of the human mind. It stands as a tribute to a remarkable teacher and as a challenge to all of us who would see or hear a truth and fail to act.