The Gandhi Experiment: Lessons for non-violence, truth-force and action

Margaret Hepworth

Four women silently circumambulate a fish pond. The jewelled flashes of red carp intermittently appear on the water’s otherwise calm surface. It is as though the fish are circling with the women. One of these women is Jewish, another Muslim, her hijab billowing gently, the third a Tibetan Buddhist and the fourth an eclectic gatherer of multi-faith wisdoms. Oh, that last one, that’s me, Margaret. We have attended a conference on democracy at Asia Plateau in Panchgani.

I have invited these women to join me on a walking guided meditation – to reflect on our conference, on ourselves, and on our next steps. We circle the fishpond one last time and then glide on to the nearby lawn. We remove our shoes. As we plant our bare feet onto the hessian-like grass, I say, ‘Now feel the change.’

world-peace-gong Change is what Mohandas Gandhi invited us to become. “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” It is now more commonly expressed as the well-known mantra: ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ Yet how many of us are actually living it? In my almost 30 years in secondary education, I have consistently observed that teenagers know the world needs to change. Highly altruistic beings, yet often conflicted in a world filled with the pressures of competitive, everyday ‘high academic performance’, sometimes they just don’t know how. How do we, as their teachers, enable them to become the change our world needs?

A few years ago I made a dramatic choice in my life, to resign as the Head of Campus at an innovative Melbourne School. I decided to step outside the bounds of one school and return to education, what I believed was most needed in our schools – social justice, values-based education, a sense of hope in a flailing world; peace education. In my own way, I am attempting to ‘live the change.’ Two years later and three surprising trips across India, running student and teacher workshops, I founded my social enterprise, The Gandhi Experiment. Our vision – world peace through education.

The question has been posed, ‘Is Gandhi still relevant to education today?’ Like a judge on a TV talent show I pronounce my decision: ‘That’s a resounding yes from me!’

You see, at The Gandhi Experiment, we don’t teach about the man himself, as such. We teach the essence of Gandhi – his messages that maintain relevance to everything that is going on all around us – in our communities, in our nations, globally, and most importantly, in our hearts. We teach young people to step outside of themselves, to understand the bigger global issues, then to ask, how does all of this come back to me? To my actions, to my choices, to my behaviour, to my way of communicating?

The author is the founder of The Gandhi Experiment: World Peace through Education. She is also the author of the forthcoming book: The Gandhi Experiment – Teaching our teenagers how to become global citizens. Her regular blog gives out free lessons for teachers and parents of teenagers. Margaret will be returning to India in 2016. Please contact her through her website if you would like her to visit your school.

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