At The High School by Mahatma Gandhi
In At The High School by Mahatma Gandhi we have the theme of education, happiness, responsibility, humility, tradition, struggle, writing and language. Taken from his autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Gandhi is exploring the theme of education. For most part Gandhi’s High School education is a happy affair. Though he once received corporal punishment Gandhi’s experience in High School is generally happy. However at the time Gandhi did not appreciate the merits of physical exercise as a subject to which one should participate. It is also interesting that Gandhi doesn’t give himself much credit for the prizes he won while in school. This may be important as it suggests that Gandhi is humble. Though he himself considers that he had very little or no competition when it came to winning the prizes.
The theme of writing is self-evident in the story. Gandhi believes it is important for a child to have nice writing. He himself is embarrassed by his own hand-writing and suggests that a child should learn how to draw first before they start to learn how to write. Even in adult life Gandhi does not think his hand-writing is adequate compared to others and he may be blaming the fact that he was not taught to draw first. However overall Gandhi is happy with those who taught him during his period in High School. He remembers each teacher and some he still has affection for and appears to have worked well with. This is significant as a good teacher is half the battle when it comes to education and learning. A good teacher will make a subject easier for a student. As is the case when Gandhi is studying Samskrit. At the time Gandhi did not see the benefits of learning Samskrit (and other languages) but when he matured he thought that language was important and that a person should be taught in their own language thus making learning other languages easier.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The fact that Gandhi mentions he is married and missed a year in school suggests that with marriage comes responsibility. Similarly Gandhi is responsible for his father’s well-being. After school every day he has to look after his father. The prizes that Gandhi won also serve to act as incentives for Gandhi when it comes to him being enthusiastic about his education. Though as mentioned Gandhi is exceptionally humble when it comes to the prizes. This humility was to serve Gandhi well later in life when he challenged Britain’s occupation of India. Something he dedicated his life to. The fact that Gandhi’s brother left school at an early age might also suggest that some students might struggle with marriage and studying and how important some people viewed their marriages over their studies.
The end of the story is interesting as Gandhi focuses on language again and the importance of language when it comes to a person’s education. Gandhi not only believes that a child should be taught in their own language, in order to learn other languages, but he also believes in tradition and the importance of language to a person’s heritage. If anything Gandhi is inclusive when it comes to language. Allowing or suggesting that all Indians should learn the language of their customs. The benefit of this is that a person might fully understand their past and their traditions and carry them forward. Another benefit of learning several languages is the fact that a person will be able to be more complete when it comes to others. They will be able to speak another person’s language and as such be able to positively engage with them. Something that Gandhi managed to do as he struggled to obtain freedom for India.