I then had the false notion that gymnastics had nothing to do with education. Today I know that physical training should have as much place in the curriculum as mental training. (1.5.3)
Did you hate P.E.? All the jumping rope and jogging? Well, too bad. Gandhi says you've got to do it. It makes sense he'd say so because he believes purifying our bodies—through such techniques as fasting and diet control—makes us better seekers of truth.
Let every young man and woman be warned by my example, and understand that good handwriting is a necessary part of education. (1.5.7)
Many books say appearances aren't important, that who you are down deep when no one is looking is what counts. Gandhi, however, considers a person's effect on others to be very important. After all, he wants to achieve political change. So, even something small like the quality of your handwriting has an impact on how others perceive you. The better your handwriting, the better you appear to be to others.
It is now my opinion that in all Indian curricula of higher education there should be a place for Hindi, Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic and English, besides of course the vernacular. This big list need not frighten anyone. If our education were more systematic, and the boys free from the burden of having to learn their subjects through a foreign medium, I am sure learning all these languages would not be an irksome task, but a perfect pleasure. A scientific knowledge of one language makes a knowledge of other languages comparatively easy. (1.5.11)
In many parts of the world, it's expected that someone will be able to speak more than one language, including in Europe and Africa. Gandhi doesn't want people to be recluses but to go out into the world and interact politically and make the world a better place. Being able to speak with others in the language they're most comfortable with makes you a more effective—and compassionate—person.
Had I been without a sense of self-respect and satisfied myself with having for my children the education that other children could not get, I should have deprived them of the object-lesson in liberty and self-respect that I gave them at the cost of the literary training. And where a choice has to be made between liberty and learning, who will not say that the former has to be preferred a thousand times to the latter? (3.5.7)
Yeah, most schools don't teach freedom fighting. It's interesting to consider that Gandhi has what might be called a partisan approach to education. He thinks his ideals should be the ones promoted: his views on liberty, his views on self-respect. Others might think education should be more neutral.
As I had made no other arrangement for their private tuition, I used to get them to walk with me daily to the office and back home—a distance of about 5 miles in all. This gave them and me a fair amount of exercise. I tried to instruct them by conversation during these walks, if there was no one else claiming my attention. All my children, excepting the eldest, Harilal, who had stayed away in India, were brought up in Johannesburg in this manner. Had I been able to devote at least an hour to their literary education with strict regularity, I should have given them, in my opinion, an ideal education. But it has been their, as also my, regret that I failed to ensure them enough literary training. (4.23.4)
One thing Gandhi is referencing here is his eldest son, who criticized Gandhi very publicly in the press for not providing enough education. The author is admitting that, to some extent, he really did fail to provide enough.
I did not believe in the existing system of education, and I had a mind to find out by experience and experiment the true system. Only this much I knew—that, under ideal conditions, true education could be imparted only by the parents, and that then there should be the minimum of outside help, that Tolstoy Farm was a family, in which I occupied the place of the father, and that I should so far as possible shoulder the responsibility for the training of the young. (4.32.2)True education given only by parents? Tell that to your teacher. Of course, many people today are home-schooled. Laws differ from place to place, but many jurisdictions across the world require children to acquire a government-provided education. Gandhi definitely would oppose that.
I did not find it at all necessary to load the boys with quantities of books. I have always felt that the true text-book for the pupil is his teacher. I remember very little that my teachers taught me from books, but I have even now a clear recollection of the things they taught me independently of books. (4.33.8)
It's definitely true that there's book learning and then there's experience. This is why conversations with elders can be so educational. They can share their wealth of real-life experiences with you, which might contain detailed, unique information on and insights into what they themselves faced, and they can target what they tell you to your specific needs. With all his emphasis on going out and changing the world, Gandhi prioritizes real-life experience and doesn't so much think that people should be recluses, living in their heads due to reading books, instead of taking on the world.
Children take in much more and with less labour through their ears than through their eyes. I do not remember having read any book from cover to cover with my boys. But I gave them, in my own language, all that I had digested from my reading of various books, and I dare say they are still carrying a recollection of it in their minds. It was laborious for them to remember what they learnt from books, but what I imparted to them by word of mouth, they could repeat with the greatest ease. Reading was a task for them, but listening to me was a pleasure, when I did not bore them by failure to make my subject interesting. And from the questions that my talks prompted them to put, I had a measure of their power of understanding. (4.33.9)
Which do you remember more, enlightening conversations or enlightening books? Gandhi's definitely on the side of conversation. He says students pay attention more to what they hear than what they read. Today, educators emphasize the social aspects of learning more so than they did a century ago, so they make group activities and class discussion part of the educational experience. They believe social and conversational approaches help you learn, so they might actually agree with Gandhi here…even though we all know teachers love books.
Just as physical training was to be imparted through physical exercise, and intellectual through intellectual exercise, even so the training of the spirit was possible only through the exercise of the spirit. And the exercise of the spirit entirely depended on the life and character of the teacher. The teacher had always to be mindful of his p's and q's, whether he was in the midst of his boys or not. (4.34.3)
Today, spiritual training is often left to religious institutions. Gandhi thinks they should all go together: mind, body, and spirit. That again brings up the partisan nature of his educational approach. In public schools in the United States, educators are banned by law from advocating for a specific religion because the First Amendment specifies that church and state should be separate. But, Gandhi definitely thought religion, politics, and education should all be combined together.
It is possible for a teacher situated miles away to affect the spirit of the pupils by his way of living. It would be idle for me, if I were a liar, to teach boys to tell the truth. A cowardly teacher would never succeed in making his boys valiant, and a stranger to self-restraint could never teach his pupils the value of self-restraint. I saw, therefore, that I must be an eternal object-lesson to the boys and girls living with me. They thus became my teachers, and I learnt I must be good and live straight, if only for their sakes. I may say that the increasing discipline and restraint I imposed on myself at Tolstoy Farm was mostly due to those wards of mine. (4.34.4)
So, you've heard the expression those who can, do; those who can't, teach? Yeah, Gandhi's going totally against that and saying teachers have to be able to practice what they preach. He's really emphasizing the idea that teachers are role models who share their life experiences and individual perspectives with their students. His approach can be contrasted with a more classically liberal view that educators should explain material more objectively without pushing for students to imitate them or necessarily believe what they believe.