Gurukula: New Vrindavan Private School
The Hare Krishna Movement tried to implement in the West the age old
gurukula system whereby school aged children would live separately from
their parents in their own ashrama and attend school. In the 1970's the
first three schools were established in Dallas, New Vrindavan, and
Usually at the age of five, the children went to live in the ashrams -
divided by age and gender. The children would live in small units with an
adult monitor, rise early for morning worship services, and, after
breakfast, attend school taught by devotee teachers.* The
children around the movement were sent to school and only visited their
parents on school breaks several times a year.
At New Vrindavan, the gurukula school consisted primarily of children
from the community. The children spent time with their parents every
Sunday. Initially, the boys and the girls lived in separate farm houses
(about 15 in each group) a short distance from the main part of the
community. The children attended classes at their respective houses.
Besides their regular studies, they also learned Sanskrit.
The student population grew along with the population of the community.
In the early 80's a number of boys were sent to study at ISKCON's
international school in Vrindavan, India. By 1984 the community school
had its own building, a principal, twelve full time teachers, and
over 100 children in attendance. This co-educational facility was
recognized as a private school by the state of West Virginia. The
students also performed in plays and in choirs.
In 1987, under growing public scrutiny, Kirtananada and the managerial
board decided to send most of the community children to public
school. The public schools welcomed them with open arms, and, for the
most part the children adjusted very well to their new situation and
received above average grades. All the children returned home to live
with their parents. A small day school was still maintained in New
Vrindavan to accommodate the nursery and the children who wanted
to be educated in the community. Eventually, dwindling
community funding for the school was off set by parents paying a small
monthly tuition for their children's education. By 1998, due to a dwindling student population, the school closed down.
The children who grew up and went to gurukula school in New Vrindavan
have gone on to a variety of pursuits. The vast majority no longer live
in the community, but are scattered throughout the country. Many of them
still consider themselves devotees of Krishna. Some of them entered and
have graduated from college. One graduated from WVU Law School. One
works with a government environmental agency and was involved in the
testing for anthrax in Washington, DC. Others went on to study
medicine, nursing and finance. Another college graduate joined the
Marines. A number of young men have served in the armed forces. Other
former students went into a variety of fields: truckers, a UPS driver,
film maker, jewelry design and manufacturing, musicians, a chef, an
airline flight attendents, and a tugboat worker in NYC. Two have sued
the community, resulting in settlements. Some have married within the
religion. A few have married outside the religion and have adopted their
spouses' religion or visa versa . A few of the women are single mothers.
Sadly, included in the list are two young men who committed suicide.