Valuing Values in Education

18 Aug

We live on three plains – the physical, intellectual and spiritual – ‘spiritual’ in a non-religious sense.

On the physical plain, we engage in a zero-sum game. What one person gains another loses and vice versa.  For instance, if you and I have a pound, we each have a pound and together we have two pounds.  If you give me your pound, I have two and you have nothing.  The reverse is true too.  If we exchange other the pounds with each other, we will still have a pound each and together we will have two.

The next level to which we can rise is the intellectual one.   If you have an idea and I have an idea, each of us has one idea and together we have two.   If I gave you my idea, you will have two but I will still have one.  I do not lose the idea that I have because I give it to you.   The same will apply to you.  If we gave our ideas to each other, each will have two ideas, but in total we will still have two.

We live on a spiritual plain too where values flourish.  Nolan set them out clearly and they are the seven principles of public life, i.e.

  1. Selflessness
  2. Integrity
  3. Objectivity
  4. Accountability
  5. Openness
  6. Honesty
  7. Leadership

These are the intangibles, the values that underpin the service we provide fellow-citizens and for those in education, the children.  They form the basis for establishing the culture in every school/academy operates and the work that is done within it by the governors and staff.

The curious thing about values and living on the spiritual plain is that when a person gives of her/himself, s/he does not lose what s/he has but rather increases it.  For instance, by giving of oneself to others, one grows in confidence, satisfaction and happiness at seeing others grow and flourish.

There are other values additional to the Nolan principles, that should underpin a school’s/academy’s ethos.   Here are some key ones.

(a)        First, learning is a lifelong process.    One never stops learning when school/college/university ends. There are senior citizens taking degrees in their eighties and enjoying the experience.   Members of the Jewish race have long realised that while different cultural groups can take away their possessions and money, they cannot take away their learning.   This is why so many of them – well above the numbers that exist in the world and out of all proportion – have secured Nobel prizes and it is one of the reasons why they have been called the People of the Book.   Governors and staff can model what they expect from the pupils for whom they have responsibility by engaging in learning during their spare time and on-the-job.

(b)        The second value is based on two conditions in which we exist. We are all mortal and this planet is a sad place.   Accordingly, there is merit in inculcating into our children the need for them to live their lives in such a way that they make this planet a better and happier place on which to dwell than they find it.   Much will have to do with the purpose of work and our attitudes towards it.

Three men were working on a building site – breaking up the stones.  A passer-by asked them what they were doing.   The first said that he was chipping stones.  The second said that he was earning a living. The third, however, who was also “chipping stones”, said that he was building a cathedral.   All three were doing the same work, but the third’s attitude to it (in comparison with the first two) was exemplary.

(c)        The third value on which to lay the learning foundation is one of “giving”.   In the Dead Sea, nothing grows, because the Dead Sea is a dead end into which water flows but nothing flows out.  On the other hand, the Blue Danube – like all rivers and the inspiration of so much Strauss music – is teeming with life.   This is because water, which is constantly flowing in is also flowing out – giving, giving, giving to everything around.

Governors are prime examples of “giving”.  They give time, talent, their energy and quite a bit of their lives to the education of children – gratis.   Let us enthuse our youngsters with the same spirit.   It will serve them in good stead and cause them to lead fuller lives.

(d)        Finally, create within the school/academy the culture which puts as much emphasis on the soft skills as the hard disciplines such as the science, humanities and languages.   Some of the prime soft skills are

(i)         learning to work with one another;

(ii)        learning from failure;

(iii)       persisting and developing resilience;

(iv)       motivating oneself; and

(v)        working through disagreements in life without shedding blood

During their lifetimes, children will probably have to change career direction several times and maybe even countries. What will be a constant will be the values they take with them and if they are the right ones, they will not only make this sad earth a better and happier place but also gain immense satisfaction from the process.

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