The Value of Values: Spiritual Wisdom in Everyday Life
A Call For ‘Wholesome’ Schooling
Rosemary Dewan, Chief Executive, Human Values Foundation, UKAmongst the topmost concerns in schools today is the wellbeing of EVERYONE making up the community. There is a sense of an expanding crisis of mental and physical health occurring in classrooms, staffrooms and amongst key adults in families. Teachers feel strained by the constantly changing terrain of education policy initiatives, coupled with attainment-accountability pressures, exacerbated by comparative league tables. OECD data shows that increasingly, teenagers, including the rising number of students who are ‘successful’ in terms of exam results, are disengaged from and demotivated by the process of schooling. There is concern about children who lack a moral compass. The RSA’s 2014 ‘Schools with Soul’’ report, following investigation into schools’ provision for Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) education and its variants in UK schools, concluded that the requirement to develop pupils’ broader human qualities has become sidelined due to the overwhelming pressure to deliver better exam results. Of the four aspects of SMSC, the authors consider the spiritual is most at risk of neglect.With the rapidly escalating needs that young people face today and the substantial socio-economic firefighting and remedial costs being borne by society, of necessity educationalists, policymakers and other stakeholders are rethinking priorities and the imperative for the integrated, whole-person development of each young citizen.The situation is complex with many controversial aspects, such as whether education is being negatively influenced by a ‘therapeutic turn’. Forward-thinking schooling
The purpose of schooling perpetually agitates scholars, parents, pupils, politicians and employers alike because of the diversity of expectations. Education serves multiple objectives, coloured not least by global, political, economic, social, cultural and personal influences. How instruction is delivered and how success is measured are evolving with the quest to provide continuously improving systems that are ‘fit for purpose’. Consensus remains that the personal and social development of children is a fundamental purpose of publicly-funded education and research is confirming that character formation, as well as academic achievement, is more likely to develop happy children with mindsets that enable them to enjoy successful school careers and effective transitions into adulthood.The place of values in schoolingAs with other areas of human endeavour, there are diverse opinions about the place of values in a school curriculum and approaches to be taken when developing students’ “values literacy” – which could be considered as their understanding and knowledge about a wide spectrum of values and their ability to choose and skilfully apply appropriate values within different contexts in real-life situations.Substantial research into values education has taken place in Australia during the past decade. From the 2010 ‘International Research Handbook on Values Education and Student Wellbeing’ we learn that the understanding of values education, more recently referred to as ‘values and wellbeing pedagogy’, accords with neuroscience research and that notions of cognition or intellect are far more intertwined with social and emotional growth than allowed for by earlier educational paradigms. The commentary states that “the best laid plans about the technical aspects of pedagogy are bound to fail unless the growth of the whole person – social, emotional, moral, spiritual and intellectual, is the pedagogical target.”In summary, the handbook:· shows that values education is essential to effective schooling · links the effects of values education to all the important educational measures · shows that values education is a worldwide, contemporary phenomenon · shows that values education fits well with updated brain and pedagogical research and· illustrates that values education is a means to holistic student and teacher wellbeing.An approach to exploring values The Human Values Foundation was established in 1995 by Mrs June Auton, a primary school teacher in the UK. Battling to teach pupils from a ‘deprived area’ where drug abuse, crime and violence were the norm, she realised that a completely different strategy was needed to enable the children to have any hope of achieving their true potential. She therefore introduced the concept of values and gave her pupils a ‘helping hand’: five universal, core values they could remember on one hand: TRUTH, PEACE, LOVE, RIGHT ACTION and NON-VIOLENCE.Using the familiar teaching techniques of class discussions, storytelling, group singing, quotations, a variety of activities to reinforce learning - and a technique less familiar to many teachers, that of ‘silent sitting’ or silent reflection, she devised an holistic “EDUCATION IN HUMAN VALUES” programme for ages 5 to 12. Her students started functioning quite differently. Their thinking patterns changed, their behaviour improved, aspiration and motivation set in, their decision-making became much more informed and consistent, their inter-personal skills blossomed and they began to awaken their spiritual capacities. All in all, they were much happier and their academic performance became noticeably better.Subsequently, when a cohort of her pupils transferred to their secondary school, they were horrified to find that their new classmates “knew nothing about values”. Responding to the children’s agonising pleas, in 2004 June Auton published her second programme, “SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL EDUCATION” principally for ages 12 to 14.Both programmes align with modern curriculum expectations and give schoolchildren a sustainable opportunity to explore, try out and practise a wide range of relevant and meaningful values relating to:· themselves – as individuals capable of spiritual, moral, social, intellectual and physical growth and development· their relationships – which are fundamental to their development and fulfilment of happy and healthy lives and to the good of the community· themselves as part of society – which is shaped by the contributions of a diverse range of people, cultures and heritages, and· the environment – which provides the basis of life and a source of wonder and inspiration that needs to be protected.The programmes help individuals gradually develop a ‘fluency in values’. Participants establish well-considered anchors as they master ‘hard’, ‘soft’ and intra-personal skills. They gain an insight into the nature of the society in which they are placed and learn to work with and live in it effectively and harmoniously – to the good of everyone. Joined-up Stakeholder Strategies: PLAN, DO, ASSESS, REVIEWTo help stimulate discussion, debate and action so that stakeholders work together to deliver the best learning experiences and outcomes for the emerging generation of young citizens and the wellbeing of society generally, there are four areas of whole-school and whole-person consideration. The Review section poses nine questions.(1) PLAN – Clarification and Engagement(2) DO – Training and Implementation(3) ASSESS – Evaluate and Measure(4) REVIEW1) Is real time being made available to allow education leaders to reflect upon whole-staff and whole-child values education? 2) Are education leaders developing clear guidelines for pupils’ values literacy development?3) Are Teacher Training Colleges and Universities providing appropriate values education preparation and training?4) Are Teacher Training Colleges, Universities and other providers of leadership programmes equipping aspiring leaders with an appropriate understanding of values education?5) Are school governing bodies utilising values education to best effect?6) Are school leaders embracing the provision of an integrated, whole-person, values-based education?7) Is values education an integral part of school inspectors’ training? 8) Are external providers of education opportunities proactively enhancing schools’ approach to values education?9) Are funding custodians supporting practical projects designed to further beneficial outcomes based on values education initiatives?