I just engaged in an interesting discussion with my graduate studies group about the purpose of education. Within this discussion, I mentioned that I thought that part of the purpose of public education was imparting values. By values, I meant the values and ideals of the society in which one exists. Hopefully, one’s own personal ideals are somewhat aligned with this, but I suppose that it is possible that this is not the case. Anyway, many people disagreed with me. They felt that it was definitely not a part of their job description and never had been even mentioned as a facet of their teacher training. I never would have guessed that any teachers could think that their teaching is disconnected with their values. How is this possible?
I think perhaps that we might be on the same page in reality, but that perhaps our views on what values actually are is different…although maybe not! I know that in my classroom I never really think of myself as providing specific lessons in values and that there is no values curriculum and that I do not grade my kids on values. However, everything that I do is filtered through my values. So what are my values? Well, I value tolerance, kindness, respect (for others, for oneself, for the environment), hard work, creativity, perseverance, open-mindedness, second chances, and and curiosity, for starters. The ways I deliver lessons, the ways I discipline my kids, the ways I expect them to behave and the ways I expect myself to behave all support these values. I have great difficulty doing things that go against my values. I feel that my values are not specific to me…I feel that I am aligned with the good of our society (even the future of our society), even if some people feel differently.
Values are tricky things, I realize. What if I value sustainable living, for example, but little Joey’s mom does not? What if I think that kids should be able keep learning and overcome failure, but my colleague down the hall does not? Are my values somehow more valuable than the values of others? What about racism? That was once acceptable. Once it was reinforced in classrooms…I’m thinking about Nazi Germany, for one. Perhaps it can be dangerous to impart values! What if our values are bad??
I truly believe that imparting values is an incredibly important part of what I do. I think that our society will develop in a better way if my students understand what is valuable. In the case of the environment or the social fabric of the world, this is incredibly important. I think that we are on the cusp of great habitual change in these areas. It is important that I help lead the way because I believe that it is possible to live more respectfully on the earth and with one another than what we currently do. It is only through the development of habits of mind and body that are based on values that will make this possible. So kids need to live them in school. They may not be getting this stuff at home. It takes a village to raise a child, right??