Value Socialisation and Pedagogy, Part 1: Issues and Trends in Values Education

Introduction

Values – both allegiance to values and disagreement about values – have been and continue to be fundamental to society, culture and thought (Moor, 2004; Andrew, 1995; Werkmeister, 1970) yet, paradoxically, remain largely submerged in our individual and collective unconscious. It can, however, be reasonably asserted that conscious interest has quickened in recent years in response to a perceived ‘crisis of values’ within developed economies and modern cultures (Bindé, 2004). This quickening is felt most keenly in the political and educational establishments, where responsibility – both for the problem and the solution – is considered to lie most heavily (Giroux, 2011). A crisis in values is, in fact, not a peculiarity of our age; one only has to read almost any of the writings of antiquity to understand that laments about the waywardness of youth and the moral decline of social institutions are as old as recorded history. What is perhaps unique is the extent to which we have come to believe that schools are the key to arresting this downward spiral (MacIntyre, 1987, p.16).

In the UK the current wave of interest in values and in values education can almost be pinpointed to a specific moment in time, and began, as these things often do, with a dramatic and tragic incident, in this case the murder of a head teacher outside the gates of his school (Davies, 2005; Taylor, 2000). Of course, there were antecedent incidents and there have been subsequent, regrettably frequent, incidents at schools that have all but erased the memory of this earlier outrage. A few years prior to this there had been an upheaval in education, with the passing of the Education Reform Act (UK, 1988), itself a reaction to perceived weaknesses in the quality of schooling. But this was perhaps the moment when vague feelings of disquiet about the state of the nation’s youth and of the inadequacy of our social institutions to deal with these problems spilled over into a determination to do something, which boosted the profile of the nascent values education movement and that led to calls for moral or values education in schools and a flurry of activity on the policy front (SCAA, 1996). These early government-led initiatives were never systematically implemented or given statutory force (Hawkes, 2010), but stimulated the present oversight of spiritual and moral education provision in UK schools in Ofsted inspections (ibid), and resulted in some localised and networked  approaches to teaching values (VbE, 2014; Lepkowska, 2012/08/06).

Against this background, I wish to make two points of a philosophical nature. The first is that, for all the positive resonance of the term ‘values’, the nature of values is contentious, both as to whether such things actually exist and, if they do, what form they take. The second flows from this; it is that values education, in the absence of an understanding of the nature of that which is supposedly being transmitted, must lack an adequate theoretical foundation. Like ‘education’ itself, the transmission of values is highly contextual and sensitive to the nature of the package; it is far more than mere logistics. To illustrate this point, a common definition of values that is used within the values education establishment is that of Halstead (1996, p.5):

[Values are] principles, fundamental convictions, ideals, standards or life stances which act as general guides to behaviour or as reference points in decision making or the evaluation of beliefs or actions.

This, or something like this, may, indeed, be what most people would have in mind if they were called on to give a definition of values. But from a theoretical point of view its very inclusiveness is a weakness, as it offers no cohesive view of values that could be used in understanding the process that takes place when a value is acquired within an educational setting. This much is clear when looking at various definitions of values education. This is Taylor’s (1998, p.1) view:

[Values Education] is a relatively new umbrella term for a range of common curriculum experiences: spiritual, moral, social and cultural education; personal and social education; religious education; multicultural/antiracist education; cross-curricular themes, especially citizenship; environment and health; pastoral care; school ethos; extra-curricular activities; wider community links; collective worship/assembly; the life of the school as a learning community.

A definition of values education comprised entirely of exemplification helps in understanding the context within schools where it is taking place, but is also not of much help in understanding what takes place when values are acquired or what ought to take place in order that this activity can be deemed successful. Hawkes (2010, pp.233-234), in a similar descriptive vein, but adding a more practical edge, defines values education as:

a convenient term for a wide range of implicit and explicit activities devised to develop a values-base to the life…which are principles that guide behaviour. It explicitly develops an ethical vocabulary based on value words… It encourages reflective learning through silent reflection…It looks for ways that values can be expressed through positive behaviour in the school and community.

Hawkes attempts through this definition to build a more cohesive sense of what values education is beyond the activities which make it up. It moves beyond being merely a collective noun for thematically related activities to something with a distinctive and positive praxis. Even here, though, it is unclear whether there is a coherent conceptual idea underpinning the project.

In part 2 of this essay I will discuss a theoretical model of values transmission derived from philosophical considerations of value and research into good practice in schools exhibiting a range of governance models, proposing a theoretical basis for values education as a coherent enterprise. In this first part, though, I intend to set the scene by considering the main trends and issues in values education over the past thirty years, values in the curriculum, values and character education, values and tradition, and values and wellbeing, concluding with an overview of the emerging themes within values education, including many of the unresolved issues with which any model attempting to provide a coherent theoretical underpinning will have to engage.

Values in the Curriculum

Whether and to what extent values should form an explicit and distinct part of the school curriculum is something that has formed an integral part of the discourse on values education. In examining the philosophical, political and sociological dimensions of implementing values education into the school curriculum, Richard Pring (1986, p.181) declares that it is inescapable that ‘the educational activities promoted by any society are intimately connected to what that society believes to be a valuable form of life…[T]he particular values embodied in what is designated educational will be about the kind of persons that the society wishes its young people to grow up into.’ However, he believes that these values will not yield to ‘philosophical analysis’. Instead he argues that values are local and historically conditioned, and cites in favour of this view the controversies and arguments over values even within our own society and its educational system. To educate someone ‘entail[s] the introduction to a valued form of life but …what [that is] is essentially a matter for moral debate’ (ibid, p.182).

In an interview that I conducted with him on 11th September 2009, Pring reiterated much the same view, which is that the development of a person’s values is contingent upon the nature of the community or communities in which they are raised, and this issue cuts to the question of the nature of community that schools should embody in order to transmit the appropriate values to the next generation. Pring seems to believe that the resolution of this implicit relativism, which particularly troubles moral philosophers such as MacIntyre (1981), lies somewhere between reasoned debate, an appeal to the intrinsic worth of human life and the requirement of social continuity: ‘You’ve got to create the kind of communities in which the values which are humanly important to provide social cohesion…are somehow embodied and these young people are introduced to them’. I hold essentially the same position as Pring on this, although I suspect that the conflict of values plays a more significant role than he allows and perhaps reasoned debate less than we would like (citation from interview used with approval of interviewee).

Awareness of the dangers of educating young people in a critical tradition that can result in the radical transformation of culture has meant that politics has always exercised some form of control over what schools teach and this has manifest itself in recent times in the call for schools to be involved in the education of values (Pring, 1986, p.182-183). Recognising this, Pring turns his attention to the substantive values that he believes can and should be transmitted ‘through the content of the curriculum but also through the methods of teaching and through the general ethos of the school’:

  • The respect for rule-governed behaviour, and for the authorities.
  • The respect for persons, whether oneself or others.
  • Respect for the truth.
  • Trusting and unselfish relationships.
  • A sense of justice and fairness.

He argues, though, that:

it would be wrong to translate the general concern for personal and social development, and for developing in particular a set of defensible values, into the content of specific subjects…For that could be but a distraction from the more important questions that a school should be asking about the impact of the curriculum as a whole upon the values of individual pupils (ibid, p.189).

Pring then draws on the evidence of a survey of twelve schools, which correlated outcomes in terms of exam results, behaviour and attendance with the general school ethos. By ‘ethos’ what is meant are ‘the various stable procedures through which business is conducted towards individuals and their work, towards the community as a whole, and towards those outside the school’ (ibid, p.190).

Aspin and Chapman (2000, p.122) consider the role of values education to be that of humanising the curriculum, in directing it towards ‘educating for excellence in the life of virtue’. They see this as including moral, political and personal values.

[V]alues exist [and] are found in and embodied across the whole curriculum. Values are not definable as though they were an autonomous element in the curriculum, as being in some way a separate subject, with its own body of theory, cognitive content, typical activities, disciplinary procedures or criteria for success. Values permeate everything that we do in the curriculum – including the naming, defining and inter-relating of all its parts. And that is because of the point made above, that description and evaluation are inextricably entwined activities (ibid, p.136).

What seems clear from these readings is that values are not to be considered as something apart from the information and activities that constitute the normal life of the school. That is not to say that values is an area that can safely be ignored; it is, rather, an area that requires particular attention, but one that should be integrated into the processes and procedures of the school. Such considerations have also informed the debate on the implementation of Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) education. Within the context of the provisions of the National Curriculum and the 1988 ERA, it is obvious that provision should be made within schools for the implementation of SMSC policy. The philosophical raison d’être has been variously expressed, as in this rather flowery statement: ‘Just as such biological development requires appropriate conditions – to do with such things as climate and soil in the case of plants – so, the (Ofsted) report claims, the personal development of pupils demands a favourable ‘climate and soil’…provided and promoted by the school’ (White 1994, p. 370, cited in Dillon and Maguire, 1997).

There are probably two areas from which strong support and push for the implementation of this policy derives. The first is among the general public, and particularly the parents of school pupils, perceiving an apparent decline in ‘moral standards, particularly among young people’ (SCAA, 1996, p.8). This perception has, over the past two decades, filtered through to government policy and local initiatives. The other comes from the opposite end of the process, in the Ofsted inspections to which schools are periodically subjected and which has kept the pressure on schools for the incremental implementation of SMSC policy. Left to themselves, most schools would probably have quietly dropped this provision of the National Curriculum due to the burden of the existing administrative and teaching loads. As it is, according to Dillon and Maguire (1997, p.184), ‘Many schools are choosing to write a policy statement on SMSC. When developing the policy, three key issues are paramount. These are the need to consult, the provision of a rationale to support the proposed framework and a strategy to put the policy into practice’.

There are naturally difficulties to a successful implementation of any policy on this scale. Pring details five areas of difficulty in relation to Personal and Social development, which would be equally valid in the case of SMSC: conceptual, political, ethical, empirical and organisational (Pring, 1984, pp.4-7). Some of the tensions involved in setting out on a policy like SMSC were recognised by the government in the 1970s:

The educational system is charged [firstly] with equipping young people to take their place as citizens and workers…Secondly there is responsibility for educating the ‘autonomous citizen’, a person able to resist exploitation, to innovate and…[defend] liberty. These two functions do not always sit easily together (DES, 1977, quoted in Pring, 1984).

Several strategies have been proposed for the implementation of spiritual and moral education. Downey and Kelly (1978) propose four possible strategies for the implementation of moral education in schools: a specific, timetabled, subject ‘Moral Education’; through broadening the scope of the existing curriculum to include a moral dimension; through pastoral care supplementary to the existing curriculum; and through the school community. In considering the teaching of spiritual values Plunkett (1990) outlines a similar range of strategies and draws up the advantages and disadvantages of each. Discussing the use of the curriculum for teaching spirituality, for example, he states:

…a pupil will often learn thinking skills, aesthetic standards, religious values, healthcare, interpersonal qualities, and so forth, not from a specific subject but from the pervasive of multiple and often uncoordinated inputs into the total programme…The curriculum has become an instrument of economic and social policy when it should be just as much a spiritual celebration of humanity’s inner and outer beauty (Plunkett, 1990, pp.128-9)

As Dillon and Maguire have pointed out, most schools pursuing the implementation of SMSC have done so through the writing of a policy statement (1997, op. cit.). The hope is that this is in some way incorporated into the ‘ethos’ of the school, a factor of agreed significance by all interested parties (SCAA, 1996, p.11). Citizenship education and PSE(PSHE) is also seen by many as playing potentially significant roles in the implementation of this policy (SCAA, 1996, pp.14-16), though some of the recommendations have already been implemented with as yet inconclusive results.

One issue that has been discussed in relation to values is the ‘hidden curriculum’. Carr and Landon (1999) discuss the various senses in which values are thought to be hidden in the hidden curriculum, such as being a part of unofficial knowledge, being implicit, spontaneously emerging or being deliberately concealed (ibid). In order to understand their role in the hidden curriculum they develop a concept of values as ‘principled dispositions or preferences conducive to the promotion of defensible goals or individual and social flourishing’ (ibid, p.24). It is this practical nature of values that makes their concealment possible; they are hidden in practices which do not require that they be made explicit verbally (except, ironically, when those same practices are brought into question), which also makes their deliberate concealment possible by those who do not want the practices of the institution to be too closely scrutinised (ibid). They disparage both conservative and liberal views on the values of the hidden curriculum based on a ‘weak consensus’ and call for a more robust commitment to inquiring into the ‘objective truth’ of judgements made on the basis of these values (ibid, pp.26-27).

 Values and Character Education

Richard Peters (1981) examines the apparent paradox that exists between following rules and traditions in order to arrive at a rational moral position. He draws finally on Aristotle’s dictum (Nicomachean Ethics, book II, chapter 3-4) that ‘the virtues we get by first exercising them…we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts’. In the context of educating children in morality, Peters claims that ‘it is only if habits are developed in a certain kind of way that the paradox of moral education can be avoided in practice’ (ibid, 1981, p.60). What this way is, is beyond the scope of philosophy, but empirical evidence from psychology suggests that the existence of a loving and trusting relationship between parents and children is an important factor (ibid, p.54).

For some, the role that it was hoped that values education would play within the life of schools has largely been filled by citizenship education. There have been a number of critiques of citizenship education, but Kristjan Kristjansson (2002) advances a critique from the perspective of a style of character education known as ‘non-expansive character education’, one which he maintains the proponents of that style have not themselves thought through or taken advantage of. Kristiansson’s first charge (ibid, p.209) is that the concept of democracy implied in citizenship education is a particularly Western and liberal one.

McLaughlin and Halstead (1999) introduced a distinction into values education between ‘non-expansive character education’ and ‘expansive character education’. Kristjansson (2002) refined those definitions, showing that while both employ methodological substantivism – basically a mixture of teaching methods – non-expansive character education takes an approach that he terms moral cosmopolitanism, the teaching of ‘transcultural values and ‘moral basics’’, whereas expansive character education takes an approach which he calls moral perspectivism, the teaching of a highly selective range of values (ibid, pp.209-10). Citizenship education, according to Kristjansson, ‘constitutes a quintessential programme of expansive character education’. The values with which Citizenship is concerned are those of ‘democracy’, but not only with the transmission of facts about these values but the inculcation of these values through ‘an extensive programme of character moulding’ (ibid).

Kristjansson then raises his major objection to Citizenship education which is that it ‘politicises values education beyond good reason, by assuming that political literacy and specific (democratic) social skills, rather than the transcultural ‘moral basics’, are the primary values to be transmitted’ (ibid, p.212). There is a danger implicit in the programme of citizenship in that ‘the emphasis on this new foundation subject runs the risk of overshadowing and sidelining the necessary core of all values teaching, including justice teaching, namely, the inter-human psychological capabilities and moral virtues that lay the basis for social and political skills. To put it bluntly, the danger is that the cart will be put before the horse’ (ibid, p.212).

Kristjansson (2002, pp.214-216) moves on to detail three specific areas of disagreement between citizenship education and non-expansive character education. First, citizenship privileges the ‘right’ over the ‘good’, employing a more deontologically based concept of justice, in which moral goodness is subservient to social institutions and particularly the notion of ‘rights’. Non-expansive character education, on the other hand, asserts that justice and other values are fundamentally ‘personal virtues’ before they come to have social and institutional significance for the individual. Secondly, non-expansive character education is pluralist to a wider range of political settlements than the narrower democratic, rights-based view of citizenship, but is less accepting of a plurality of lifestyles. The value of tolerance is not given primacy to the extent that it is in citizenship, but non-expansive character education can countenance the idea of personal and communal justice existing even under conditions of unjust government, the corollary being that social justice can exist only where just individuals hold sway. The third disagreement is over the relationship between morality and politics. Kristjansson (ibid) perceives the danger of citizenship education is that primacy is given to the political over the moral, the latter becoming in some way derivative. He believes this would overturn almost the entire philosophical tradition stemming from Plato and Aristotle who considered the morality of the individual logically anterior to the social virtues.

Darom considers another distinction, or tension, that arises in implementing the education of values in school. He begins (Darom, 2000, p.16) by contrasting the often conflicting views of humanistic education and values education. He states that humanistic education ‘focuses on the individual whose growth and development, needs and aspirations are considered paramount in all educational processes’. By contrast, values education ‘emphasises involvement with others – individuals, communities, society – commitment and social action’ (ibid). Darom sees his task as integrating these two perspective s within a common humanistic values education.

Darom (2000) looks at the interdependence of four aspects of education, the cognitive, affective, values and behaviour. ‘Education can thus be considered a system having four sub-systems, every one of which plays an equally decisive part in the system as a whole. If any one of them is neglected, the whole educational process is incomplete…By striving for the fullest possible integration of these four domains…education has a chance of truly touching young people, of sowing seeds of intellectual and moral honesty and personal commitment’ (ibid, p.20). In particular, an individual’s value system has three components: personal, interpersonal and social values. ‘These three are an indivisible whole; a structure whose stability – whose very existence – depends on their more or less successful blending’ (ibid).

There seems a relative consensus that values education should take a holistic approach to educating the whole person, addressing the various dimensions of human life such as the social, spiritual, economic and political spheres, the academic, physical and cultural skills, and the individual, interpersonal and collective levels. On that basis Darom’s distinction between humanistic education and values education seems superficially redundant; however, it alludes to an issue already discussed, in the previous section, that of the dichotomous purpose of education: whether it is preparation for a critical evaluation of, or for participation within, the existing social and economic order. This essay does not seek to answer that question, except inasmuch as it bears upon the related issue of the balance between the desire of agencies within society to inculcate their values and the desire of individuals to freely acquiesce in the values that seem in their own – hopefully enlightened – interest.

Tradition and Values

In the first of the Richards Peters lectures in 1985, Alasdair MacIntyre sounded a pessimistic note about the future of education. ‘Teachers are the forlorn hope of the culture of Western modernity’ (MacIntyre, 1987, p.16), he declared, meaning that they are both at the forefront of the effort to maintain that culture and that their efforts are destined to fail. MacIntyre believes that the task which we have set for teachers is impossible to accomplish ‘because the two major purposes which teachers are required to serve are, under the conditions of Western modernity, mutually incompatible’ (ibid). These purposes are, first, to educate a young person to take up a role in social and economic life, a role pre-determined by that society; and, secondly, to educate the young how to think and to gain intellectual autonomy. However,

[T]hese two purposes can be combined only if the kind of social roles and occupation for which a given educational system is training the young are such that their exercise requires, or is at least compatible with, the possession of a general culture, mastery of which will enable each young person to think for him or herself (ibid, p.16).

The coexistence of these two requirements can only occur, MacIntyre is arguing, only where there exists what he terms an ‘educated public’. There have been times in history when such an educated public has existed, for example in France, England and America, and the case he cites is the Scotland of the eighteenth century enlightenment. But ‘as a matter of contingent fact specifically modern post-enlightenment societies and cultures now exclude the conditions which make this coexistence possible’ (ibid, p.17). MacIntyre locates the conditions for the existence of an educated public in the contingent existence of a consensus on procedures and institutions for the conduct of rational debate, marked by an ‘agreement to participate in a particular ongoing debate, [where] allegiance to the purposes of the debate would have to be as important to the participants as their allegiance to their own point of view’ (ibid, p.33). It is the existence of these particular conditions that MacIntyre considers to have vanished with the advent of modernity. One of the causes of that dissolution is the sweeping of intellectual discourse from the broader society into the realm of ‘professionalized and specialized academic discipline[s]’ (ibid):

[T]he possibility of thinking for oneself, other than as a professional specialist, only opens up in the context of a certain type of community and that … kind of community is no longer available, indeed has not been generally available to post-Enlightenment culture for quite some time (ibid, p.34).

He considers the one possibility of returning to such a culture is an education in which the reading of the Greek political and philosophical texts is central.

The return to an intellectual tradition is one of the ongoing dialogues in the philosophy of education. This dialogue which began in Britain really with the publication of MacIntyre’s book After Virtue (1981) has been paralleled in America with cultural critiques such as T. S. Eliot’s Notes towards the Definition of Culture (1962) and Alan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind (1987). Commenting on MacIntyre’s Richard Peters lecture, Graham Haydon considers that:

It has sometimes seemed that either education, in transmitting values, will merely be an agency by which the domination of one cultural tradition over others is sustained; or that, in attempting to avoid that outcome, it will leave the way open to a scepticism about whether moral values and ethical life have any meaning at all it may be that [there is] an understanding of the ethical life that allows us to make realistic sense of a third possibility: that it is indeed part of the business of education to sustain the ethical life, but in a way that can embrace pluralism within the ethical life. If this is not a possibility, perhaps MacIntyre’s pessimism will be justified after all (Haydon, 1987, p.12).

There are those, naturally, for whom the fragmentation of tradition is seen as both a natural and a positive development. Susan Mendus traces the arguments of MacIntyre, Bloom and Eliot back to a ‘myth of the fall’ and a golden age when traditions were intact. She rejects this view, partly because it was a myth, and rejects the call for a return to the past because of ‘a belief that the past is not as good as it is said to be, and … the belief that such a return is, where not possible, intellectually disreputable’ (Mendus, 1992, p.182). She claims that the return to such a mythical golden age requires ‘an innocence that we no longer have and which we can only ‘regain’ by intellectual deception’ (ibid). Mendus locates the source of this inauthenticity in the idea that the solutions to the problems of our age and, necessarily the problems of education, lie in a transcendental realm. Her own view is that modernity is characterised by ‘reflective consciousness’ and that education should be fostering that capacity in the young, not cultivating an inordinate respect for tradition. Education ‘must, of course, appeal to the past. But it must also remember that we possess the past; the past does not possess us, and our task now is not to return to a lost world, but to seek and create a new one’ (ibid).

Responding to Mendus, Ruth Jonathan questions whether the crisis in education brought about by the fragmentation of value resulting from the relentless assault of critical rationality can really be solved by more of the same (Jonathan, 1993, p.171). While accepting that the supposed homogeneity of the pre-modern world is frequently exaggerated, she argues that one of the consequences of relentless criticism is a ‘quantitative and exponential increase in the rate of cultural fragmentation [that] has resulted in a qualitative change both in the social world and for the developing individual’ (ibid, p.173). While Jonathan does not suggest that the solution to this crisis is a return to tradition as such, she warns that the predicament that is already engulfing modernity cannot be resolved by continuing the same emphasis within liberal education (ibid, p174); otherwise, the result will be a social relativism in which the individual good is only that which the individual chooses and the social good reduced to that which allows the individual such latitude (ibid, p176).

Mendus’ stance that a return to a more innocent, traditional view of the world is ‘intellectually disreputable’ I understand but find overstated. Ricoeur (1967), for example, maintains that while fully cognisant of the facticity of the historical origins of founding myths, indeed because we are so aware, we are, nevertheless, able to enter into a state of ‘second naivety’ that is as profound as the ‘first naivety’ but richer because it is based on knowledge and conscious decision, rather than ignorance and uncritical acceptance. Moreover, Gadamer (1994, p.298) argues that it is the temporal distance between the events in mythic time to which a text refers and the present that creates the possibility for the discovery of truth, through a fusion of the horizon of the present with the horizon of the text. The culture of modernity, if it anywhere exists outside of university departments, is characterised by a lack of a socially cohesive worldview. But on the very grounds of rationalistic critique, such a worldview cannot exist, except perhaps in the reductive caricature that Jonathan outlines, where we are all thrown into a state of moral solipsism. Yet, both intellectually and intuitively we accept the existence of society, which means we uncritically accept a type of myth. Within all social institutions, including educational institutions, a plurality of myths are fostered, many of which embody the core values of the institution. Many of those are held in a state of ‘second naivety’ in which they are half-believed but fully endorsed; in many of the most enduring and adaptable institutions these myths are reinterpreted into new and shifting contexts without dissolving the integrity of their mythic core.

Values and Wellbeing

The issue of student wellbeing and its relationship to values education has emerged as a focus for educators in the early twenty first century. Much of this development has been focused in Australia where the government has been promoting a programme of values education based on a set of 9 common Australian values that define citizenship in the nation and in a global community, a programme that each state and territory education board is following, although the actual policies and methodologies are being left to each area, and even each school, to define, mixing cross-curriculum and stand-alone approaches (Lovat, 2010, pp.3-7). The intellectual paradigm that supports this programme is the ‘double helix effect’, which asserts, based on psychological and neuroscientific evidence, that the goals of ‘learning implied in quality teaching (intellectual depth, communicative competence, empathetic character, self-reflection) [are] more readily and easily achieved in the learning ambience created by values education’ (Lovat, ibid, p.7). The programme thus sets out to achieve benefits in two spheres: that of individual wellbeing and a reinvigorated sense of citizenship and, presumably, national engagement.

Although the model of values education is openly declared to be one of inculcation at the classroom level (ibid), which has its critics and detractors, the organisation is locally based and proceeds with full student involvement. In schools which are operating these programmes there are four main components: a common language of values and shared expectations about personal and interpersonal behaviour that lie at the core of the school’s values education programme; a positive dynamic in the teacher-pupil interaction; the modelling of appropriate and expected behaviour by teachers; and the incorporation into the programme of an external service project that provides an opportunity for pupils to be involved in a public good (Toomey, 2010). Through this, in addition to the ‘double helix effect’, there is also a ‘troika effect’ emerging from the relationship ‘between values education, quality teaching and service learning’ (ibid, p.20). Students are involved in the establishment of this structure at an early stage through Student Action Teams that identify a need in the local community and plan a strategy and action programme of engagement (ibid). Toomey asserts that this is pedagogically sound and evidence-based as it has been shown to provide a sense of empowerment through taking initiative, social bonding through teamwork, and a sense of self-worth through giving to others.

By contrast with the Australian experience with values education, which seems to be affirmative, progressive, incremental and joined up, balancing political will with local initiative, and based on cumulative evidence from pilot schemes and scientific evidence, the experience with values education in the UK seems to be an object lesson in how not to approach it (Haydon, 2010). As in Australia, it was a perception that values relativism was an underlying problem of social ills that prompted attempts to discover shared values that could be taught in schools. In 1996 the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority (SCAA) convened the National Forum on Values in Education and the Community, bringing together some 150 people from organisations representing all sectors of society. Their brief was to arrive at a consensus of values that were shared across British society. They came up with a Statement of Values that is now appended to the National Curriculum (National Forum on Values in Education and the Community, 1997). However, its recommendations, and that of subsequent policy initiatives in this area, were never given statutory force, and uptake has been left almost entirely to individual schools (Haydon, 2010; Hawkes, 2010). Instead, values education in the UK has followed the twin paths of PSHE and Citizenship Education, which Haydon (2010) argues has compartmentalised wellbeing and personal responsibility, unlike the programme of values education in Australia, which has integrated these two functions effectively.

Being based on a consensus model, the values the NFVEC’s Statement contains have a tendency to be generalised expression of values-based intent rather than very specific named values as in the case of the Australian government’s National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools (Commonwealth of Australia, 2005). My own view is that this different approach may have resulted from different perceptions of where the problem of value relativism lay. During the twentieth century Australian schooling abandoned its original charter to teach values and became values-neutral (Lovat, 2010), effectively removing standards against which pupil behaviour could be judged. The move to values education is thus a recovery of its original intent. By contrast, British schools have largely maintained a tradition of values education through RE and more recently through PSE/PSHE, although the 1988 Education Reform Act clearly intended to enshrine this function in law (UK, 1988). The problem of value relativism, therefore, is more likely to have been located in society as a whole rather than in education in particular, and for this reason the response more diffuse and ambivalent.

Emerging Themes within the Educational Discourse

Having reviewed the literature around values education and the formal education system in the UK, a number of themes have begun to emerge, prominent among which are: the source of values; the degree of autonomy/control over the curriculum; the rationale, reason or role of values education; the medium for values education and the strategy for implementation of a values education programme; the dimensions of values education; the degree of integration, both internal and external, of programmes; and conflicts, antimonies and unresolved aspects of values education. Each of these themes will be considered, synthesising information from the literature considered.

a) Sources of institutional values

Religion and faith communities: Macmullen (2004, p. 603) argues that religious education and religious upbringing together provide the basis for an ‘ethical autonomy’ although this needs to be conducted within the context of rationality rather than dogmatic faith. While rejecting the aspect of religious observance in schools as divisive, Ward (2008) recognises the higher moral standards of faith schools as something that should be aspirational. Like Macmullen (2004) he believes that pupils should be taught about religions within a framework of rational inquiry. Halstead (2007) has a radically different perspective. Schools, he proposes, should support the religious observance and identity of the home and faith community through an inter-faith ethos built on the foundation of the British cultural values of tolerance, cross-cultural understanding and respect.

Traditions: Traditions are longstanding institutionalised behaviours, in which values – often implicit – are embedded, that are passed to succeeding generations. Clearly, religious beliefs and practices are an important source of values and traditions for many institutions, including schools, though McIntyre (1987), Eliot (1962) and Bloom (1987) all refer to an intellectual tradition in which the reading of the classics is fundamental.

Government initiatives: Government has always had a measure of interest in the moral as well as the academic education of children (Arthur, n.d.), but it was only with the Education Reform Act (1988) that it started to play a more active role in promoting values within education. Apart from Religious Education, provision of which is mandatory for all schoolchildren up to 16, most schools, including independents, have some form of Personal, Health and Social Education (PSHE), although the contents are not mandated, and Citizenship, which was (until 2014) a part of the National Curriculum.

Local communities: Pring (1986, p.182) argues that values, rather than being absolute or universal, the result of a rational analysis, are rooted in the particular view of a society and the moral decisions it makes, and in the local, historically conditioned communities that engender and introduce the rising generation into a ‘valued form of life’.

b) Degree of autonomy/control over the curriculum

There are a number of parameters through which the degree of autonomy or control over the curriculum, including the provision for values education, can be ascertained, though they tend to converge upon particular modes – what might be referred to as models – of governance. For example funding, status with regard to the National Curriculum and ability to select are parameters of control which are, in theory, independent of each other, yet tend to be highly ideological markers of the to-and-fro of policy-making. State schools, including both community schools and Voluntary Controlled and Voluntary Aided faith schools, follow the National Curriculum, have local government oversight and funding and, apart from the few remaining state grammar schools, are non-selective. Independent schools are self-governing and financing, are not required to follow the National Curriculum, although many opt to teach some parts of it, and are completely selective.

Specifically regarding values education, as this is not included in the NC and the only requirement of Ofsted is that the spiritual needs of pupils are being met, this gives schools a relatively free hand in how and to what degree they meet this requirement. Clearly, faith schools of all types are committed to giving a religious education, both doctrinal and experiential, to their pupils. There are also a small but growing number of ‘values schools’ (part of a movement for values education rather than an officially-recognised designation), whose syllabus, pedagogy and daily routines are built around a set of core values (VbE, 2014).

c) Rationale, reason or role of values education

Rationale, reason and role are not identical, but they bear a close relationship, rationale being closer to an explicit justification – often requiring documentation, such as a policy statement (Dillon and Maguire, 1997) – and role more of an implicit, understood purpose or function. The reasons given for values education are advanced more philosophically and address the moral requirements of society. For Pring (1986, p.182) that is the creation and perpetuation of the ‘form[s] of life’ that society considers ‘valuable’; for Aspin and Chapman (2000, p.122) it is to promote ‘excellence in the life of virtue’. The SCAA cites a more pragmatic and pressing reason: to address parents’ perception of apparent decline in the ‘moral standards…among young people’ (SCAA, 1996, p.8).

d) Medium and implementation of values education

The process of implementation of values education begins with an impetus and that seems to derive mostly from the public, represented particularly by those who are most directly involved, that is, the parents of children within school (SCAA, 1996). But a secondary driving force is also the inspection regime initiated in conjunction with the National Curriculum, Ofsted, which as part of its responsibilities checks for the provision of Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural education; but while it can recommend, there is no statutory requirement for schools to have a policy in place (Hawkes, 2010). Implementation of a values education policy has three steps: a period of consultation; a rationale for the policy; and an implementation strategy (Dillon and Maguire, 1997). There are three basic strategies to implement a values education programme: through the curriculum, through pastoral care and through the whole community (Downey and Kelly, 1978); moreover, there is a decision whether to have a separate timetabled subject within the school curriculum or to adapt the existing curriculum. Bigger and Brown (1999) advocate a cross-curricular implementation of values education, but many schools favour a whole school approach of embedded values. The experience from Australia shows both approaches can work (Lovat, 2010). Pring (1984), though, doubts the cross-curricular approach and favours more the transmission of a core of values through the general ethos of the school and ways of teaching. Increasingly, there is also recognition that non-curricular and non-directive aspects of school life, the so-called ‘hidden curriculum’, also play a part in the education of values (Carr and Landon, 1999).

e) Dimensions of values education

There is near universal agreement that values education is a complex phenomenon, interwoven into all strands of the educational process, which needs to address the multi-dimensionality of human life as well as that of the social institutions of schooling. Darom (2000) attempts to encapsulate this within four educational sub-systems, that of the cognitive, affective, behavioural and values, the latter which is itself comprised of personal, interpersonal and social values. This, though, is a predominantly psychological reading of the issue. A differing interpretation, although I prefer to see it as complementary, is that offered from a socio-cultural perspective, that of the ‘ends’ of education – individual wellbeing and the public good – and the ‘means’ of education – the infrastructure, materials and processes necessary to promote the values within the cultural spheres of the political, economic, moral and spiritual (Plunkett, 1990; Dillon and Maguire, 1997; Aspin and Chapman, 2000; Darom, 2000; Kristjansson, 2002; Haydon, 2010).

f) Degree of integration – internal and external – of programmes

To speak of a programme being integrated means that the various aspects such as the rationale for implementing the programme, the medium or means for delivering it, the people and agencies bringing their various skills to the programme, and means of assessing the outcomes, are part of a strategic oversight, both within an institution and in relation to the wider society. By this measure, the development of values education within state education in the UK has to be considered to be poorly integrated. There has never been a fully developed strategic view, and even when the prospects for one seemed at their highest in the late 1990s, the proposals were watered-down and eventually led to a series of recommendations and a fairly weak assessment regime (Hawkes, 2010). The approach has rather been piecemeal, perhaps reflecting a national unease about ideologically-driven or inculcatory approaches to values. Values education in the past would have been delivered through Religious Education or some form of Moral Education, but the moral content of RE at least has been somewhat attenuated through the focus upon appreciating cultural difference and the differing cultural experience (Barnes, 2011). There has been an attempt to introduce values education and character education through PSHE and Citizenship (Arthur, n.d.), but Haydon (2010) has argued that this approach has effectively compartmentalised well-being and personal responsibility. Moreover, Kristjansson (2002) criticises Citizenship for giving precedence to political values over moral ones. By contrast, ‘values schools’ and others that have implemented explicit values education policies have tended to have integrated approaches consisting of such things as core values and a values language promoted throughout the school, common behavioural expectations and reflective practice (Hawkes, 2010). In Australia, the government has taken the initiative in promoting ‘Australian values’ through various state sponsored programmes. Although the specifics of the programmes are decided at regional and even school level they have common features: they are based on psychological and neuroscientific evidence that the combination of quality teaching and values education promotes good learning and personal outcomes (Lovat, 2010); and they consist of four essential elements of a language of values and expectations, positive relations between teachers and pupils, appropriate modelling of behaviour by teachers and the incorporation of an external service project (Toomey, 2010).

g) Conflicts, paradoxes and unresolved aspects of values education

Actual programmes of values education often fall short of the complex multidimensionality outlined in section e) above, being too limited, too tentative or too partial. However, these are problems essentially of implementation. There are also unresolved theoretical issues, though some arise out of ideological differences or simply lack of empirical data.

A number of commentators have pointed out various paradoxes in the overall moral purpose of education today. MacIntyre (1987, p.16), echoing a cautionary note sounded by the DES in 1977 (cited in Pring, 1984), sees a fundamental contradiction between education as preparation for working in the economy and education for intellectual autonomy. The Australian experiment with values education programmes, though it is young, seems to be confounding such pessimistic views and showing that all aspects of pupils’ lives can be enhanced. Perhaps values education does, as Aspin and Chapman (2000, p.122) argue, ‘humanise the curriculum’, meaning that it allows all dimensions of human experience to be integrated through practices. Not everyone is convinced of this. Foster (2001), for example, maintains that the openly inculcatory practices of many programmes, such as those in Australia, undermine some fundamental democratic assumptions.

Implicit in this discourse is the fundamental pedagogical conflict over whether education, and specifically values education, should be achieved through a process of inculcation, in which weight is given to the educator of a given set of values – political, religious or traditional – or through a process of acquisition, in which weight is given to the acquirer of values, probably by some form of self-realisation. My starting assumption would be that inculcation and acquisition both play some role in the transmission of values, and in Part 2 of this essay I will propose a mechanism for transmission that incorporates both.

Both Mendus (1992) and Jonathan (1993) see the incommensurability of critical rationalism with the existence of a tradition, though they evaluate this conflict differently, the former a more strident rationalist and the latter a more concerned rationalist. Certainly to my satisfaction, though, tradition and reason seem to find a resolution within the philosophical hermeneutics of Gadamer (1994) and Ricoeur (1967), in Gadamer’s idea of the fusion of the horizon of the past with the horizon of the present, and Ricoeur’s concept of the re-mythologised ‘second naivety’. The concept of values as a philosophical proposition mediates somewhat this debate, as values lie at the core of traditions, whether embraced in toto or demythologised into moral assumptions and practices.

In this context, it is worth mentioning the clash between faith and reason, which seems to be one of the recurrent motifs within education with direct relevance to values education. There seems to be a default assumption that reason prevail, a position that I have strong sympathy with; yet, the dangers of over-rationalisation have been made clear, by Jonathan (1993) amongst others. Faith has played, and continues to play in my estimation, an important role in the cultural life of societies; it should be shaped and controlled by reason, but not consumed in a firestorm of reason. All values, including faith and reason, should be self-replenishing in stable, balanced and dynamic societies. However, our institutions should be multi-valued, not mono-valued, whether that be faith or reason or some other, although there is a good case, I believe, for institutions to be disposed to holding to particular sets of values, and these differently-valued institutions competing in the social arena.

Peters (1981) brings attention to a fundamental antinomy in moral education, which overlaps significantly with values education, between following rules and a rational morality, and locates its possible resolution in parental upbringing (ibid), something that finds empirical support in the research on intergenerational transmission of values (Schoepflug, 2001a; Euler et al., 2001; Barni et al., 2011). It boils down to, as Brighouse (2006, cited in Haydon, 2010, p.198) says, living it ‘from the inside’. As in the debate over inculcation versus acquisition it is necessary that at some level institutional requirement, whether that be legal or moral, is matched by individual assent, and that requires a specific type of management in an institutional setting such as a school.

Finally, Pring (1986) raises the thorny issue of the paradox that the social values that are considered fundamental to social life – and in that sense absolute – are, nonetheless, locally and historically conditioned. As the title of this essay suggests, and a theme that will be more fully explored in part 2, a major function of values education – perhaps the only function ultimately – is the socialisation of the individual, and that proceeds regardless of the particular set of values that is transmitted. It may be that across cultures there is a convergence on the most important values. It is certainly true that within majority cultures the existence of sub-cultures with values, principles and priorities at variance with the major culture and with each other can give rise to social tension and potentially fuel conflict. What seems obvious is that at the institutional or national level we must create opportunities for multiple belonging to be as widely accessible as possible.

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