Should we teach values?

If we accept, as we must, that education doesn’t happen in a vacuum; that education serves inevitably to renew society (for good or ill) – then we must accept that school has some duty to present or reinforce the values of society. Schools should produce ‘good’ citizens, not just intelligent ones.

And to all those who indignantly cry “indoctrination” and “whose values?”, the only response is “wake up”. Schools, as the most significant institution during the most formative years, cannot help but impact on values education. Either we accept that values education will be random, therefore sometimes subject as much to factional, divisive influences as to anything positive, or we accept that society can have a more active role in shaping its future.

Moreover, the values that we are attributing to ‘good’ are pretty uncontroversial. They might include: individual responsibility, open-mindedness, enquiry and critical thinking, that hard work leads to achievement… And frankly, whilst these are pretty consensual across society, they are saved from becoming bland truisms by the observation that they are by no means universally acknowledged by pupils in our most challenging schools, in the poorest areas.

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