The Spirit of the Child

The Spirit of the Child

The Spirit of the Child

The Spirit of the Child

Excerpt

Rather surprisingly, spiritual education has become newsworthy. One major reason for this is a growing public concern about the coherence of society as a whole, allied to an intuition that spirituality has importance in maintaining what Philip Selznick calls the ‘moral commonwealth’. Unease about these matters was signalled in Britain at the beginning of 1996 by the setting up of a national conference on Spiritual and Moral Education by the Schools Curriculum and Assessment Authority (now the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority). Subsequently a national forum was appointed with a brief to create a practical educational response to the perceived crisis.

There are two major difficulties in understanding how best to develop spiritual education – lack of agreement on what spirituality is, and a shortage of detailed information about the spiritual life of children. When one considers the volume of research and theoretical reflection available on, for example, children’s cognitive development, the lack of data is starkly obvious. In any other curriculum area such a deficiency would be considered unacceptable. The practical consequence of this impoverishment is that when teachers try to deal with spiritual education, they often feel they are talking into a vacuum.

The investigation reported in this book began as an attempt to clear away some of the uncertainty by finding out how ordinary children talk about their spirituality. Once we started the process of research it became apparent that spirituality is massively present in the lives of children. At the same time, however, it is hidden because of a culturally constructed forgetfulness which allows us to ignore the obvious. If we are to take spirituality seriously we need to understand how it has come to be ignored and why it is sidelined in the educational system. These factors have governed the structure of the book.

In Part I: Orientation, I begin with a chapter explaining what I mean by spirituality, its complex relationship with religion, and its political importance. The second chapter is an attempt to set spiritual awareness, seen as a natural human predisposition, in the context of a cultural history which has had a severely destructive effect on its expression. I also return to its . . .

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