12

WELL-BEING AS AN AIM OF EDUCATION 1

Roger Marples

A system of schooling may be designed for many reasons, not all of which are morally acceptable. Children have been forced to attend schools whose specific intentions included producing Christian gentlemen or committed communists where any reference to the potentially liberating possibilities afforded by schooling have met with incomprehension or hostility. Those who have wished to indoctrinate the young into particular conceptions of well-being have all too frequently found schools willing to accommodate them.

The reaction against such systems has been accompanied by an unwarranted scepticism concerning the role of teachers in assisting children with the task of determining where their well-being might lie. This is in no small part due to the contemporary moral and political climate which derives support from subjectivism and individualism. Those teachers who see their job as having something to do with helping pupils appreciate the implications of, and values associated with, certain forms of life (especially if this is seen in terms of something more than either merely equipping them with the capacity to decide for themselves the values by reference to which their decisions are determined, or with helping them to formulate strategies for satisfying their desires) may well leave themselves open to the charge of indoctrinating others with their own, subjectively chosen, Weltanschauungen.

Whatever it is that we are aiming to achieve through compulsory schooling and whatever curriculum is considered appropriate as a means to such achievement, we have to acknowledge that some conception or other of what is good for both individuals and society at large - what, in other words, it is to flourish as persons and as citizens - underpins all that we do. It is all too easy to despair of providing an acceptable theoretical underpinning to educational practice with any claims to objectivity in terms of which charges of indoctrination or perfectionism may plausibly be rebuffed, but it is incumbent on those who are dissatisfied with the subjectivism on which so many accounts of well-being appear to rely, to endeavour to provide such an alternative.

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