14

NEGLECTED EDUCATIONAL AIMS

Moral seriousness and social commitment

Richard Pring

Rarely has there been such a lively concern for the teaching of values in schools. The inspectorate wrote a report, Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development (1994), attempting to define the ‘curriculum area’; the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority (SCAA) produced in 1996 a discussion paper, Education for Adult Life: The Spiritual and Moral Development of Young People; and the National Forum for Values in Education and the Community disseminated its concerns through a consultation document on Values in Education and the Community (1996). The result of that consultation was a rather weighty document from SCAA, The Promotion of Pupils’ Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development (1997), which sets out in massive detail what teachers need to do for their children to grow up as good human beings.

The reasons for this rush of interest in the teaching of moral values are no doubt many. Some were captured in the paper given by Dr Tate, Chief Executive of SCAA, in which he denounced the relativism which, in his view, permeated society - and schools in so far as they reflected society. Somehow we must assert once again the abiding moral truths, and the values which should be promoted in education.

I welcome this public deliberation, although I hasten to say that I have never yet met a real relativist. But I believe that much of it misses the mark. First, it separates the teaching of values from the context in which those values are taught - as if the values which insidiously permeate so much of the political concern for ‘school effectiveness’ were irrelevant to the classroom job of helping children to be better people. Second, the central educational aims of ‘moral seriousness’ and ‘social commitment’ have little place in these accounts; there is moral education without a respect for the

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