ABC news reported that Shepparton Secondary is a picture of racism, cultural exclusion, and violence. It is easy to criticise schools, but as a society, have we provided our young people with the values and skills that allow them to be good citizens?
The problem is not limited to Shepparton Secondary.
As an Information Technology educator, I have watched the values education space for 20+ years in Melbourne High schools and completed a doctorate on Values in the Digital World. Below are my observations.
In Australia, values education in has been a political circus for the past 20 years. Some areas receive focus, while other areas are ignored because they do not fit a particular worldview. Today we are facing a crisis of values and we need a broad and holistic approach to values education.
A holistic approach requires several dimensions:
• Managing ourselves well
• Managing our relationships well
• Contributing positively to society and our natural environment.
This holistic focus is not new; it has been around for 100+ years. In fact, the Victorian government adopted a holistic approach 15 years ago, but where is this now? In part values education is found within the school curriculum, but it is not complete.
Shepparton Secondary is enlisting extra teachers and security amid outbreaks of violence. This measure is occurring after the fact, highlighting a prior need.
• How do you deal with violence? You educate for managing oneself and one’s relationships well. Helen Keller said, “many persons have the wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
• As a society, are we demonstrating to our children that self-gratification is the highest value? Self-management requires us to live a life of meaning, by knowing ourselves, finding our meaning in life (values and purposes) and taking the responsibility for ourselves.
• Managing ourselves requires self-control and working towards a purpose. The widespread phenomena of depression, aggression and addiction are not understandable unless we recognise the vacuum of meaning and responsibility in the lives of many people within our society.
Nelson Mandela said, “No one is born hating another because of the colour of a person’s skin, background, or religion. People learn to hate! If a person learns to hate, they can also be taught how to love, because love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
So, we need to learn how to love, but what does that mean? Is there confusion in this space? It is through relationships that we develop psychologically, physiologically, and learn how to behave socially towards others.
Authentic and dysfunctional love have ‘real’ implications. For example, sex does not mean love. You can have sex with someone, but not love them. As a society, we are generally cool with casual sex, but at the same time have not intrinsically taught sexual ethics to our youth. Events that have occurred recently by parliament staff testify to this fact.
• As educators and adults, it is important to foster ‘global citizens’ who understand that as a ‘global village’ there are shared values that exist across faiths and cultures with different worldviews.
• Fostering an awareness of our interconnectedness as a human community is imperative.
• A sense of interdependence and shared identity underpins social justice and relationships.
• A Global Citizen also recognises that our mutual prosperity is dependent on local, national, and international dimensions.