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Values, aims and society
This chapter introduces the framework through which we will discuss the
central issues in education. We begin with a discussion of the importance of
values in society and go on to examine how societies can deal with
different and conflicting values. Education is introduced as central to the
concerns of a plural society as it is concerned with the preparation for
adult life of new generations. What values should then inform education?
The chapter goes on to discuss the role of values in an education system
and the role of the school system in promoting them. The issue of how
potentially conflicting aims can be addressed in education is then
considered. We then go on to consider these questions in the context of
post-compulsory, in particular, vocational education, pointing out the
relationship between worthwhile lives, paid employment and education.
Finally, we take an overview of three broad approaches to the
development of educational policy in a liberal plural society: elitism,
democracy and the use of markets.
Values in education
Values are an essential part of what people think makes their lives worthwhile.
Individuals, groups or whole societies can hold them. They take the form of beliefs
and attitudes, which can usually be spelled out. One’s moral and religious beliefs,
together with other beliefs about the kinds of things that make life worthwhile, such
as friendship, satisfaction at work, family life, love of one’s country, all constitute
our values. Different groups may share some values, but may also differ in some.
Sometimes these values may be incompatible. One cannot, for example, believe in
religious freedom and hold that only one form of religion is to be permitted.
But we cannot ask people to give up what they believe makes life worth living,
since these beliefs constitute part of their own identity, they make people what they
are, through shaping their lives. But if people cannot give up their values, how can
Gingell, J., & Winch, C. (2004). Philosophy and educational policy : A critical introduction. ProQuest Ebook Central
Created from roehampton-ebooks on 2021-04-12 16:04:03. Copyright © 2004. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.
they live with those who hold contradictory values? How can religious believers, for
example, live with atheists? One possibility is that they cannot. In this case, they
either fight or agree to live apart. Another possibility is that they try to find common
ground on those parts of their different beliefs that they do not mind implementing
and keep private those parts of their beliefs that they cannot agree should be part of
public policy. For example, atheists might suggest that religious people should be
able to have optional religious services for their own children at schools that are, in
other respects, non-religious. Religious believers might suggest that atheists have
separate, non-religious schools. They might arrive at a compromise by agreeing to
set up both kinds of school, leaving it up to parents which they send their children
to. Education policy issues cannot be appreciated without understanding the central
role that values play in education. But if it is difficult to reconcile different sets of
values, then it is also difficult to construct education policies based on such attempts
at reconciliation.
Education is a preparation for life
The concept of education refers to the human activity of preparation for life. It
primarily concerns children and young people, but since one can be prepared for
different phases of life, it also concerns adults who wish to re-orient the direction of
their lives. However, to say that education is concerned with preparation for life is
to give the concept very little content. First, there are different aspects of life, for
example, work, leisure and family. Second, different individuals and groups will
have different views about what are the most valuable aspects of life. What they
think is valuable about an aspect of life is closely connected with the values that they
hold. For example, someone who values family life may do so for, among other
reasons, because they believe that the intimacy, interdependence and spontaneity of
family life are essential constituents of a worthwhile existence. It is, however,
particularly useful to distinguish between three aspects of the preparation for life.
These are: liberal, civic and vocational. The liberal aspect of education concerns the
preparation of someone as a person with their own potential in life, able to
appreciate the culture of the community into which they are growing up and to
make choices about the direction in which they wish their life to go. The civic aspect
involves people as citizens of their society, who vote, take part in politics, voluntary
or charitable activities. The vocational aspect involves people as agents of economic
activity, for instance, as a paid employee, or as self-employed.
It is hardly surprising that there are also different views concerning the kind of
individual, civic or vocational education that people should receive. The ways in
which different aspects of education are played out yield different con ceptions of
education. Conceptions of education differ from the concept of education in the
following way. The concept of education refers to preparation for life. A particular
conception of education, however, refers to a particular kind of preparation for life.
Gingell, J., & Winch, C. (2004). Philosophy and educational policy : A critical introduction. ProQuest Ebook Central
Created from roehampton-ebooks on 2021-04-12 16:04:03. Copyright © 2004. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.
We would expect conceptions of education to be far richer in content and in what
they prescribe than the concept of education itself. How different conceptions of
education are related to the culture of the society and how they are put into effect in
the curriculum will be one of the topics of Chapter 2.
One of the issues that immediately arises when a conception of education is
developed is that differences within a society about what is a worthwhile preparation
for life begin to emerge. Some, for example, might think that vocational preparation
is unimportant, while others think that it is all-important, to the exclusion of
practically anything else. To make matters more complicated, some groups within a
society may favour a particular conception of education for themselves and a
different one for other people. Finally, particular conceptions of education almost
always reflect the values of the groups or individuals putting them forward. Beliefs
about what constitutes a worthwhile life inevitably affect views about what is the
most suitable preparation for a worthwhile life. When these values are wholly or
partially incompatible with each other, then the question about which conception of
education a society needs to articulate, can be difficult to resolve. We should note
that individual people often belong to groups which have apparently opposing
interests. Parents, for example, may be torn between a desire for more vocational
education to develop the economy and a desire for a liberal education for their own
Someone who thinks that equality is the most important value will have a
particular conception of education in mind for developing the maximum amount of
equality. On the other hand, someone who attaches most importance to the value of
liberty will seek to develop a conception of education that maximises liberty. The
problem then, as many have observed, is that one cannot pursue the maximum
degree of liberty and at the same time pursue the maximum degree of equality,
since increasing equality may mean restricting someone’s liberty to become, say,
richer than other people. To take another example, someone may think that the
most valuable kind of life involves leisured contemplation, while someone else may
think that only a life spent in useful employment is valuable. Once again, it is
difficult to see how one can seriously pursue both these goals for the same individual
at the same time.

Type Of Service: Academic paper writing
Type Of assignment: Essay
Subject: Education
Pages/words: 10/2500
Number of sources: N/A
Academic Level: Undergraduate
Paper Format: Harvard
Line Spacing: Double
Language style: UK English

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