CAN VALUES BE TAUGHT? –  Ms.Meenakshi Vaidyanathan, Vice Principal

Analysis of literature by psychologists and philosophers reveals that individual responsibility (and values) cannot be taught – it must be acquired indirectly and through the learners’ own experience.

The role of a parent entails a multitude of high expectations. It is in the power of parents to spur children to become conscious of their values and give them skills to reflect on them. In order to urge children to reflect on and discuss their values, we adults must first acquire the same skills.

There is also a fundamental doubt especially popular among philosophers how can values be taught? Their implicit belief is that the values cannot and should not be taught. They are picked up from the family and society (the school being part of it) by observing the role models – be it parents, teachers or the political leaders. Any attempt to ‘teach’ values is tantamount to becoming self – styled moral masters and this itself defeats the very purpose of education.

It needs to be appreciated that classroom teaching can only provide an intellectual framework like why to be honest…. However, how to be honest has to be imbibed only from living role models. It is very important to appreciate that there is a difference between knowledge of human values and actually imbibing them, between knowing about virtues and actually becoming virtuous.

Through an experiment, psychologist Mr. J. Phillipe Rushton, demonstrated that role modeling was the most effective way of helping our children internalize values. Often adults are not aware of the impact of our actions.If a parent curses other drivers on the road, the child is led to believe that it is acceptable and does likewise. We need to be more conscious of our own behaviour, even when it is not directed at our children.

Building character must be the work of both parents and the school. We must work hand in hand to impart the same values. For instance, a teacher was teaching students to care for the elderly in the public transport by giving up one’s seat. A student pledged to practise this on his way home. However, the next day the student was downcast and refused to share his experience in the class. Later, he explained to the teacher that his parent had told him off for giving up the seat. The poor child was perplexed.

It’s been estimated that over 80% of our choices in life, while they have definite consequences, do not have rules to regulate our behaviour. If we only expend energy on rules, our children will not know how to handle ambiguity and situations where rules do not exist.

Effective parents help their children learn that the rules come from ethics, not ethics from rules. A values based home fosters personal responsibility and initiative in each child.

There is no need to run outside

For better seeing

Nor to peer from a window. Rather abide

At the centre of your being;

For the more you leave it, the less you learn.

Search your heart and see

If he is wise who takes each turn.

The way to do is to be

– Lao – Tzu (6th century BC)



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