Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 1997

Value Education And The School

Main discipline: Education
Lecturer: Professor Karl Neumann
Institution: Technical University of Braunschweig/University of Göttingen, Germany
Dates: 28 July - 1 August, 1997

Education in modern, that means pluralistic, highly-differentiated and rapidly-changing societies has to cope with severe practical and theoretical problems, for parents as well as for professional educators. Societal pluralisation, the disintegration of individual ethos, orientations and life-careers are great challenges for institutions, which, like schools, bind together different individuals in forms of common work and civic responsibility. Some people even speak of a vicious circle: How can a society that is becoming more and more permissive expect a school, to bring forward clearly defined and generally accepted moral values and norms? Has education in modern societies, as "nations of risk", already come to an end? Faced with the obvious breaking down of traditions, school(ing) is obviously passing through a crisis. The critical question arises all over: What are the future chances of schooling with its traditional main objectives; autonomy, self-esteem, participation and solidarity? The fundamental question is: Granted that schools are but one institution in a complex society, what role can and should they have in the propagation of values?

The lectures are divided into five blocks. The first block refers to the theoretical controversies about the role of school and value education in the process of modernization, referring to a framework based on the key-concepts of pluralisation, individualisation and personal identity. The second block is a historical review of the treatment of values teaching, especially examining the manner in which dominant social and political values have affected the way in which schools have treated this subject. This review ends with the argument that there is a need for greater rationality, empathy, self-esteem, and cooperation among pupils. The third block refers to the central question: is it possible to have an objective moral code which can be taught to all? In this context, one has to look at personal value systems, at the influence of society and at the status of philosophical and psychological theories and their effects upon schools. The last two blocks look at practical questions, the problems of transformation, both in the classroom and the school organisation as a whole. A number of teaching strategies will be suggested, e.g. the implementation of co-operation and the performance of a specific teaching attitude. One of the core concerns is to show that there is a constant interaction between practice of value education inside schools and interests and influences from beyond the school walls.

Basic readings

The lecturer
Karl Neumann is Professor of Education at the Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany, and Lecturer at the University of Göttingen. He is the Chairman of the section on Early Childhood Education within the German Society of Educational Research and leads the Institute for Research on School History and Regional School Development at the University of Braunschweig. He has published in several languages. His main fields of research are School and Education, Philosophy of Education, Didactics, Early Childhood and Family Education.