Deputy Head's Blog: The Meaning of Education

The Cransley School Values

I remember during my initial Teacher training at University the many occasions that, as Undergraduates, we were encouraged to engage in discussions (and subsequent formally assessed assignments) to unravel the mystery of the true purpose of education. It appears that the same discussions remain high profile today across many educational courses delivered by Universities, so perhaps this mystery remains unsolved!

However, one philosophy of education that resonated with me is attributed to a retired American Teacher and author, who is on record as saying that:

“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges. It should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die”.

A powerful philosophy! Note the reference to ‘values’.

My journey into the world of academic research recently introduced me to a theory that warranted further investigation. Namely, a proposal that education serves to deliver:

Qualifications; Socialisation and Subjectification.

Qualifications relates to teaching our pupils knowledge, skills, values and dispositions, so they achieve academically via their Public Examinations and become further qualified to engage in a range of activities – both professional and recreational.

Socialisation is about educating our pupils to become part of existing social, political, cultural and professional traditions, and to contribute to a democratic society. A previous School that I taught in referred to this aspect of education as ‘Creating men and women for others’.

Subjectification refers to the process of becoming autonomous, responsible and critical adults. In this way, subjectification is opposed to socialisation, as it allows an individual to be independent of social structures and traditions – a unique individual, not a conformist?

Two particular mantras that I repeat frequently to our pupils that underpin the notion of subjectification are: “Be yourself – everyone else is taken’ and “An original is worth much more than a copy”!

The theory goes on to explain that the proposed collective virtues of this educational philosophy ultimately serve to develop education as an ‘instrument of enlightenment’! Spiritually rich?

Substitute these virtues for the Cransley School values of: ‘Seeking Excellence; Nurturing Relationships and Venturing Beyond’.  Surely it is too much of a coincidence that the development of the Cransley School values correlates with such a powerful definition of the purpose of Education?

Perhaps no coincidence. Mr Pollock has devoted a great deal of thought and time to the development of the Cransley School values in an attempt to capture the essence of the Cransley School culture and the expectations of our pupils. The cultural impact of the Cransley School values should hopefully serve to empower our pupils to become individual ‘instruments of enlightenment’!

Of course, our pupils do not always get it right! There are times when they fall short of our values. Fortunately, the pastoral and academic leads, form teachers, subject teachers, ably assisted by our wonderful Office and Support Staff are skilled and dedicated enough to ensure that they receive guidance regarding where they have gone wrong, together with the advice as to how to put things right.

After all, if we can agree that making distinctions is part of learning, then I am sure that we can accept that so too is making mistakes!

Perhaps I could have saved myself a bit of time by quoting from the late American writer, William S Burroughs who stated that:

“The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values”.

Whatever educational philosophy sits comfortably with that of your own, I hope that you will agree that the Cransley School Values are making a significant contribution to the development of our pupils – their very own ‘road maps through life’!