Informed by the most up-to-date research from around the world, as well as examples of good practice, this handbook analyzes values education in the context of a range of school-based measures associated with student wellbeing. These include social, emotional, moral and spiritual growth – elements that seem to be present where intellectual advancement and academic achievement are being maximized. This text comes as ‘values education’ widens in scope from being concerned with morality, ethics, civics and citizenship to a broader definition synonymous with a holistic approach to education in general. This expanded purview is frequently described as pedagogy relating to ‘values’ and ‘wellbeing’.
This contemporary understanding of values education, or values and wellbeing pedagogy, fits well with recent neuroscience research. This has shown that notions of cognition, or intellect, are far more intertwined with social and emotional growth than earlier educational paradigms have allowed for. In other words, the best laid plans about the technical aspects of pedagogy are bound to fail unless the growth of the whole person – social, emotional, moral, spiritual and intellectual, is the pedagogical target. Teachers and educationalists will find that this handbook provides evidence, culled from both research and practice, of the beneficial effects of such a ‘values and wellbeing’ pedagogy.
Some revision of public schooling history is necessary to challenge the dominant mythology that public schools were established on the grounds of values-neutrality. In fact, those responsible for the foundations of public education in Australia were sufficiently pragmatic to know that its success relied on its charter being in accord with public sentiment. Part of the pragmatism was in convincing those whose main experience of education had been through some form of church-based education that state-based education was capable of meeting the same ends. Hence, the documents of the 1870s and 1880s that contained the charters of the various state and territory systems witness to a breadth of vision about the scope of education. Beyond the standard goals of literacy and numeracy, education was said to be capable of assuring personal morality for each individual and a suitable citizenry for the soon-to-be new nation. As an instance, the NSW Public Instr- tion Act of 1880 (cf. NSW, 1912), under the rubric of “religious teaching”, stressed the need for students to be inculcated into the values of their society, including understanding the role that religious values had played in forming that society’s legal codes and social ethics. The notion, therefore, that public education is part of a deep and ancient heritage around values neutrality is mistaken and in need of se- ous revision. The evidence suggests that public education’s initial conception was of being the complete educator, not only of young people’s minds but of their inner character as well.