What is the good of public schooling? 'Living the Values' at Southvale Primary School

Year: 2004

Author: Barford, Susan, Kohne, Susan, Lynch, Julianne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Debates about the purpose of schooling date back to Ancient Greece and Plato's Republic, and can be tracked through to Dewey's Democracy and Education in the Twentieth Century, and to current debates in Australia about the goals of schooling, who decides, and who pays. The purpose of public education continues to be constructed, contested and reconstructed in policy, in the media, and through practices in school communities. Most commentators stress the importance of striking a balance between extrinsic and intrinsic values of schooling and between individual (private) and societal (public) gains. In Australia in 2004, one prominent area of debate has been the place of values education in our public schools. This paper tells the story of one school community's struggle to find its purpose and to implement school-wide changes in line with five values: Honesty, Caring, Respect, Self-responsibility and Tolerance. We describe how the values at Southvale Primary School were derived, how they now inform communication and relationships at the school, and how these values are beginning to inform pedagogy and curriculum. Our paper raises important questions about the purpose of schooling, the role of values education, and about who has a legitimate voice in these debates.