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Values-Based Education

The first two world café events revealed values as being integral to learning. Values serve as anchors or roots grounding people as they seek meaning in life. Value is from the Latin meaning worthy or strong. The French word for value is valoir which is related to the English for valour, courage, and spirit. Values are universal and timeless and can serve as bridges cultures and generations, spanning arbitrary and artificial boundaries. Beliefs are founded on, but do not replace values. Values remain constant, but beliefs will be redefined over time.

Values are difficult, if not impossible, to measure. For example, what criteria measures compassion? Instead, we can ask, “What evidence is there that a compassionate person can have a positive impact on children’s learning?” Or, “What evidence exists that children learning to care for others, their communities, and the world are successful in their learning?” What would a love for learning, for others, and for the world look like, feel like, and sound like? Parker Palmer might ask, “What colour is this love for learning and the world?” Do love and compassion animate the human spirit to learn, serve, and care?

When we first fall in love, passion fuels the relationship. Gradually, passion balances com-passion. Humans are capable of learning to attend to activities and others. Learning, in this context, is relational. Passion for life-long learning has counter-weights: compassion, patience, care, integrity, and empathy. Maturing children require gentle, caring patience to achieve success. Learning, a partner for life, brings wholeness and integrity in life. Empathy and compassion open hearts and minds to learn about the other and the world.

Paradoxically, learning and teaching exist in challenging and complex, yet safe relational webs embracing subjects and personal histories. If parents, families, and communities value life-long learning, as a holistic process, children can become successful in their learning.


About ivonprefontaine

I completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Previously, I taught for 20 years and taught for 15 years in a wonderful hybrid school. My dissertation topic and research were how certain teachers experience becoming who teachers. In teaching and leanring, I am a boundary-crosser who understands moving ahead is a leap of faith. Teaching is a calling and vocation to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what calls me next. I am an educator, phenomenologist, scholar, boundary-crosser, published poet, author, parent, grandparent, and spouse.

2 responses »

  1. Interesting to read your posts Ivon. In Passionate Spirituality by Elizabeth Dreyer, she discusses passion as being related to desires, enthusiasms, frustrations and suffering, and compassion as relating to these, but in relationship, com (with) passion. The more I’ve read of your blog, the more I think you’re talking about theology… a lot of the themes you’ve mentioned sound so much like transformative learning at the Centre for Christian Studies, where I originally met Kim, Cathy’s niece. Ted Dodd was working on his PhD awhile ago on transformative learning for adults… and probably has completed it by now. I’m a bit out of date with it, but his email address if you’re interested is on the CCS website ( Just some thoughts… Thank you for posting such readable blogs, and I’m hoping to attend the next World Cafe 🙂

  2. I am grateful for the direction. When I was doing my independent study of mindfulness, I was put in touch with a colleague in Wyoming who has done extensive research in that area. She was able to provide an amazing bibliography for me that I am still rooting through. I did a quick search on Elizabeth Dreyer and I see she has a blog so I may do some reading there. As well, I will follow up with Ted. The idea of transformative learning fits with the type of leadership I feel is needed in public institutions: servant leadership and transformational leadership as opposed to transactional leadership.

    Although there is a theological theme, I think some of the writing is also supported by a radical view of spirituality in our lives as learners. It is spirit that animates learning and brings passion to the table. As we gain wisdom, we realize passion without compassion is problematic. Nel Noddings has written extensively about the need for an ethic of caring and spirituality in public eduction. When we care for others and do it in the spirit of true compassion, we can find transcendent meaning in life. I think teaching, in the context of being a co-creator of learning, is a radical calling in life. Parker Palmer and Thomas Merton indicated vocation and calling are the same. Victor Frankl survived the horrors of concentration camps by having a purpose that called him forward in life. I think the thread of who we are is so complex even the denial of spirituality by sterile human institutions cannot deny the spirit within we sit quietly and allow the soul to come out and play. Parker Palmer suggested that it is this quietness that helps us find our true callings and come to terms with the obstacles that stand between us and them. Part of mine is as a teacher and learner.


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