As I reflected during a morning commute on a recent conversation, I discerned a glimmer of wisdom about the role values can play in learning and education. I use the word wisdom purposefully as it is not knowledge and represents an essential counterweight to compassion. Like my recent musings that passion without com-passion is potentially blinding and harmful, compassion without wisdom can be equally damaging. Discernment allows wisdom to emerge and helps us ask and answer, “What do we value that keeps us true to what we love?”
Discernment leading to wisdom is not ‘relativism gone wild’ where everyone is entitled to an opinion regardless of the cost it exacts on others. Compassion is patient, humble, and less judgmental, allowing wisdom to be more than one’s opinion or the reiteration of ‘edutrivia’. Wisdom individually and collectively springs from within to be shared.
Community values and community provide stable cultural anchors and emerge from relational and internal processes. Community, itself, is a value, but too often contemporary advanced society turns it on end and replaces it with expedient catch phrases: collaboration, cooperation, and team player. Values such as community, wisdom, compassion, and integrity also appear under the corporate and organizational rubric of corporate mission and vision exercises. I am not dismissing these activities, but question their arbitrary, hierarchical, and limited implementation as pronouncements from the executive suites. Can we actually engage community voices in what appears to be merely a greasing of bureaucratic wheels? Institutions truly serving community will reflect community values and not those of bureaucratic, technocratic elites seeking conformity arrived at through groupthink or oppressive processes.
What values do we want children to learn? Perhaps we would like them to care for themselves and, in the words of Martin Luther King, show compassion for the beloved community and act accordingly. Perhaps we would like them to make wise decisions as stewards of the Earth and its gifts. Perhaps we would like them to be one with Creation to provide a sense of integrity. Values emerge from within us, individually and collectively. What we want for children is accomplished by finding balance in learning ways to safely and reasonably express communal values. Learning as a cognitive exercise only will not produce the adults we desire; physical, spiritual, cognitive, and emotional balance is essential to educate children of the 21st Century to learn the values of that beloved community. It is an imperative. This no longer a new millennium. We are 12 years into it. Will we wait longer?