Tuesday, February 20, 2007

How To Be Good

Maybe it's because elections are almost upon us here in och-aye-the-noo Bonnie Scotland, but by jings there's a fair old whack of stuff being written and proposed by our lords and masters about A Curriculum For Excellence, the keystone, lynchpin and corner... er, stone of the new education thingy.

Only trouble is trying to nail down precisely what we're meant to be doing, but let's leave that be for once and concentrate instead on some of the perfectly laudable aims of the document. We are, it says, in the business of trying to produce weans who are (now, let's see if I can get this right - I know there's four of 'em):

- effective learners

- confident individuals

- somethingy somethingy contributors

- and, er, something else about citizens.

(You may be less than impressed but let me assure you, I'm batting higher than most teachers here.)

Anyway, the thing is, most teachers tend to concentrate only on the first of these: getting the wee beggars to read, count, whatever. Fair enough, cos this is the business we're in, after all.

"Aha!" say the powers that be, "But that's the point: what about the other three things you should be doing, eh? What about them?"

Well, indeed. Y'see, what I'm interested in/worried about is, underneath this is a perfectly decent desire to turn out young adults who are... well, let's not beat about the bush here... who are "good". Good, in the sense of having morals, principles, caring about others etc etc.

And the really really really big thing is: will someone please tell us how you do that?

How do you teach someone to be good?

Honestly, any ideas?

I hate to be wishy-washy here, but the best I think we can hope for is to be good ourselves, and hope it sort of rubs off. (Define "good", you ask? Now that's another entry entirely.)

I don't think goodness is a subject you can teach; nor do I think that knoweldge necessarily makes one good. As George Steiner is fond of pointing out, the guards at Auschwitz really loved their classical music...

To be fair, a working document on citizenship has been released which I think does a good job of a difficult area. But... it's quite something to try and promise to an electorate, isn't it?

Watch this space.