Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Instilling Values

Susannah is loving school. And the School Gate is a whole new parental experience for me.

The school building is an imposing Victorian one (purpose-built for a Victorian education; though, obviously, it has gone through various internal re-workings since then), intended to impose a certain sense of Education. Today I happened to look up - always risky in a playground milling with small people moving at high velocity in random directions! - and noticed for the first time three words carved in the stone above the entrance. Now, carved words are not unusual in this context: in schools of this era there were commonly three doors marked, respectively, GIRLS, INFANTS, and BOYS (i.e. segregation). But the (three) words over this (one) school entrance are different. Directly above the door is the (expected) word INFANTS. To the left is the word DUTY; and to the right, ORDER. A particularly Victorian view of how children ought to be moulded.

The word 'duty' is so emotionally-repressed, so passion-less. It used to be one of the highest-held British Values. One did one's duty because it was The Done Thing - whether or not it is the right thing. Dutiful citizens do not rock the boat; they do not confront or challenge society; they certainly do not engage in public protest against the Government - let alone peaceful Civil Disobedience. Dutiful citizens do not petition against the role of Western governments in global poverty; or wars judged to be illegal by the UN.

As a member of a religious Order, you might expect me to be more favourable when it comes to 'order.' But the kind of order that hangs around with duty is no better. It is not ordered, but orderly. Orderly citizens do not Step Out Of Line; do not give in to base emotions such as joy and wonder. This is the hushed order by which one catalogues nature, rather than the vibrant order of creation itself. It is, I suspect, dull (which is an abuse against the inquisitive minds of children).

I'm glad things have changed. I do not wish my children to be dutiful and orderly. I hope, instead, that they will be faithfully connected, to their generation and, yes, to God.

Maggi Dawn has some good reflections on how we might raise our children, here.

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