|A Sense of Belonging - Guidelines for Values for the Humanistic and International Dimension of Education (CIDREE - UNESCO, 1983, 31 p.)|
The debate between and among philosophers about the identification and nature of values is a central issue in moral philosophy. It is not a discourse that will lead to unequivocal answers, and neither should it. Nor is it a debate for curriculum developers to engage in at a philosophical level. That is not their function and it would be naive for these guidelines, aimed at helping curriculum developers and teachers grapple with the important matter of operationalising values in education, to delve into a quest for definitive philosophical statements.
General statements about the range and nature of moral values are often not in themselves particularly helpful since most practices can be rationalised in the light of such statements. They lack specificity and the individual parts are often in tension, one with another.
Equally, philosophical consideration of the abstract aspects of values can present a somewhat pessimistic picture. This needs to be leavened by a sense of reality and common sense and recognition that if civilised society is to advance then there must be some aspects of social behaviour that can transcend the cultural differences that exist between different cultural groups. An acknowledgement that co-existence demands at some level a sharing of something beyond basic human instincts.
We must not dramatise the incompatibility of values - there is a great deal of broad agreement among people in different societies over long stretches of time about what is right and wrong, good and evil16.
16 BERLIN I The Crooked Timber of Humanity, Murray, London 1990
These guidelines are built on the belief that consensus in relation to values issues is worth aiming for. However, even when consensus is achieved there will be tensions. Principles will conflict and the reconciliation of these presents us with considerable challenges. Perhaps the best that can be done as a general rule is to maintain a precarious equilibrium that will prevent the occurrence of desperate situations, of intolerable choices - that is the first requirement for a decent society; one that we can always strive for, in the light of the limited range of our knowledge, and even of our imperfect understanding of individuals and societies. A certain humility in these matters is very necessary17. The process of seeking that consensus is as important as the outcome. Taylor18 states that values are not static and there must be opportunities to amend the values that formed the consensus. While this might be the case, if too much attention is focused on the products of consensus, charters, policy statements, codes of conduct, it can inhibit the opportunities to respond to shifts in values orientations.
17 BERLIN, I. ibid
18 TAYLOR, M. Values in Education: A Comment Barr/Hooghoff (Eds) «Values Schooling and Society CIDREE 1991