Framework of Values
Every school is a complex social community with the assigned task of passing onto the younger generation some of the knowledge and skill acquired by the older generation. It is especially important to us at Paideia that we examine what we are teaching in addition to academic knowledge: how we view the larger human community, how we treat each other as individuals, how we relate to the physical environment, how we view the process of learning. We need to examine what we teach as part of the way we live and interact with each other as a community of adults and children.
We presume that families choose Paideia in part because they perceive that the school shares many of their values. While the primary teaching of values belongs to the family, the school is in the unique position of being able to mediate between a more impersonal social order and the intensely personal family experience. It is the school's responsibility to help prepare children for a place in the society; we also hope that the school environment can have some of the personal depth and meaningfulness of family life. We hope that our students will be prepared not only to live in the world but to improve it.
These principles already exist at Paideia, and they will continue to be expressed in the life of the school. We list and define them because we recognize the importance of saying out loud what we treasure:
- Excellence and Hard Work
- Attitudes Towards Learning
- Respect for Diversity
- Social Responsibility
- Development of an Ethical Self
- Commitment to an Environmental View
- An Appreciation of the Importance of the Present
Paideia should be a school which values excellence. We ought to encourage our children to do their best in all or most of what they try. As well as excellence in basic academic areas, we should emphasize quality work in the arts, in athletics and in leadership. Not all children are capable of excellence in all or even most of these areas. We should also stress the value of effort and the satisfaction and rewards that come with hard work. Paideia should also emphasize creative expression and problem solving that go beyond established bodies of knowledge. An emphasis on innovation is necessary if students are going to learn to adapt to a changing world and ultimately take part in shaping change.
Paideia should teach that learning is a life-long process, not only an activity associated with institutions, and that individuals are responsible for their own learning. Most schools promote the passive acquisition of knowledge. We should teach our students to use reason and logic and to apply these tools to engage with the world. Schools often err on the side of stressing the competitive and private nature of learning. We should impart the value that learning can often be a cooperative effort in which shared ideas enhance each student's experience and understanding.
Our students should understand the opportunities they have been given by their parents, their community and their school, and that there exists the expectation that they will respond by leading socially useful and purposeful lives. Social responsibility encompasses compassion for others, responsibility for working on solutions to the problems of our immediate community and of the larger national and international community. Awareness of these problems comes through study and through informed activity. Social responsibility in our society also involves an understanding of democratic values, the structure of our political community and the nature of leadership in a democratic society.
The school should use every opportunity to stress equality among races, among ethnic groups and between the sexes. Sexism and racism are still powerful forces in our society and unless the school addresses these issues actively and continually, children may absorb negative values from the surrounding culture. Much of teaching needs to be by example and through practice.
Our students should be encouraged to develop a caring and respectful attitude toward children and adults in their community. We live in a culture that stresses individual self fulfillment, sometimes at the expense of others. Perceiving the needs and caring about the welfare of others is fundamental to becoming a mature person.
Students should begin to define their own values as part of a developing sense of personal identity. They should be able to be honest about their convictions and have the courage to defend them. It is particularly difficult for children to maintain their personal integrity in the face of social pressures. They must also grapple with the persistent ambiguity of many ethical issues. The school should provide opportunities for students to test and expand their ethical awareness.
Schools as preparatory institutions are almost always guilty of overemphasizing the future: everything that happens is rationalized for its future benefits. Education is not only preparation for life; it is life. That consciousness ought to be present at Paideia. The day a child spends now in school is as valuable as what will come later. Respecting the value of the present is one way of preparing for a healthy and productive future.
Above all else, a good school should be a good place for people to be. It should exemplify qualities of human interaction that we would wish for people everywhere. One should feel valued. A great many interesting things should be going on. One should be learning a lot - and especially learning how to better learn. School should be a place one looks forward to going to in the morning and is somewhat reluctant to leave at the end of the day. The school as a center for learning should have things going on in the evenings and on weekends involving parents and people from the community as well as students and faculty.”
Dr. Newt Hodgson, Paideia Self Study, 1980