Are values able to not be taught?
Most people think that values should not be taught. This is not something that divides the political aisle. This is not something that is on one side of the theist-atheist debate. All — red, blue, theist, atheist — agree with the statement “Values should not be taught.” There is a phrase that often goes along with it “Don’t teach them what to think, but how to think.” However, there is an assumption in both of these phrases. Firstly, there is an assumption that one can separate themselves from their values, and, secondly, how one believes another is to think is not an outpouring of the individual’s values.
Are people not able to teach their values? Are science teachers able to teach physics without approaching it from their worldview? Are English teachers able to analyze The Crucible without doing so from their worldview? Let’s think about one significant divide in our culture: postmodernism versus the rest of philosophical thinking, whether truth is objective or subjective, and whether truth depends on the viewer of the truth.
Let’s first look at a postmodern educator who thinks that truth is subjective, that truth is relative and depends on the viewer, that each individual has his or her own truth, and that all are right. This educator would approach education in a particular way. The educator would push self-revelation and exploration without any explanation from the instructor because the instructor cannot speak on the individual student’s truth since the students need to find their truth for themselves. There would be just engaging and exploring in the classroom, without any explaining, extending, or evaluating. Explaining and extending would be an oppression of the students’ truth, and evaluating would be using one’s own truth to check the validity of another’s truth; both would be immoral according to the postmodern value system.
However, the educator who has a value system other than postmodernism would have no qualms with explaining, extending, and evaluating because this educator would say that some things are not true and that there is truth and non-truth. This educator could still push the student to inquire and explore topics. Still, there would always need to be an evaluation of the findings after the students explore to ensure that the students’ conclusions adhere to what has been revealed as universally true.
You may be saying, “So what? So, they structure their classes differently; they aren’t teaching their values”. To that, I would say, “Oh, but they are. Anyone that spends a considerable amount of time with the impressionable will know that they learn the implicit just as much as, if not more than, the explicit. If you noticed, the postmodern educator never educated, never taught, just ‘empowered.’”
That’s it for today. Next time, we’ll have to look at the phrase “Don’t teach them what to think, but how to think” next time.