I (Clive) appreciated Leah McLaren’s column in the Globe & Mail on Friday. She reported that Tatler editor-in-chief Kate Reardon was recently “pilloried in the British press” for “a graduation speech at a private girls’ school…in which she highlighted the importance of manners over good grades.” Among other things, Reardon said that “if you have good manners people will like you. And if they like you they will help you.” McLaren commented that “as both a feminist and a mother” she agrees with Reardon, but noted that “[w]hen it comes to instilling basic values and good behaviour, parents have never been more on their own.” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/the-importance-of-being-courteous/article19661557/
This should not be. Schools should support parents in this basic work (and they do to some extent). As I stressed in a recent posting, way of life (or values) education should be a major component of schooling, integrated into subject teaching and the life of the classroom and school.
The difficulty, however, is that we haven’t articulated a deep and comprehensive theory of way of life education. Advocacy in this area comes across as moralistic or, in the Reardon case, as old fashioned and conformist.
What could be more important than the quality of our way of life, in itself and in relation to others? It’s current neglect by advocates of “coverage” and testing is weird. “Good grades” as the goal of 12 years of schooling is totally inadequate. People should be pilloried for pushing such a position, yet it is so common.
Any goal can seem superficial when advocated in isolation. As educators, we need to develop for students, parents, and the general public a broad rationale for way of life (or values) education in terms of individual and societal happiness and what is ultimately important in life. We should help everyone – ourselves included – to stop fixating on narrow goals to the neglect of general human well-being.
Leah McLaren, a columnist for the Globe and Mail (our national newspaper), wrote an open letter to the wife of Peter McKay (Canadian Justice Ministry). McKay has been embroiled in a scandal regarding leaked emails he sent to his staff for Mother’s and Father’s day:
“The Mother’s Day email hailed women for the home and childcare duties they perform before arriving at the office, while the Father’s Day message made no mention of diapers or school lunches, and instead praised them for “shaping the minds and futures of the next generation of leaders.” http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/mackay-enough-has-been-said-about-sexism-controversy-1.1889490
In McLaren’s article she talks about the challenges of being a new mother (McKay’s wife, Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay) recently had a baby. On our research teams we (Clare and Clive) have a number of new Moms who are juggling work, study, childcare, and …. Although they do not complain I (Clare) can see the exhaustion written all over their faces. I witness how their confidence ebbs as they so often feel like they are not doing enough, they are not carrying their weight on the team, they are not spending sufficient time on their research, and on and on. McLaren advises Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay:
No matter how overwhelming it feels now, while your son is small and dependent, remember that one day it will change. The former you – the activist and author and tireless campaigner who never had spit up in her hair or a soother in her handbag – is still there, lurking at the back of your neglected shoe closet. She might have receded for the moment, but she will emerge again. And in the meantime, here’s a tip: Don’t be afraid to ask your husband to do more. I know he’s busy.
Check out the full article are: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/article19344705.ece
Given the way careers unfold many female doctoral students and new faculty are new Moms. Take heart – you are doing plenty and do not forget that that you are smart women who deserve to be in academia. Brush that guilt off your shoulders. The exhaustion will pass and you will be stronger and wiser. Remember, we are here for you and will continue to be here for you because you are our valued colleague and friend. Print off McLaren’s article and when you need a boost, read it (mind you it might be at 2:00 a.m.).
The many religious celebrations this month remind me that we live a very diverse society. In this blog over the last few months we have discussed some of the challenges of living/working/teaching in a multicultural society. I (Clare) read Leah McLaren’s fascinating article When Multiculturalism Tests Our Moral Relativism in the Globe and Mail. http://v1.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/HTMLTemplate?cf=common/MiniHub.cfg&configFileLoc=config&hub=leahMcLaren&tf=columnists/Summary.html&title=Leah_McLaren
McLaren writes about an incident with her neighbor when her stepson oversteps the best friend’s family’s values. (The incident between the two little boys involves bum bums.) She talks about the problem of “parenting in a multicultural environment” which “tests our moral relativism. It reveals the wildly different ways most of us struggle to make sure our children end up as good people. The question is, good according to whose rules?” McLaren and the neighbor eventually achieve “an uneasy truce over tea and biscuits.” She says “privately, we will each adhere to our own rules. And in public we will try our best to get along.”
Like McLaren I faced the clash of values when I was a classroom teacher. The first time one of my first grade pupils told that he was not going to clean up the paint centre because that was women’s work I became painfully aware of the difference between my values and his family’s values. (I also had a flash of anger!) As a classroom teacher I had my class rules – everyone is responsible for the smooth running of the classroom. What do we do as teachers do when a parent tells us that education is not for girls? Or boys do not need to help with maintaining the classroom. As a new professor a student teacher announced to the class that as teachers we should tell our pupils that homosexuality is a sin and that gays are going to hell. (That was truly one of the most difficult teaching moments in my long career.) Responding to others who hold very different views from my own is not easy. McLaren does a great job of finding a solution but as a society we need to keep exploring “solutions.” Tea and biscuits are a good place to start the discussion but working through the next knotty steps requires imagination, flexibility, openness to others, patience, knowledge, and a sense of humour. (I highly recommend McLaren’s excellent article.)