Remodeling the Role-models
Lest we Forget:
- Teaching values in and out of school
- Using Heroes as Role Models
- Freedom, Tolerance and Inclusion: Connected Australian Values
- Nazi Policy: Intolerance, Racism and Loss of Freedom
- Paul Cieslar: A World War 2 Hero of Ethics and Excellence
The Value of Values
Education in Australia is designed to develop not only academic excellence, but also the ethical values that will ensure a nation of responsible citizens.
The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2015) states that the 3 primary aims of education in Australia are to ensure that students become:
- Successful learners
- Confident and creative individuals
- Active and informed citizens
The Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-First Century expands further that one of the purposes of schooling is for students to learn “to exercise judgement and responsibility in matters of morality, ethics and social justice [Reference]. Arguably, it is much more difficult to teach and assess the ethics and values aspects of the curriculum than the academic side.
While we can convey and test for academic knowledge directly, to pass on the values and attitudes of ethics to students, and to find out whether these have been adopted in practice, is far more challenging.
So: How can we teach ethics in school (and out of school)?
Using Heroes as Role Models in Ethics Education
One way of teaching ethics in school is through the use of “heroes” that act as role models for students.
It has been argued that there are 2 main reasons for using heroes as role models in teaching values:
1. Values have a strong emotional and affective aspect, so the use of role models and heroes can be extremely effective.
2. The idea of a “hero” is value-laden, because heroes are seen as different from ordinary people: by accomplishing great feats and displaying noble character qualities, they have a charisma that is attractive to “ordinary” humans, and we aspire to be like them.
From a modernist perspective, heroes are not necessarily flawless, but are characters that finally overcome their faults.
In terms of students imitating the actions of their heroes and role models, the idea of imperfect heroes may be helpful in demonstrating that we as ordinary people can achieve what they have, including their ethical behaviour.
Heroes in Narratives
So how can heroes and role models be presented to kids?
Besides the living role models of parents, teachers and others, stories may also provide representations of heroes to students.
Stories are often seen as “soft” by comparison with the “hard facts” of science.
But it’s probably because of this that stories actually can present the values that will lead students to apply their knowledge as responsible citizens and make a positive contribution to society.
Phil Brown argues that narrative can bring “intuition, experience and judgment” into knowledge, and that this is “something that the traditional rationality of positivism cannot provide” [Reference].
True stories are likely to be especially effective, because we know that these have actually happened, that the characters in the narrative have actually done the things that they say.
This can help us to believe we (and those we influence) can become like them.
Historical role models can provide illustrations of different situations to those that might be shown by live role models such as parents and teachers.
They sometimes show examples of extreme departure from ethical and social justice standards, and vividly portray the consequences of this that can seem almost unbelievable to people who haven’t actually experienced the situations themselves.
Let’s look at: Values in Australian Schooling
See how a historical role model can demonstrate these.
The 9 values for Australian schooling are [Reference]:
1. Care and Compassion
2. Doing Your Best
3. Fair Go
5. Honesty and Trustworthiness
9. Understanding, Tolerance and Inclusion
Even though these values are listed as separate qualities, it’s interesting to think about how they are linked together in practice. The values really complement one another, some so much so that it’s virtually impossible to have one without the other.
For instance, without “Fair Go” and “Understanding, Tolerance and Inclusion”, it’s essentially impossible to have true “Freedom” for every person.
Nazi Policy: An extreme example of intolerance, racism and loss of freedom
Probably one of the most well-known examples of how intolerance has restricted freedom is the history of Europe and what life was like during the period of Nazi supremacy from January 30, 1933 to May 8, 1945.
The policy of the Nazi party represents an extreme example of racism.
Here are two forms of racism [Reference].
“Old”, or biological, racism, is where individual or group rights are confined on the basis of a person’s genetic heritage.
“New” racism, which could also be called “cultural racism”, has been described as “a form of racism where individual (and group) rights are confined on the basis that a cultural group’s ways of life are judged as nefarious (that is, in some way despicable or degenerate) or on the basis that a cultural group does not fit or belong within the society as defined by a protagonist (central character)” [Reference].
It could be argued that, while the Nazi policy most overtly and famously takes a stance of biological racism, it also takes a position of cultural racism.
To be born of anything but pure German blood was considered to be a capital offence in any territory controlled by the Third Reich from 1933-1945.
It is equally true that anyone who opposed, or even appeared to oppose, the Nazi principles was also persecuted.
Those who displayed different cultural practices particularly attracted the negative attention of the Nazi adherents.
Besides illustrating the racism and subsequent loss of freedom that occurred under Nazi power, this extract from Paul’s autobiography paints the author as a hero of compassion and tolerance.
While not without flaws and struggles, described in greater detail in No Heil Hitler!, Paul is nevertheless a true life hero. He is a great model for the Australian values of “fair go” and “tolerance”.
His story illustrates just how vital the Australian value of “freedom” is.
The fact that this book won the National Seniors Literary Prize in 2012 also makes him a hero that has “done his best” for the good of society. His writing can serve as a model of academic excellence.
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