Thursday, October 25, 2012


Reposting from What Will Matter - The website of Michael Josephson, the founder of Character Counts.  This particular commentary resonated with me and with what I think is important for children to learn - explicit ethics and values education.

Click the picture to view the site, and subscribe to the e-newsletter for daily mails about all things ethical.
Blessed with the opportunities and obligations of raising four young daughters, my wife Anne and I are profoundly aware of the importance of instilling good values that will help them become capable, honorable and happy adults. I think we’re doing a pretty good job, but we know that isn’t enough.
Frankly, we’re worried about the values and character of your kids or anyone’s children who may befriend or eventually date or marry our girls. And we worry about what our kids are learning in classrooms, playgrounds and sports fields about things like honesty and honor, respect and responsibility, kindness and compassion, and service and self-discipline.
Sure, parents are children’s primary source of moral education, but the lessons taught at home — through example as well as words — may be confirmed or repudiated by peers or from the values explicitly and implicitly promoted in school and extracurricular activities. Contrary to uninformed or cynical assertions, there’s ample and mounting evidence that well-designed efforts to instill and strengthen core ethical values can have a dramatic, positive impact on the attitudes and behaviors that constitute character.
That’s why I’m such an ardent advocate of purposeful and pervasive character education. I want teachers, coaches and other adults who help shape the attitudes and habits of children to consciously and competently reinforce positive character traits like trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and good citizenship.
Since this is National CHARACTER COUNTS! Week, it’s a great opportunity for you to consider whether schools in your area, or organizations you’re involved with, could be more directly involved in this vital effort.
Register for free resources at for more information.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Thought provoking?  I'd love to hear your comments about introducing a similar system of values education here in Australia. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The 'Dandelion' anti-bullying project urgently needs your support!

Kick starter is currently running a funding drive for a brilliant and critically important issue - bullying. The project is very appealing, and has a quirky edge that I believe will make it a success. But Dandelion needs your help to make it happen! As of today, the are just 11 days left to raise around $13000 more in funding for the project to go ahead. You can help by donating as little as a dollar, or choose an amount that comes with incentive gifts, such as the $25 pledge, with signed prints etc. Please help spread the word, thank you!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Explicit Values education does make a difference!

I stumbled across this webpage, and thought it was worthy of adding to my blog here, especially in light of the ongoing issues some NSW schools are having with getting Ethics Classes implemented and accepted as an alternative to SRE for children already attending "non scripture". 
While the legal barriers to the classes have been removed, there remains strong opposition in some areas, co-ordinated by the SRE providers and more outspoken local churches.  There have been instances of delaying votes at P&C meetings, until sufficient numbers of non-supporters have acquired voting rights, and situations of overt bullying and personal vilification of Ethics Co-ordinators themselves.
All in all, hardly a good example of ethical behaviour, or of modelling good values.

One of the interesting observations I made while researching for this blog project was the existence of a long established, federally motivated program, the Values in Action in Schools project (links in the left sidebar), which although there is ample evidence for the benefits, has not yet been implemented as a discrete program across all schools.  While we wait, the Primary Ethics organisation, already operational, should be supported and encouraged, rather than hindered and persecuted, to get started on this valuable program!

In this paper, Dr John De Nobile presents results from a trial at a Sydney Primary Schools cluster group.
Click here for the link to the webpage, Board of Studies - Summary of Paper presented, and the below is the summary itself:

Values Education and Quality Pedagogy
Summary of the paper presented by Dr John De Nobile at the Board of Studies Primary Education Forum, Sydney, 21 November 2006

A group of schools in the Merrylands cluster initiated teaching and learning activities involving a set of agreed values and good teaching practice.

The project highlighted ten values:
 care and compassion; doing your best; fair go; freedom; honesty and trustworthiness; integrity; respect; responsibility; understanding; tolerance and inclusion.

Parents, students and teachers were involved in developing a set of core values. These were then included in strategies and activities taught in the classroom.

Dr De Nobile worked with the Merrylands cluster schools in developing a framework that teachers and students could use in quality pedagogy and values education.

Quality pedagogy involves teaching and learning activities that:
  • are meaningful
  • are relevant
  • are related to the real world
  • actively engage students
  • have higher-order thinking skills.
Values education involves any explicit and/or implicit school-based activity which promotes student understanding and knowledge of values and which develops the skills and disposition of students so they can enact particular values as individuals and as members of the wider community.

The benefits of the project included improved student attitudes and behaviour, and a more positive school climate. Involvement by parents was a key part of its success, as was the professional dialogue among teachers in the cluster of schools.

For more information email Dr De Nobile:

(Dr De Nobile is currently one of my tutors at Macquarie in an Inclusive Education subject - you can tell him I sent you, in case he should wonder about the flood of enquiries, LOL!)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

21st century teachers should...

Embrace Philosophical Ethics Education for Children!

Welcome to Ethics for Kids!

This blog was created as my "Creative Response" assignment submission for the Graduate Diploma of Education subject EDUC107 "Introduction to Educational Studies" at Macquarie University.  I hope you will find it a useful resource for investigating the educational value and practical implementation of philosophical ethics classes for children.

The blog is divided into sections for fast access to the information being sought, with a series of page link tabs appearing under the main header -

History -
A summary of the historical developments that have led to the introduction of secular Ethics Classes in NSW state Primary Schools in 2011.  Links to further related resources can be found from this page.

Media -
The proposed introduction, Ethics Pilot, Final Report on the Pilot and the political lobbying surrounding the Department of Education's policy change to allow Ethics Classes in NSW attracted significant media interest. Links to articles from newspapers and online news sources (non-peer reviewed) are included here.  Recent debate on the National School Chaplaincy program has stimulated further discussion and media interest in the role of religion in schools, some articles reflect this fact.  Some articles are appended with my personal observations and comments.  I have endeavoured to include both positive and negative contributions, from a variety of perspectives.  If you know of an article you believe should be included, I'd be happy to review it, please contact me with the details.

Research -
Selected articles from scholarly journals (peer-reviewed where possible) are listed here with links to their citation and abstract.  To obtain a full-text version of any of these articles, please consult your local library or educational institution, or request a PDF from the author.  I have included author email addresses where available to facilitate this.

Books -
Selected books which may be of interest are described, with links to synopses and reviews.

Audio/Video -
Podcasts and radio interviews of interest

Left Sidebar -
Direct links to the most relevant websites and documents are located in the left sidebar of the home page.
Please click the button to visit them.
"Interesting Links" will direct you to a number of sites I have discovered while researching for this blog, including some international sites which can provide a wider context for the value of Ethics education for children.

Main Blog Posts -
While this initial post serves as a guide to navigating the site, further posts will investigate and describe various aspects of philosophical ethics in more detail.  I have tried to extract the most relevant parts from this vast field, particularly as they relate to children and the recent introduction of secular Ethics classes in NSW.

I'd appreciate your constructive feedback, please use the 'contact me' feature or leave a comment.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Creative Response Rationale - the WHAT, WHY and HOW of Philosophical Education for Children

Below I have extracted and summarised the aims and recommendations made by the UNESCO meeting on Philosophy teaching (linked and described in the next post).  These aims and recommendations are intended to be applied to the UNESCO body iteself, member states, National Commissions, European Commission and to philosophy teachers and civil society as a whole. 

As these recommendations are entirely relevant to the Australian model, they also serve as a rationale for this Creative Response - the WHAT, WHY and HOW of encouraging philosophical ethics education for children in Australia.  While they are each critically important, where a recommendation below has particular impact for the scope of this project, I have highlighted the text in BOLD.

Key Recommendations and Aims for Member States:
  • Philosophy teaching should be maintained or expanded where it exists and introduced where it does not yet exist.
  • Education in philosophy prepares independently minded thoughtful people, able to shoulder the responsibilities of the challenging modern world.
  • Globalization-induced social changes and ecological concerns require that our youth are equipped with solid conceptual tools to think critically, question existing models and seek new ideas and possibilities.
  • The skills offered by education in philosophy are beneficial for our increasingly multicultural society - enabling calm and rationally argued dialogue to help resolve conflict.
  • Philosophical education develops imagination and creativity, to create proactive and innovative youth.
  • Philosophy education should be given academic freedom free from the constraints of performance indicator measures, recognising that evaluation of this type is not compatible with the fundamental purpose of philosophy as a discipline.
  • Research, pilot experiences and practices of philosophy for pre-school and primary education should be encouraged, and where possible institutionalised in the education system.
  • Foster debate, both academic and pedagogical on the relationships between philosophy, civic or moral education and religious education, so as to gain benefits from each.
  • Make philosophical enquiry a part of both teacher training and primary and secondary education in  general.
  • Give equal place and importance to science and technical disciplines as to philosophy and humanities disciplines.
  • Promote public awareness of culture, social justice, peace and tolerance through philosophy teaching.
  • Promote and advocate philosophy teaching at all levels of education.
  • Facilitate international networks and exchanges between philosophers, teachers and students.
  • Promote an international development and support program specifically for philosophy with children practices.
  • Promote research into the causes of violence, terrorism and other negative societal changes, particularly with respect to the role of education in promoting a culture of peace and non-violence.
  • Ensure that competence-based assessment of educational practice does not adversely affect philosophy teaching, on the grounds that this discipline does not develop 'key competencies'.
  • Work with teachers of other disciplines to incorporate philosophical analysis into existing subject matters.
It is interesting to

UNESCO - Philosophy - A School of Freedom

UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
This large document (300+ pages) was originally published in 2007 in French, and is subtitled "Teaching Philosophy and Learning to Philosophise - Status and Prospects"  Click the link below to view the PDF version of the document.

UNESCO - Philosophy - A School of Freedom

Following the publication of this document, a series of meetings have been held around the world to discuss in more detail the state of philosophical education in various regions and identify challenges.  A summary of the objectives can be found here

The most relevant of these meetings to the Australian context is the Europe and North America Regional Meeting, held in Milan in February 2011.  View the Recommendations Document here:

The Working Document, under construction can also be viewed - approximately 58 pages:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Values in Action Schools Project - What's taking so long?

According to the October 2010 Final Report linked and discussed below, the Australian Federal Government has "made a concerted effort to fund and foster a range of activities to support schools in developing explicit, informed, systematic and effective approaches to values education in all areas of school policy and classroom practice".  Since 2002.  Are we there yet?  And if not, what's taking so long?

In 2008, Australian Education Ministers formally unveiled a new National Declaration on their aims for the next decade and beyond,  the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians.  It is summarised at the beginning of the Values in Action School Project (VASP) Final report below, and states:

Education equips young people with the knowledge, understanding, skills and values to take advantage of opportunity and to face the challenges of this [global] era with confidence.As well as knowledge and skills, a school’s legacy to young people should include national values of democracy, equity and justice, and participation in Australia’s civic life.…[students need to develop] personal values and attributes such as honesty, resilience, respect and empathy for others [which help them] establish and maintain healthy and satisfying lives. Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA 2008)

Given (firstly) basic "common sense", the results of the VASP, and the demonstrated relevance and connectedness to the stated aims of the Federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), I am deeply concerned with the brouhaha made over the introduction of Special Ethics Education classes in NSW.  The fact that we don't already have a national, compulsory "Civics/Ethics/Values" program at both primary and secondary level exemplifies the negative impact of State/Federal power struggles and of conflicting stakeholder agendas throughout the education sector.  I can only hope that we are "nearly there" and that the Special Ethics Education curriculum introduced in NSW will serve to hasten the rollout of a national program based on the findings of the Values Education for Australian Schooling Projects.  I look forward to teaching in an environment where values education is deeply embedded in educational policy and practice, in addition to being explicity taught as part of the curriculum.

Edited by Barbara Vaughan.  Published in October 2010 by Education Services Australia Ltd as an Australian Federal Government Initiative, "Giving Voice to the Impact of Values Education" is the Final Report of the "Values in Action Schools Project".  Please click on the cover image above to view the PDF of the 141 page report.

Publication Details:
Published by Education Services Australia Ltd
PO Box 177 Carlton South Vic 3053 Australia
Tel: (03) 9207 9600
Fax: (03) 9910 9800

Review and summary of major aims and findings:
The Values Education project is vast in scope and size, and there is much of interest discussed in the report.  I have endeavoured to select the 'meatiest nuggets' of most relevance to this blog project, describing how explicit training in values/philosophical ethics can affect children (and their teachers, parents and the community) in positive ways.  For anyone interested in this topic, I can recommend that you read the ten-page Executive Summary of the project in its entirety.

The Values in Action Schools Project (VASP) was designed as a school-based extension of an ongoing investigation into values education in Australia.  More details about the preceding stages and the aims of the project as a whole can be found by accessing the Values Education website (also listed in the left sidebar).  Schools participating in the study were located in a variety of locations, rural, urban and remote, and included both primary and secondary schools. 

Aims of the VASP:
  • To explore links between values education and student wellbeing.
  • To focus on curriculum and student centred learning approaches to values education.
  • To determine methods of increasing teacher professional learning and parent engagement.
  • To distill the most important, valuable and critical aspects of values education as determined by the subject schools, from teachers, students and parents.
  • To collate and disseminate this information to the broader educational community.
Findings of the VASP:

The project data was reduced by a series of stepwise reviews to five key 'impacts' through a process of multiple review.  These were:

1.  Values Consciousness
Through explicit teaching of values, students, teachers and parents became more aware of their meaning and power.  This increased awareness resulted in demonstrated capacity to think critically and display ethical and social competence.

2.  Wellbeing
Values education improved student wellbeing.  This is described as critical, as research has indicated a decline in social and emotional wellbeing between primary and secondary school.  Through a process of thinking about and acting on values, students described an improvement in self-worth, empathy and responsible personal behaviour.  Findings suggest that "at risk", marginalised and disadvantaged students were benefiting most from the 'self-discovery' process.  There was also evidence that explicit values education increased student's understanding of the impact of their own actions on the wellbeing of others.

3.  Agency
"Agency" refers to the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make choices and act on them.  Strengthened student agency was an evidenced finding from the VASP, through explicit focus on ethical, intercultural and social issues.  The school environment as a 'community' was important in learning about the concept of common good - moral and ethical integrity help to develop social cohesion and solidarity.  Specific projects undertaken at the school level included community outreach and engagement with complex global issues in an "ethics of care".  Student involvement in real-life practical values exercises had benefits for both the wider community and for the students themselves, providing deeper experiential learning and internalisation of values.  For teachers, the process of designing and implementing these real-life experiences led to more positive and open relationships with students - deeper engagement in the "community of learning".

4.  Connectedness
The development of "Communities of Practice" (Wenger, 1998) was a demonstrated benefit of the VASP.  Many of the subject schools made positive and wide-ranging connections between teachers, students, parents and the wider community.  Specifically, improved, deeper relationships resulted in increased student engagement in learning, and improved parent engagement in their children's learning.  Teachers were able to develop new relationships with their students, each other and with parents and families.  These relationships were made possible by the shared goals and practices of values education, and varied opportunities for collaboration.  Parents were "grateful" for the opportunity to be involved with their child's values education, both at school and at home.  A "noticeable improvement in respectful behaviours" was an observed outcome.

5. Transformation
The outcomes of the VASP were determined by a method of systematic continual evaluation, survey and reflection, and principles of good practice identified from the earlier Project rounds.  Due to this process reflection, change and transformation were identified as major outcomes themselves.  Positive changes were observed in professional practice, personal attitude, behaviours, relationships and group dynamics.  These changes were experienced and observed by teachers, students and parents.  Teachers identified how children "can take on sophisticated concepts when they are explicitly taught".  Students described an evolution, becoming more mature and better able to make friends and get along with others.

Conclusions from the Project:
The first two rounds of the Values Education project supplied data and outcomes to inform the structure and determine the aims of the third project, VASP, reviewed here.  Because of this triple distillation, the final conclusions should be soundly valid, yet retain relevance because of the direct input from individual study participants.  These conclusions are that "values education for children can (positively) transform classrooms, relationships, school environments, teacher professional practice and parent's engagement in their children's schooling."  The project has "made a major contribution to our understanding of what good values education is, how it can be implemented and whats sorts of difference it can make for students, teachers and whole school communities"

To form a pictorial conclusion, Figure 1 from the VASP Final Report is reproduced here.  Please click on the image to view a larger version, or navigate to Page 11 of the Executive Summary