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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


POTGIETER, FJ; VAN DER WALT, JL; WOLHUTER, CC  and  VALENKAMP, M. Towards an integrated theory of core concepts in education. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2013, vol.53, n.3, pp.286-304. ISSN 2224-7912.

This paper investigates how education may be related to the needs of contemporary society as embodied in the connections and relationships between education on one hand, and spirituality/ religion, quality of life, wellbeing and happiness issues, social capital, social justice, human rights and morality on the other. These issues tend to be investigated as separate issues or phenomena, each with its own philosophical ramifications and structural intricacies, and each with certain connections and intersections with education. They are seldom connected with one another or with education in particular. Since the human being is intended to be an integral whole, education should also be a holistic undertaking that will shape and develop the less mature person into a fully integrated, mature person. Most definitions of education emphasise guiding the less mature person to responsible behaviour, and to accepting responsibility for actions taken and behaviour displayed. These definitions do not, however, seem to acknowledge the fact that education should also lead to moral integrity. They do not embrace the idea that education should not only lead to the wellbeing and happiness of less mature individuals, but also to healthy societal relationships. Neither do they seem to reflect the fact that education should contribute to enhancing the quality of life of everybody involved, as well as that of the broader society. To investigate this, we weighed the evidence and opinions on the subject of education-related concepts in question in terms of how the proverbial "person on the Clapham bus" would see things. Our thinking was preference-utilitarian in that we looked for what would satisfy the preferences of sentient people. Our reflections were guided by "reason-and-mind". We departed from a view of education in the broadest sense of the word (i.e. not restricted to teaching-learning, instruction only), with the emphasis on how education is pivotal in our individual and collective lives, and how it helps making sense of concepts such as spirituality, quality of life, human wellbeing, happiness, social capital, social justice, human rights and morality. Education manifests itself in so many forms and in so many locations that it can only be defined in general, generic terms. It is usually considered to be a process or action in which more mature individuals interact with less mature individuals for the purpose of guiding, forming, equipping and enabling the latter for their future occupations, and also assisting them to become mature and responsible members of the various societal relationships to which they will belong in future. Spirituality refers to a sincere respect for, appreciation of and adherence to a sacred dimension in the life-world of people. It is a lived passion; a state of being focused and energetically motivated; a condition characterised by a feeling of being totally captured. It is the conduit through which a transcendental, ultimate reality impacts on human beings, transforming them so that they increasingly tend to live their lives in service of these ultimate realities. It is the manner in which one more or less methodically relates beliefs and experiences of inspiration and/or transcendence, to the actual practice of life, by orientating oneself on sources of spirituality. The educator should embody the desired form of spirituality by being committed to and captured by some inspirational force or other that may be of a religious or a non-religious nature. By emulating the spiritual example set by the educator, educands may either acquire the same spirituality for their own journey as human beings, or reject the example set by the educator, in which case the educands (the individuals who are being educated) orientate their own selves towards a new spiritual principle. The "organic individual" (person with integrity) is one who has made a conscious ideological choice. The spirituality associated with, and flowing from, such an ideological choice helps them to transcend self-centredness. They do not serve the interests of the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and weak, but will want to serve the interests of change for the better of all. Spirituality is a prerequisite for inspirational education since it connects at the deepest level with the most fundamental manner-of-being of being human. Without education no person can grow up to become a fully organic person imbued with a particular spiritual or ideological directedness and openness. The role of education is to inculcate the values and norms of social justice in a sense of fairness, and to the benefit of all. What people say about happiness and quality of life and the prerequisites for these, resonates with the fundamental tenets of education. It confirms the fully organic person's spiritual directedness and openness regarding social justice, fairness and peaceful coexistence which, in one way or another, is the outcome of education. It emphasises the modus vivendi approach to morality and social justice, as well as the notion of "liberal toleration". It is aimed at promoting peaceful coexistence in plural societies. Social capital can be understood as the benefits that accrue for individuals and groups from mutual trust, reciprocity, networking and collective action. The accumulation of social capital depends on cooperation between individuals as well as the relationships between them. It creates a bridge which spans differences. Education should contribute to the social capital of the communities it serves, because individuals should not only understand their position as an individual within a particular group, but should also have a notion of what to contribute to the group in terms of social capital. As human beings we are subjected to a moral compulsion to search for a better and more just world - a world that arguably is best attainable through education. The need for sincerity and honesty in human relationships, based on the principle of openness to mystery and respect, accentuates the intrinsic relationship between social justice, quality of life and spirituality as phenomena in our life worlds. To act ethically is to be considerate of the interests of others, without expecting reward or punishment, requiring no one but oneself to witness the act. Education is a pivotal activity that treats all these (and other related) phenomena as pedagogical aims, thereby reinforcing itself as a formative enterprise.

Keywords : education; teaching; spirituality; religion; quality of life; human well-being and happiness; social capital; social justice; human rights; morality.

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