A common faith? : personal development, spirituality and state education
The notion of spiritual development has been part of the legislative framework of education in England and Wales since 1944. Its use in the legislation implies the belief that there is an important dimension of state education connected with, but extending beyond, personal development and the promotion of values. The use of the word 'spiritual' in an educational setting has always had a political dimension, reflecting certain beliefs about which values the state might use its powers to promote through state schools, as well as embodying certain beliefs about the pluralist nature of modem Britain. This thesis is an exercise in the practical philosophy of education and, consequently, myaim will be to explore certain ideas and policy ideals, throwing light on the logical relations between them. There are two distinct, but overlapping. aspects of the detailed discussion of the prospects for the implementation of the spirituality initiative in this thesis. First, there are questions connected with the meaning of the spiritual dimension as such and the appropriateness of using such terminology in an educational context. I argue for a procedural definition of 'common spirituality' and for a clear distinction between this and 'spiritual development', which must be linked to some substantive framework of strong evaluation. The prospects for a number of approaches to the development of spirituality are explored within the context of a common conception of educational development for state schools. Second, the thesis will explore the question of whether a suitable methodology can be established for the promotion of spiritual development that is consistent with the particular political perspectives which inform our understanding of state schooling in Britain. ill particular, I question whether any common approach to spiritual development, based on some notion of what the culture of modem Britain either is or ought to be, can be either educationally adequate or politically acceptable. Built into this is an exploration of how the spirituality initiative should be organised nationally and a challenge to both communitarian ami social democratic liberal conceptions of state education, in favour of one that nurtures, rather than promotes, pluralism.