Values education through the pursuit of knowledge : the significance of metaphor for Key Stage Two children, with particular emphasis on religious education
The first section of the thesis provides an investigation of the theoretical background which has been influential for theories concerning the nature of childhood and the role of metaphor in the communication process. The analysis begins by examining the writings of Rousseau, moving to an investigation of the positivist movement and the significance of both for the work of Jean Plaget. The final chapter of the section provides discussion of theories of metaphor. It is shown how positivism has been influential in forming narrow perceptions which, by limiting definitions to those based on substitution theories, has obscured the wider significance of metaphor for thought and values formation. A new theory of metaphor is then presented. In the second section data is analysed which suggests the experiences and concerns of childhood do not differ significantly from those of adults: the difference is one of content, rather than variety. Basic metaphorical structures are found to underlie the way In which people - children and adults - reason in attempts both to understand and formulate values and knowledge. The significance of metaphorical mapping networks in thought processes is examined. The final chapter of the section provides data analysis which investigates children's ability to learn how to interpret and create novel metaphors, which can enrich their thinking and language beyond conventional usage. The significance of the theoretical background analysed in the opening section lies in the encouragement it gave to misleading assumptions concerning childhood and the learning process. Religious education in primary education is examined as an example of this, focusing on the work of Goldman which was based on Piagetian theory. His conclusions are examined critically and compared with analysis of data collected in the primary classroom. It is argued that Goldman accepted Plaget's theories uncritically and when he applied them to religious education, they contributed to serious underestimations being made of pupils' ability for learning-to understand the significance of religion for everyday life. Recommendations include the urgent need for a reassessment of expectations of primary school children's intellectual, creative capacity and the necessity of selecting lesson material which, whilst beginning with their dally concerns and interests, extends children’s thought and reflection beyond both.