“Start the Week” this morning considered philosophy and morality, and what we at 3Di Associates would call spiritual intelligence. Three eminent philosophers spoke on these subjects. All were talking about the morality of the self and the community, and the presence of good and evil in our society , from their own perspective.
Roger Scruton talked of the need to consider environmental issues through localism. According to him, global issues can only be addressed by taking environmental action at the greatest level of impact to the individual.
Bernard-Henri Levy talked about good and evil, and the power of the writer to make people see what can be done to change the world and work fraternally.
Baroness Mary Warnock discussed the need to look at morality from a humanistic perspective and without a religious framework.
It is this latter discussion that is particularly interesting to us at 3Di Associates.
Lady Warnock explained that whilst there may be a lack of Sunday Schools, and other faith equivalents, this does not mean that it’s impossible to learn about morality. Teachers and parents are the people who are essential for the learning of a moral framework for our children and young people.
Far too often, morality has been associated with religion to the point that some children incrementally, unconsciously and accidentally learn that if they are not religious then they do not have a framework for morality.
Lady Warnock pointed out that it is vital to understand where morality comes from, and it is not the sole domain of the religious community, although there are many religions that can and do reiterate morality through their teachings.
This is really interesting. All this talk of morality with not a single mention of the term “spiritual intelligence” and yet this is what we are talking about.
Morality is not an isolated theme. Morality comes from values – shared ones and individual ones. Morality also comes from collective virtues that can be learned but can become unconscious and instinctual in their everyday practice. In living a life with such values and virtues at the core of our being, we are indeed becoming spiritually intelligent. As Lady Warnock says, this is not a religious issue. 3Di’s view is that it IS a matter of spiritual intelligence.
There is another issue here which is that of another axis, or realm, of intelligence. Being spiritually alive through an appreciation of the world and its values is one thing but it also needs to be practised. We cannot sit back and say that we value things like peace and compassion if we do not take steps to actually live peacefully and compassionately.
Society only works if people are empathetic but also do something about the values that they hold dearest. However, what the programme this morning failed to address, which is something that 3Di Associates believes is essential, is the importance of the self as well as the empathy that is felt for others.
Andrew Marr suggested that there is a spectrum with empathy at one end, gradually moving towards autism and ultimately psychopathic tendencies. We dispute this. We believe it’s wrong to liken autism to psychopathy.
From our perspective the spectrum extends from empathy at one end (social intelligence) to understanding of the self at the other end (personal intelligence). We need to show empathy to others whilst simultaneously developing our own selves – our self-worth, our self-knowledge.
This, however, is different to morality. Morality and the development of our spiritual values does not necessarily have anything to do with empathy. It’s possible for certain people to sympathise or empathise with something that is morally corrupt – for example gang members empathise with and subscribe to the values of the gang. So morality and empathy are not the same thing. Children and young people need to understand these important differences, and they need to be given an opportunity to develop empathy and also to understand their own moral framework.
In this respect, teachers, university lecturers and any adults that influence our children and young people have an important role to play. As Lady Warnock said, a teacher can talk about the global issues of climate change but can simultaneously ignore the harmful and thoughtless acts of the pupils as they interact together in the playground.
It is not a question of either/or. Our children need to understand issues of global proportions but we also need to see how much we can support, influence and nurture the morality of a child within our schools.
Schools cannot be the answer to everything but we are in danger of losing sight of the significant role that teachers can play for the individual and the community to impart and develop a values framework that is understood, recognised and used by everyone, including parents, carers, teachers and other staff within the school.
We continue to do a disservice to children and ultimately society if we do not address these moral and values issues collectively in a place that carries some sustainable influence in our children’s lives.
It is time to really address whether we are giving our children the opportunity to develop all of their intelligences – personal, social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.