This is the last article for the moment in a series about different aspects of education. I am aware that I have only mentioned a few of the many aspects related to such an important topic. Much has remained in the pipeline, things that I have omitted to avoid overly extending the articles, things that would be subject to debate from different points of view – maybe all of them acceptable – also other things which are certainly very important, but with which I am not yet familiar or simply have not taken into account at the time of writing. In the two articles on sexual education as well as in this one, I propose a holistic educational model, which is very difficult to carry out in a political and social environment that not only does not support this model, but actively opposes it. For example, during adolescence, boys and girls give a lot of credibility to their group of friends. This tendency is accentuated if their parents have kept them submissive during childhood by imposition or by overprotection. However, it must be said that even in cases where parents have tried to be respectful of their children’s freedom, when they reach adolescence, they often have the feeling that all the care they have taken in their education has served little or nothing. Evidently this is not the case. If good seeds have been sown they will bear their fruit one day. Maybe not the fruit the parents dreamed, but a good fruit.
Let’s now turn to the topic of this article: Political ideologies and religious beliefs in education.
In education we must differentiate between what is basic and necessary for all aspects of good health, both for the individual and society, and what is a question of opinion open to different ways of seeing, valuing and living it.
For example, education in the proper management of holistic health and the environment is basic and necessary. We are individual and social beings. This means that in order to be happy and find the true meaning of life, we must know how to manage our own health and the health of everything that surrounds us. It is evident that in order to develop as individuals, interaction with the environment is essential. The health of each individual contributes to improving the health of the environment, and at the same time a healthy environment facilitates the management of individual health.
We must therefore educate children, adolescents and young people in the acquisition of good habits. Good habits in relation to basic things such as healthy eating, effectively balancing activity and rest, exercising properly, and encouraging effort as much as relaxation. Getting sufficient rest at night and respecting the natural day-night cycle. It is also important to educate children, adolescents and young people in the ability to both listen and express themselves. We must transmit to children or students the value of receptive silence, which is necessary to facilitate the maturing of emotions into definite forms that the mind can identify. Another basic aspect is to foster self-esteem and respect for oneself and others. Likewise, education must focus on the knowledge and development of our own capacities until they become the backbone of learning in all areas.
In relation to the environment, it is important to stimulate natural curiosity, oriented towards expanding knowledge based on experimentation. We must therefore motivate children, adolescents and young people to experiment, try things, assimilate their experiences effectively in order to build and expand the knowledge of their own potentialities, enriching these potentialities with contributions collected from different sources of knowledge.
It is very important to promote respect for the environment, appreciation and care of the things that surround us, both animate (people, animals and plants) and inanimate (material). All have a function in relation to life in general, in the ecological and homeostatic equilibrium of the planet, and also in relation to each person’s individual life. Discipline and order are values that must be cultivated in all areas of life, without becoming a slave.
All these and other aspects are fundamental and necessary values, both for the health of each individual person and the environment with which we interact. They are therefore values that form the basis of any political ideology or religious belief. They are, therefore, valid ethical values for any culture, race, ideology or belief.
Political ideologies and religious beliefs are not basic aspects, they are not the foundations of the building but they are ways of structuring social life and the spiritual dimension according to the society. Both political ideologies and religious beliefs are a matter of opinion, and the diversity of opinions and points of view are generally small truths or parts of a greater TRUTH that humans cannot fully take in. For this reason we must educate children or students in the open and receptive listening to any ideology and religious belief, noting that nothing is absolute. Political ideologies and religious beliefs can be manifestations of the great diversity of forms that life can take, both individually and socially. Education must never be used to indoctrinate ideologies or religious beliefs. What can be done is to provide information about the diversity of political ideologies or religious beliefs, but never to inculcate any in particular as if it were the absolute truth.
Does what I have just explained mean that all political ideologies and religious beliefs are equal in the sense that they have the same value? No, because there may be ideologies and beliefs that are more or less coherent – and even incoherent – with the values that are the basis and support of any ideology or belief.
Therefore, we can conclude that any political ideology and religious belief:
- Must respect and promote health and individual and social welfare.
- Must encourage respect for plurality in all aspects.
- Must not discriminate against anyone for reasons of race, sex, age or profession.
- Must offer everyone the same opportunities.
- Must facilitate every person in developing the capacities which have been deposited in them.
- Must take special care of the less able people in their society.
- Both political and religious institutions should be coordinated by people who demonstrate the function or purpose of the institution with their lives and examples. We must never forget that coherence is health, while the lack of coherence is alteration of health.
Finally, it must be made clear that it is not the school’s task to inculcate political ideologies or religious beliefs. The school’s educational task should be limited to promoting the development of basic values and knowledge of life. In relation to political ideologies or religious beliefs they must encourage mental openness and appreciation of everything that any ideology or belief contributes constructively.
Parents, as well as teachers, must educate their children or students in the ability to think and ask questions, and learn to discern what is constructive – or destructive – in each of the different political ideologies and religious beliefs, since it must be the children or students who freely choose the options they consider most consistent with their own spirit and with the fundamental values described above.
Ramon V. Albareda
Psychologist. Theologian. Sexologist
Founder of ESTEL, Centre for Personal Growth and
School of Integral Studies.