Why the Capitol riot shows the need for moral education

After the attack on democracy in Washington, PSHE and critical thinking have never been more important, says Chris Lindop

Chris Lindop

The attack on the US Capitol Building shows the need for moral education, says Chris Lindop

It’s been almost a week now since the shocking images of an angry mob storming the Capitol Building in Washington were seen around the world.

The latest and most concerning attack on democracy raises yet more questions about the world we live in.

Political extremism is increasingly mainstream, inciting hatred, violence and separation. Truth is handled injudiciously and flippantly. Divisions run deep and extremist views gain momentum and traction through social media.

Racism continues to rear its ugly head. Nations move to reaffirm boundary lines and follow isolationist policies. How did the world come to this? 

We are too easily seduced by simplistic extremes. We are too easily scared by change. We are too resentful of difference. We are too liberal with the truth.

Perhaps most fundamental to all of the above – disengagement with education is too often worn as a badge of honour. 

The Capitol attack: The power of education to tackle extremism

In the face of such a spectacle, it is easy to be disheartened. To see the noble purpose of education as unable to stop this march of division, simplistic thinking and mob mentality.

But we must not lose heart. The future is not fixed. The changes are not irreversible. The damage can be undone. And education can do this.

Education shapes the lives of children and helps to determine the adults they are to become. Education can ensure that the next generation does not commit the same mistakes as the last.

We must exercise more critical thinking, determining the merits of arguments on sound reason and logic. 

We must welcome diversity, embracing different cultures and learning from them. We must look outward, recognising that we are stronger together.

Above all else, we must be kind, empathetic and tolerant to all, committed to the belief that all are equal and are deserving of the same opportunity.

The moral development of children

We need to be better humans – the events of last week show how quickly we can lose all sense of civility, compassion and basic decency even in supposedly strong and well-founded democracies.

Schools have been concerned with character since their inception. However, recent events show a failure to reach too many people. More is needed.

The moral development of children needs to be the guiding light of education. It must be front and centre and at the very heart of what all educators do. It must be the North Star.  

The issue is that education is currently embattled in its own perfect storm. Across the globe, and in the United Kingdom in particular, governments wrestle with containing Covid-19, ensuring the safety of teachers and protecting children’s education.

Idealistic - but achievable

The indecision and uncertainty that schools have faced and the challenges of remote learning only add to a troubling situation. And yet, the world continues to revolve.

The fact remains that children only receive one childhood, one school education. Time continues to pass our children by. 

The challenges educators face are vast, but, now more than ever, the moral education of children must not be neglected.

We cannot afford for it to fall to the wayside. It is too often the first to be cut in meeting the demands of a busy school. The truth is, though, PSHE and critical thinking have never been more important.

Debate and discussion of current affairs has never been more necessary. It must form an integral part of remote learning provision. And when returning to some sense of normality, must gain greater curriculum time. 

Education can be a silver bullet and is always the answer for a better world. Idealistic – yes. Achievable – absolutely.

Chris Lindop is head of Year 6 at Rugby School Thailand

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