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On the Educational Task of Mediating Basic Values in an Individualist Society
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies.
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies.
2016 (English)In: Education Abstracts: Eighteenth Annual International Conference on Education 16-19 May 2016, Athens, Greece / [ed] Gregory T. Papanikos, Aten: Athens Institute for Education and Research (ATINER), 2016, 130-131 p.Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Besides the task of conveying information, methods and skills to their pupils, teachers are also expected to mediate certain basic values, which may differ between different societies. Depending on which country we look at, this latter task is either implicitly taken for granted within the educational system or explicitly established in regulatory documents. In Sweden, for instance, the curriculum for the upper secondary school states that "[e]ach and everyone working in the school should… encourage respect for the intrinsic value of each person and the environment we all share. […] In accordance with the ethics borne by Christian tradition and Western humanism, this is to be achieved by nurturing in the individual a sense of justice, generosity, tolerance and responsibility" (see; accessed 2015-10-14). In this paper we are interested in the educational task of mediating such basic values in societies imbued with individualist values and attitudes. As a background, and for illustrative purposes, we use the results from the recurring "World Values Survey" (WVS) which maps the evaluative profile of citizens in about 80 different countries worldwide (; accessed 2015-10-14). It has become common practice to present the results from WVS along two value dimensions: traditional versus secular-rational values, and survival versus self-expression values (see e.g. R. Inglehart, 2006, "Mapping Global Values", in Y. Esmer & T. Pettersson (eds.) Measuring and Mapping Cultures: 25 Years of Comparative Values Surveys, Leiden: Brill.). In general, secular-rational and self-expression values are representative of an individualist evaluative outlook, whereas traditional and survival values are representative of a more collectivist evaluative outlook. Hence, it is possible to use the results from WVS to roughly categorize countries as more or less individualist (generally speaking). The results from WVS reveal that Sweden – which constitutes our example of an individualist society – stands out as remarkably individualist in this respect (see images/Cultural_map_WVS6_2015.jpg; accessed 2015-10-14). One important aspect of this individualist outlook is that values are commonly regarded as largely a private matter – something that should not be interfered with in the public sphere, e.g. in schools – a view often accompanied by a tendency to downplay the importance of ethical questions in general (see World Values Survey, Wave 6: 2010-2014; http://www.worldvalues; accessed 2015- 10-14). Against this background we have investigated the evaluative outlook of 179 Swedish teacher students, using questions from WVS as a point of departure. The results indicate that these students do not differ to any significant degree from the Swedish population in general as regards their evaluative outlook, and yet they are supposed to mediate both individual and social basic values in their coming profession. The purpose of this paper is to make visible and problematize the tension between an individualist evaluative outlook – where one tends to diminish the importance of ethical questions and regard values as largely a private matter – and the ethical and educational task of mediating a set of basic values, and reveal some of the challenges that this tension poses for teachers and the educational system in general in more or less individualist societies.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Aten: Athens Institute for Education and Research (ATINER), 2016. 130-131 p.
Keyword [en]
Basic values, Evaluative profiles, Conveying values, Teacher education, Value reproduction, Individualism
National Category
Philosophy, Ethics and Religion Educational Sciences
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-120984ISBN: 978-960-598-048-1OAI: diva2:930496
18th Annual International Conference on Education, Athens, Greece
Available from: 2016-05-24 Created: 2016-05-24 Last updated: 2016-05-24

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Samuelsson, LarsLindström, Niclas
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