Human relations in a democratic society must be shaped by free and independent individuals. Schools must therefore work to promote the equality of men and women. Schools must endeavor to lay the foundations of solidarity with disadvantaged groups in this country and abroad. They must actively promote the inclusion of immigrants in this country in the community. They must also lay the foundations of a determination to seek peaceful solutions to conflicts. This means that schools must aim to develop in pupils a capacity for empathy and for understanding other people’s conditions, and also a will to act in the best interests of other people as well as oneself.
Schools supplement the influence and upbringing provided in the home. The main burden of responsibility always rests with the home. Schools are jointly responsible with homes for the pupils’ development into democratic and responsible individuals. The adult members of the school community must support parents in their task of bringing up their children. Conversely, schools are entitled to expect parental support for their work. lt is very important that parents should also accept and endeavor to promote the principles and rules of democracy. In this way children and young person’s can see that homes and schools belong to the same community.
The upbringing and personal development of children are indissolubly connected with their work in acquiring and developing knowledge and skills. The circumstances in which children and young person’s acquire knowledge and skills therefore have an important bearing on their upbringing. We are concerned here with the whole of the spirit characterizing a school. The expectations and demands of adults and the part which they play through their words and actions as examples to children and young person’s influence the self-image acquired by the younger generation and also their attitudes towards knowledge work and ethical questions.
Activities in schools, as in the community at large, are founded on policy decisions democratically made. These decisions are manifested in laws and regulations. Pupils, like adults, have to comply with these rules. At the same time as schools are quite firm on this point, they must make it clear that legislation must never be used as a means of suppressing human rights and liberties.
The common democratic way of life which schools, is to act in close co-operation with homes, are to transmit to children, and implies that adults should endeavor to bring up their children with the least possible element of coercion. They must endeavor to root ethical norms in the children’s own personalities and in their practical surroundings. Human ethical development is never stimulated by blind obedience, but nor is it stimulated by indifference on the part of adults. A child’s morals are shaped by contact and community with people whom it trusts and wants to resemble.
Children must be enabled to ponder moral problems and conflicts of norms and also to assume responsibility for solving such problems in practical everyday situations. Our common basic values accommodate many problems and conflicts. Collisions between goals and reality should not be glossed over. Questions concerning conflicts, their causes and solutions, must be brought out in conversations and discussions in many connections. Schools must actively induce children to adopt standpoints concerning these matters.
Starting on the basis of common values, every class and school must draw up the rules which children, school staff and parents together agree are necessary in order for the work and social life of the class and the school to run smoothly. These rules of everyday life must be felt to be important iu the actual prevailing situation, and they must be consistently adhered to. It must also be jointly decided what are to be the consequences of various infringements of the rules.
Rules must be continuously evaluated by pupils, teachers and parents together. Every child and adult must assume personal responsibility for agreements being kept. At the same time, each individual needs the support of the others. The responsibility and concern of the stronger for the weaker must be clearly emphasized.
Being useful, being acknowledged for one’s sake, being allowed to assume responsibility -these are palpable and fundamental needs among alI children. The adults and children in each individual school must accept the practical consequences of this fact in relation to the conditions applying at their particular schools. Respect for human dignity and respect for others must also provide the ethical foundation of school work concerning matters where people in this country embrace different values.
Hardly a day passes without school work touching on matters involving different opinions. This applies to questions of belief, to politics, to social values or morals, and it can apply to attitudes towards humanity, interpretations of history and style and taste. Schools admit children from all walks of society and all opinion groupings. All parents must be able to send their children to school with the same conviction and assurance that schools will not condition them in favor of one or the other of mutually conflicting views and opinions. The instruction provided by schools in matters where opinions vary must therefore be empirical and objective.
Schools must be amenable to the manifestation of differing values and opinions, and they must assert the importance of personal commitment. At the same time, schools must assert the essential values of our democracy and must clearly dissociate themselves from everything which conflicts with those values. Thus schools must not adopt a posture of neutrality or passivity concerning the fundamental values of democratic society. Instead they must deliberately promote these values and educate pupils to respect them.