During a recent discussion about whether or not the School should ban the selling of bottled water, a colleague caught me by surprise when said, “We shouldn’t allow the boys to make these kind of bad choices.”
His comment sparked a very important question. If you believe that teaching is a political act and that part of our purpose is to promote good values, one of which is a belief in sustainability (both economic and environmental), what is the more effective path to achieve this objective? Even if we could ban all habits and behaviours that run counter to our “progressive” aims, would doing so actually shape our culture in the right direction? Or would required compliance lead towards a mind-numbing acceptance of the letter but not the spirit of the law?
Conservative friends sometimes complain about the orthodoxy of the rarely described “hard left.” A particularly critical IB2 student recently confided, “You can see how they don’t really want to debate issues like global warming. They are intolerant. They’d rather just preach at you from their elitists perches!”
The counter-argument, of course, is that we already limit students in all sorts of ways. For example, even the most libertarian among us wouldn’t sanction cigarette machines in schools.
All of us dance on the edge of hypocrisy, and even as we ban the selling of bottled water, we continue to offer other items that come in plastic containers. And I continue to wonder – if what we are really trying to do is promote values like sustainability, how much freedom should we allow or promote? And how do we keep all of our values in balance? After all, even if Stalin recycled, he’d still be a monster.