Controversial issues: guidance for schools
4. What kind of values may legitimately be taught in school?
Just as it is important for teachers to distinguish their role as private citizens from their role as public educators, so it is important for them to distinguish between private and public values.
There are many different communities in society, each with its own set of values. But a distinction is to be made between 'non-public' communities, membership of which is voluntary, and the larger 'public' or 'civic' community, to which all citizens belong simply by virtue of common citizenship.
The civic community has its own set of values. The form these take differs from society to society. The kind of values that characterise a pluralist democracy, such as ours, include: social justice; political equality; tolerance; human rights; respect for the rule of law; and a commitment to negotiation and debate as the ideal way of resolving public conflict.
This difference allows a distinction to be made between the values that may legitimately be taught in schools - indeed, which schools have a duty to teach - and those that are more properly the province of the home, particular interests groups and religious or political parties.
Thus, although teachers have no legal right to promote their own personal opinions in school, they may quite legitimately condemn and prohibit injustices which contravene our community values, such as racism and human rights abuse - wherever they take place.