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Loneliness and Solitude in Education

How to Value Individuality and Create an Enstatic School


Julian Stern

Analysing loneliness and solitude in schools and exploring how to deal with them is a vital task. In recent research for the author’s Spirit of the School project, a number of pupils, teachers and headteachers described times when they felt lonely and times when they felt the need for healthy solitude. The causes of loneliness are numerous and its consequences have a significant unrecognised impact on education. How do schools deal with people when they are lonely, and how can they overcome loneliness? How can they create opportunities for healthy solitude, a welcome alternative to loneliness? Schools can sometimes try to include people by being intensely social, but end up making them feel even more excluded. A school that teaches solitude well and helps individuals deal with loneliness can be called an ‘enstatic’ school: a school in which people are comfortable within themselves. The objective of this book – the first comprehensive study of the subject – is to help us all understand loneliness and solitude and thereby to reinvigorate debates on personal, character and values education.
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Chapter 1: Introduction: Why Study Loneliness and Solitude in Education?



Introduction: Why Study Loneliness and Solitude in Education?

lonliness feels differant to everything else – it feels sad – like a ton of bricks is blocking you away from the others— ELIZA (aged 12–13)

Introduction: Complex Puzzles

Schools are fascinating, complex institutions. They have been studied by sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, historians, anthropologists, management theorists, theologians, and many more. Two topics have been very little studied in school, however. Loneliness seems to have been something of a taboo subject and has not been studied, perhaps because people find it a little embarrassing. Solitude is not so much embarrassing as counter-cultural: schools are busy sociable learning communities, so why would solitude have a role in them? This chapter argues for the importance of studying these and related topics. Part of the argument is simply one of completeness: both solitude and loneliness (which together can be referred to as forms of ‘aloneness’) are frequent experiences of children and adults alike, and both should be understood if we are to understand schools. More important, though, is the considerable significance to people of loneliness and solitude, and therefore the importance of taking this significance into account when organising schooling. More and more people live alone, and all of us, in one sense or another, die alone. How can we help people live good lives, and how can we help build good communities and societies, in a world promoting various damaging forms of both individualism and ← 1...

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