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Loneliness and Solitude in Education

How to Value Individuality and Create an Enstatic School

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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 12: Conclusion: Valuing Aloneness in Schools: From Inclusion to Enstasy

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CHAPTER 12

Conclusion: Valuing Aloneness in Schools:From Inclusion to Enstasy

I have felt lonely many times. I just lurnt to stop.— PAIGE (aged 15)

Introduction: Inclusion Without Exclusion

How did we get here? During the ‘spirit of the school’ project, and increasingly after it was published (Stern 2009a), I became concerned that this theory of schools as learning communities, defined in terms of personal relationships and dialogue of particular kinds, might be thought to be too ‘cosy’ or oppressive, or even collectivist. Internal disagreement and conflict was central to the theory of community that was used, as membership is about how you treat people, not whether you agree with each other. This may avoid the collectivism of uniformity, yet cosiness still seemed possible. The spirited school might be like a soap opera or sitcom family, a family where the members argue with and occasionally fight with each other, but basically are close and loving – like the Waltons or the Simpsons, perhaps. At one point, I illustrated the theory with a gospel song of Mosie Lister, No One Stands Alone. The song has been popular since the 1960s (sung by Elvis Presley, , Blue Murder 2002, and many others), and asks to be in a place where no one stands alone, as there is nothing in the world ‘that’s worse than being alone’. It is a fine song about religious alienation, and is also about social isolation....

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