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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 5: Action Philosophy: The Point, However, Is To Change



Action Philosophy: The Point, However, Is To Change

Sometimes I manage to turn loneliness into a solitude, as I did today. I felt a bit lonely … and I had your survey on loneliness … (Probably this was the best day to answer these questions) I took the survey with me, and went out to sit in the sun … with birds around and a nice view … I did not talk to anybody, just was sitting, thinking, reading … And suddenly realized – I felt much better and I was enjoying my moment of solitude.— LAILA (aged 30–49)

Introduction: The Gravity of Research

This chapter attempts to justify an approach to research that is particularly suited to aloneness. Research methodologies explored in previous chapters are revisited, and ‘action philosophy’ is described. All research, especially research on sensitive or taboo topics, can be painful, and later in the chapter I consider whether and when it might be acceptable for researchers to be upsetting people.

Having taught research methodologies, and research ethics, for over 30 years, I would like to say something more than is usual in methodology chapters. The convention is to say ‘on the one hand’ and ‘on the other hand’ about positivist or interpretative paradigms, and about each of a long list of methods – interviews, questionnaires, participant observation. Following the work of two hands (the one, the other), a conventional account describes ethical issues, in terms of the permissions sought and...

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