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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 6: Alone I Wandered: The Literature and Music of Aloneness



Alone I Wandered:The Literature and Music of Aloneness

Listening to music makes me feel better because I normally play songs where the lyrics are my emotions that I don’t show and it just blocks out the other stuff— CAROLINE (aged 12–13)

Introduction: Wordsworth Clouds Our Judgement

Wordsworth wrote ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’, and this is the best known use of the word ‘lonely’. I am convinced, myself, that he did not use the word in its modern sense. He was talking about solitude, more than loneliness. The poem would be read more accurately by modern audiences if it started ‘Alone I wandered as a cloud’. (More on Wordsworth, below.) There are such traps set for those studying the arts, that it is a perilous journey. Worthwhile, though. A simple activity can bring out the complexity of the meanings of the language of aloneness. Interestingly, in French there is no separate word for ‘loneliness’. The word ‘seul’, in French, means being alone, and is similar to the English words ‘solitude’ and ‘loneliness’. ‘Seul’ doesn’t say whether being alone is good or bad. What does this mean for French loneliness? A double translation can help us explore some of the complexities. This involves translating a word into another language, and then back into the first language. For example, using an online translation programme, the word ‘lonely’ is translated into French as ‘solitaire’ (itself translated back into a number...

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