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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 8: Humanity Alone: Travels in Time and Space



Humanity Alone: Travels in Time and Space

I feel safe and not, and alone but not bad alone— ANDREW (aged 7–8, in Ng 2012a: 163)

Introducing Humanity Alone

Humanity itself is studied in ‘the humanities’, covering a range of subjects and disciplines such as history, geography, religion, languages, English, and all things cultural. The humanities may also help children and young people develop their own personhood through understanding and practising solitude. In this chapter, the focus is on travels in time and space – especially through history, geography and religious education. Travel can be exciting and educational, and it can be stressful and puzzling. For example, during more than four years of work on this book, one of the hardest tasks has been the search for examples of any kind of ‘loneliness’ from longer ago than Shakespeare’s time – that is, from the time before the word ‘lonely’ was being used – and for examples of loneliness from the seventeenth to the end of the nineteenth centuries that were recognisably the same as the forms of loneliness of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Where are the contemporary documents, whether fiction or non-fiction, giving accounts that are recognisably of modern loneliness? There are plenty of examples of solitude, but loneliness, at least in its current form, was much harder to find. This is as much a problem of travel in space (to other cultures, to meet people using languages other than English) as...

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