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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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Preface

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Aloneness in its many forms is something trivial and something profound:

This project explores aloneness, trivially and profoundly, in good ways and in bad. Analysing and dealing with school-based aloneness, both as loneliness and as solitude, is a vital task. This is the first book of its kind dedicated to that purpose. Based on years of work on the nature of schools as learning communities, this particular book arose from recent research for the Spirit of the School project (Stern 2009). In that research, and in extended interviews since the completion of that book, children and young people, teachers, and headteachers describe times when they felt lonely, and times when they felt the need for solitude. The causes of loneliness are numerous – from people’s home lives, the media, society – but the consequences of loneliness are significant for schools. How do schools deal with people when they are lonely, and how can they overcome some loneliness? And, complementing this work, how do schools create opportunities for healthy solitude, which is often a welcome alternative to loneliness? Sometimes schools, with the very best of intentions, deal with lonely or ‘loner’ people by making being alone seem altogether wrong, and by forcing them together into social activities. In such ways, schools can sometimes try to include people, but end up making them feel even more excluded. A school that teaches solitude well, and that helps people deal with and at times overcome loneliness, can be called an ‘enstatic’ school:...

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