Chapter 23 » 23.74

The individual and the community


The Quaker emphasis in education probably lies in non-violence, in participation, and in caring. Not only to run the school without violence, but to produce young people who will feel a concern to reduce the level of violence in the world. Not to impose the aims of the school on the pupils, but to lead them to their own acceptance of these aims, to a share (however small) in its running, and a pleasure in its successes. To find that of God in every pupil.

‘This is the true ground of love and unity,’ wrote Isaac Penington in 1659, ‘not that such a man walks and does just as I do, but because I feel the same Spirit and life in him, and that he walks in his rank, in his own order, in his proper way.’ This marvellous statement by an early Friend of the value of individualism surely commands our assent today. The school which respects every pupil as an individual will try to teach each one what he (or she) needs to learn, to draw out his unique talents, to understand his proper way, whether he is studying or misbehaving. ‘This is far more pleasing to me,’ Penington continues, ‘than if he walked just in that track wherein I walk.’

Quakers and their schools, 1980

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