For decades, values education has been one of the most hotly contested areas of reappraisal in school curricula. This book contributes to the debate with the controversial proposition that the current modes of values education are not cultivating the qualities associated with moral judgment and character, that they are in fact producing a consciousness which merely reinforces some of the potentially destructive tendencies of modern technology.
Emberley sets the stage for his argument with an examination of the progressive initiatives in education since the 1960s. He discusses the expectations which arose with the proposals to teach values as an explicit component of the curriculum, and reveals a hidden agenda which undermines their explicit objectives. He goes on to explore the relation between values education and technology, building on the thought of Hannah Arendt and Eric Voegelin. Technology, according to Emberley, is becoming the entire context for our understanding of reason, politics, and the intellectual or spiritual life. The question is raised whether technology has become the ontology of our age, as George Grant suggested, and whether it has eclipsed essential relations and experiences which have traditionally defined our humanity. Emberley depicts technological development as proceeding through three historical phases which he characterizes as a mechanical order, an organic order, and an electric field. By the third phase, he proposes, traditional humanism has nearly disappeared.
Emberley offers a systematic analysis of three of the dominant models of values education and suggests that they bolster this deconstruction of humanism by playing out the philosophic relation between Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche. His analysis also indicates how these models replicate the structure of each of the technological phases. The consequence of this collusion between values education and technological consciousness is a person who cannot be critical of technology, one who cannot recognize any limits to our technological prowess. Whether this collusion is intentional or inadvertent is one of the many issues Emberley pursues. He proposes pedagogical options which revive the spirit (though not the letter) of the 'traditional curriculum.' He argues that the aim of education is to produce a character that does not allow reason to become merely a faculty of shrewd calculation and technical expertise.