Human rights values or cultural values? Pursuing values to maintain positive discipline in multicultural schools
Discussions on discipline in education often accentuate corporal punishment or measures to infuse moral fibre. In addition, many authors argue that inculcating a particular value system can promote discipline in schools. This could however be profoundly problematic in the light of the Constitution. We argue that positive discipline in multicultural school environments needs to be based in part on human rights values that are neither solely universally interpreted nor particularistically interpreted. We report on the data generated at a research workshop held as the final dissemination process of a four-year international research project entitled “Understanding human rights through different belief systems: intercultural and interreligious dialogue”. Dialogue was chosen as a form of data gathering since it is more spontaneous than conventional questioning techniques and can thus generate more naturally occurring data to strengthen the outcomes of the project. It appears that some teachers believe discipline can only be maintained through the elevation of cultural values (particularism). We argue that schools should start negotiating, at the most basic level, the values, including emancipatory, human rights values, and cultural values, which could underpin positive discipline in multicultural schools. Drawing solely on cultural values is not only unlikely to solve the problem of discipline, but could also undermine the efforts to transform our diverse, democratic society.
Keywords: cultural values; human rights values; multicultural schools;