The Ethic of Care

According to Nel Noddings, care must be reciprocal. The cared for must be able to receive our care in order for the circle to be complete. The intention to care for another is not enough. The care provided must be received by the other. As I read the article by Cassidy and Beck on Whytecliff school entitled “Drop Outs and Push Outs” I was deeply moved. The ethic of care is relational and renders typical one size fits all approaches to care, that we see in our institutions, ineffective. Our children are unique beings with needs that are varied and different depending on their life circumstances. As care givers it only makes sense that we would want to develop our capacity to accurately read and respond to anothers needs, especially where children are concerned. We need to ask ourselves whether or not the child feels cared for, understood, loved and accepted? Better yet, ask the child! If not it would be wise to revisit our approach. It is through the ethic of care that we can make a difference for each other, especially children in the context of education. Care is at that root of development. Much like a plant, we thrive when the environment is nurturing. Our educational system is busy pushing for improved test scores while many of our children are slipping through the cracks. Children from historically marginalized groups such as those who are impoverished or indigenous peoples are often the ones who receive the least amount of care and understanding upon entering our institutions. They end up dropping out or getting pushed out. As long as institutions remain as hostile environments this cycle will continue. I guess my biggest questions is how do we begin to place care at the centre of our institutions? Developing relationships takes time and often at the expense of more measurable results. It’s a tough sell yet I believe it is central to the healing experience that society needs in order to grow and adapt. To care is to be human and to be human is to care. Teachers especially can have a profound impact through a caring relationship with their students in which the student feels invited, accepted, loved, significant and understood. Take Helen Keller for instance. Anne Sullivan was, in my opinion, a master teacher. It was through her deep love for her student, Helen, that led to her ultimate transformation. For those of you who know the story Helen went on to thrive in her life time as a result. So let’s turn our attention to care. Let us yearn for a caring society in which children thrive and let us be agents of caring for one another.

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