Using Haidt’s dimensions to examine the morality behind our ‘9 Values’ framework

Reading 'The National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools', I was intrigued by the list of nine values deemed universal enough to be taught in schools across this wide brown land. For those not familiar, the values are (in alphabetical order);

  1. Care and Compassion
  2. Doing Your Best
  3. Fair Go
  4. Freedom
  5. Honesty and Trustworthiness
  6. Integrity
  7. Respect
  8. Responsibility
  9. Understanding, Tolerance and Inclusion

Now I must say, I can't find too much fault with any of these (or the list in general). While thinking about it, I recalled the work that Jonathan Haidt did on identifying fundamental moral dimensions (check out his wonderful TED talk on the topic). To recap, the dimensions he identified as being universal across cultures (through held in various levels of regard by different individuals – hence 'dimensions') are;

  1. Harm/care
  2. Fairness/reciprocity
  3. Ingroup/loyalty
  4. Authority/respect
  5. Purity/sanctity

How, I wondered, did our 9 values match up against Haidt's 5 dimensions? Let's have a look…

  • Harm/care : Care and Compassion
  • Fairness/reciprocity : Fair Go | Freedom | Honesty and Trustworthiness | Understanding, Tolerance and Inclusion
  • Ingroup/loyalty : Responsibility | Doing Your Best
  • Authority/respect : Respect
  • Purity/sanctity : Integrity

 I must admit I was surprised by this outcome. Haidt identifies Fairness as the value most highly regarded by liberals and Loyalty, Respect and Purity being highly valued by conservatives (Care is universally regarded as important). Given this, it must be acknowledged that the values outlined by the national framework are quite liberal in their skew. If I were a conservative I would perhaps like to see more of a focus on the acknowledgement of authority, and a little dose of righteous sanctity. I am sure that the additional layer of values provided by a nice Catholic school would probably sate that need.


Having written the above, we trekked out to Berala Public School and observed for a day. Suffice to say that my concern for distraught conservatives wringing their hands over the overly-liberal framework. Basically, three things struck me;

a) the school (and apparently other schools are similar) has created a simpler value set that it communicates very actively as the code of conduct for students which rests on four value. Two of these values are not drawn from the framework, they are more practical given the age of students and the school environment – safety and positivity. Positivity is interesting actually, not really present in our overly morbid and flagellant nine values. The two values that are drawn from the framework are respect and responsibility – two of the conservative values, at the expense of all those namby pamby Kumbaya values.

b) between the school song, school prayer and school mission that we enjoyed during an assembly, the school is finding other places to introduce the values they wish to inculcate (yes, that was a school prayer, read aloud during assembly as a school that makes Benetton ads look like Aryan propaganda)

c) the very nature of the school environment (the uniforms, the routine, the teacher/student power dichotomy) all reinforce key conservative values of traditional institutions – conformity, authority etc.

In short, I was surprised at the contrast between what the ideals that the values framework sets out, and the reality of everyday life in first class.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *