Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Mary Warnock, fully Helen Mary Warnock, Baroness Warnock

British Existentialist Philosopher of Morality, Education and Mind, Advocate for Children with Special Needs

"If choosing freely for oneself is the highest value, the free choice to wear red socks is as valuable as the free choice to murder one’s father or sacrifice oneself for one’s friend. Such a belief is ridiculous."

"Without some element of objectivity, without any criterion for preferring one scheme of values to another, except the criterion of what looks most attractive to oneself, there cannot in fact be any morality at all."

"Without imagination, we merely see or hear, and even if we see or hear that the objects of the senses are beautiful, we cannot feel that they are so. The difference is this: in feeling the beauty of objects, we enjoy not only the common, shared pleasures of the senses, but also the private pleasures of the imagination, peculiar to ourselves, and such that we have to struggle to articulate them."

"We must learn morality from each other, not God."

"Without imagination we should be lost; for only with its help can we interpret our experience, turn it into experience of an outer world, and thus make use of it in understanding what and where we are, and what we need to do."

"To lead a human life, a man must have a notion of himself as having a past and a future."

"This link between deprivation and educational failure or special needs struck me then as of the greatest possible importance. And in this respect things have not changed. We were not allowed to mention the link because the myth still persisted that social services and the teaching profession were two completely different sources of provision, dealing in completely separate things, or meeting totally different needs."

"Teachers have a huge responsibility for developing the language of their pupils, both spoken and written. I do not believe that teacher-training puts enough emphasis on this, nor on the connection between linguistic poverty and behaviour. Teachers have to tackle both together, and must be ready themselves to articulate the limits they will impose on rudeness, violence and disregard for the feeling and interests of others. If teachers are not explicitly to introduce, by precept and example, the basic rules of civilised, morally good behaviour, then they should quickly leave the profession."

"This is institutional pessimism, an institutional announcement that the pupils for whom extra is sought are, deep down, beyond hope and so little worthy of respect that they may be used merely as a means to an end."