I think we need to value both when providing a learning environment for young children.
This is tricky though and it's one of the dilemmas that we face as educators. I would lean slightly towards promoting autonomy, but that's my bias. My goals tend to be more individualized and personal. Our aim in fostering group consciousness is to create people who are connected. Connection to the world and to other people leads to the individual feeling empathy, developing an understanding of the commonalities that exist between people, and beginning to feel that he or she wants to join others in working towards goals and projects that are for the good of the greater community. The idea of seeing ourselves as global citizens is a very important one to me.
We want people to see the similarities between themselves and others if we are to see a world without war and racism. The difficulty is how we go about promoting this in the classroom without impacting on children's views of themselves as individuals. It's not enough to feel a sense of connection to others and a group consciousness if you are still wondering how you fit into the group and what your contribution can be. A group that is working towards common goals can be stronger if the individuals within that group are able to contribute using their strengths and gifts.
So to me the answer is to provide an environment in which children can discover their own abilities and interests. Supporting children's involvement in group experiences enables them to become more aware of themselves in relation to others. It's not so much about encouraging competitiveness as it is about enabling children to find out what makes them special. We can build confidence by drawing children's attention to their strengths. We just have to make sure that we don't preconceive them based on what we are hoping they will be. Children are strong and resilient, but at the same time they are honest, accepting and open. One small influence could change a child's perception of himself/herself in an instant.
We don't want to create children who will walk in lines, we want to create children who will rock the world. If we can encourage autonomy we can create strong, independent creators. If we can create strong, independent creators who are connected, we can build a world where anything is possible. That is the world that I want to live in.