Teaching Morals and Ethics in Public Schools

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Teaching Morals and Ethics in Public Schools

The question of whether or not schools should teach ethics and morals is misleading, because ethics and morals are two different things. Webster's Dictionary defines ethics as "a particular system of principles and rules concerning duty, whether true or false," and morals as "motivation based on ideas of right and wrong." As I take it, ethics implies a set of basic rules to abide by, whereas morals strictly set down what to believe, and what not to. I have no objections to schools teaching ethics, however I do not think schools, or any authority for that matter, should be teaching children morals.

In this country, we have an accepted system of ethics that children begin to learn in the lower levels of education. This system tells them such basic rules as "treat others as you would treat yourself," "share with others," etc. These rules help children to learn how to interact with other people. A child will not learn much if he only talks with other children exactly like himself--he must be able to get along with his teachers, and his peers who may or may not be of the same background. A shared system of basic ethics regarding living with other human beings is essential in any society, and in school.

Along with this system of ethics, however, we have myriad systems of morals, and it is impossible to determine which is the "right" one to teach. Morals, like beliefs, are totally subjective, and they are, in my opinion, personal. The method of Authority, described by Charles Sanders Peirce in "The Fixation of Belief," has no place in the formation of anyone's morals, because no Authority has the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. The freedom to believe what one wishe...

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...uld the public school system, and, inherently, the United States government, want to educate unethical people? I believe it is because the public schools exist to create not "good people," but what Kozol refers to as "good citizens:" "defeated, unprovacative" people that will fill the necessary jobs, pay the necessary taxes, and perform all the other duties put forth to them by the federal government, such as voting, and jury duty. The fact that this process has not changed since Kozol wrote The Night Is Dark... is a testament to how well the public schools carry out their task.

The solution to the problem of education we face today lies in a revolution of ethical teaching within the public schools, not in "moralizing" children with a certain dogma. A person's morals, and beliefs are things that should not be taught, but developed over the course of their life.
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