Teaching Morals in Public Schools

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A fellow citizen is irked by the kids who tramp down the grass as they cut across the lawn of her family's new home. She gets even more steamed when she fears chastising those teenage trespassers, because trouble may ensue. She also fumes over a kid punching loaves of bread in the supermarket and over his mother spewing expletives when a stranger suggests he stop (Healy). Something has gone very wrong to cause such a poor appearance in the character of today's youth. Teaching morals in public school could only result in the betterment of our society.

American public schools started walking away from their moral educators about a generation ago, around the 1960's. They feared possibilities of being accused of imposing religion or "indoctrinating" children, so they left moral instruction to parents and the community, and stuck strictly to academics (Smith). Teaching morals has been misconceived as a violation of the First Amendment's separation of church and state. However, according to America's Children (Opposing Viewpoints) , "Moral education is whatever schools do to influence how students think, feel, and act regarding issues of right and wrong (America's)." This statement does not necessarily violate the First Amendment as long as "whatever it does" does not involve matters better left to be taught in church.

In the 1950's, schools were expected to reflect the best values of their communities. In the traditional approach to "character development," teachers explained with certainty the difference between right and wrong. They told stories "illustrating the virtues of hard work and loyalty," and "unself-consciously preached the superiority of the American way of life (Smith)." Text books, as well, stressed high moral...

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America's Children (Opposing Viewpoints) . San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1991. p. 46.

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Grant, Gerald. "Bringing the 'Moral' Back In." NEA Today . January, 1989, pp. 54-59.

Healy, Melissa. "Liberty vs. Morality: America's Search for Common Values Fighting to Fill the Values Gap." Los Angeles Times . May 26, 1996. pp. A1+ [SIRS]

Herbert, Wray. "The Moral Child." U.S. News & World Report . June 3, 1996, pp. 52- 59.

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Smith, Eleanor. "The New Moral Classroom." Psychology Today . May, 1989, pp. 32- 36.
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