Chapter 4 Preface
Many social observers and analysts report that moral corruption and character problems are on the rise among high school and college students. “Although many young persons demonstrate a higher moral consciousness—greater commitment to human rights, concern about the environment, and global awareness— than previous generations, the general youth trends present a darker picture,” declares education professor Thomas Lickona. An increasing amount of selfishness, cheating, stealing, high rates of unplanned pregnancy, startling incidents of violence, and a growing disrespect for authority seen among today’s students have prompted many parents and educators to take part in the “character education” movement.
Advocates of character education contend that basic moral principles must be taught in schools. Currently, the thousands of institutions (about 20 percent of U.S. schools) participating in this movement use widely varying approaches to teaching values. Some schools require students to take courses in ethics and character development; others present values lessons during homerooms and assemblies; still others emphasize specific works of literature, philosophy, and theology to teach moral basics. Inevitably, all schools promote some sort of values system through the behavior of their educators, argues Virginia teacher Patricia Giegerich: “What you don’t teach is just as important as what you teach. . . . And if you ignore values or ethical...
(The entire section is 376 words.)
Schools Should Teach Moral Values
For the past fifteen years I have taught moral philosophy at Clark University. I have written about character education and ethics for popular and professional journals. I have visited many colleges and prep schools talking to students about ethics. I will give you the best information I have on the state of moral education in America.That includes the good as well as the bizarre.
I am persuaded that schools at all levels can do a lot to improve the moral climate in our society: they can do a lot to help restore civility and community if they commit themselves to this and have the courage to act. On the other hand, they can also continue to do very little, thereby fostering a climate of cynicism and moral relativism. How can we make our moral education more effective?
A MORAL HAZE
When you have as many conversations as I do with young people, you come away both exhilarated and depressed. As I am sure most of you are aware as parents, teachers, administrators, and students—there is a great deal of simple goodheartedness, instinctive fair-mindedness, and spontaneous generosity of spirit in our young people. Most of the students in my own classes, or those I encounter in the high schools, and colleges I visit, strike me as being basically decent. They form wonderful friendships, they seem to be considerate of and grateful to their parents—more than the baby boomers were. (In many ways contemporary young people are more likable...
(The entire section is 2060 words.)
Schools Cannot Teach Moral Values
There is much talk nowadays about the need for public schools to teach moral values. In a society which, for thirty years, has been drifting downriver toward the Niagara of moral anarchy, there is no doubt about it: somebody needs to teach moral values to the young. But can the public schools do it? I doubt it.
Leaving aside a number of other difficulties, let’s focus on the vexed question of whose values will be taught.Will the schools teach liberal or conservative values? Values of self-expression or self-control? Values rooted in religion or in secularism? Values of individual autonomy or of community?
A SENSIBLE APPROACH TO TEACHING VALUES?
Now there happens to be a standard way of trying to meet this difficulty. It is argued (by former secretary of education Bill Bennett, for one) that, no matter what our moral disagreements, all Americans share many important values.We may, for instance, disagree about sexual questions. But so what? Sex, after all, isn’t the whole of morality. Everyone agrees that fairness, honesty, courage, and respect for others are good qualities, while unfairness, dishonesty, cowardice, and disrespect are bad. These lists of noncontroversial good and bad qualities, these virtues and vices, can easily be extended.We agree, for instance, on certain values enshrined in the United States Constitution: the rule of law, a republican form of government, democracy, due process, equal protection,...
(The entire section is 1020 words.)
School-Sponsored Prayer Should be Allowed
Students organizing voluntary prayer groups at Mountain View and Columbia River high schools in Washington state are doing their part to make their schools more positive places to learn.
Similarly, the teachers who agree to monitor the groups are using their scant personal time for a worthy purpose: filling the spiritual void in students’ lives that, if neglected, could draw them toward violence, drugs or gangs.
Mayhem in schools is escalating. Late in March 1998, two Jonesboro, Ark. middle-schoolers massacred four of their schoolmates and a heroic teacher. A week later, a 12-year-old boy who fancied himself “Mr. Pimp” was accused of running a prostitution ring in his middle-school class. In April 1998, a 15-year-old was expelled from an Ohio school for compiling an electronic “hit list” of students and teachers. During the same month, an Idaho student reportedly held students and administrators hostage, threatening to kill them if authorities did not bring him vodka and whiskey.
So when local students gather voluntarily to pray and discuss the role of faith in making them stronger, we should honor them.
A CONTENTIOUS ISSUE
Will voluntary school prayer, currently allowed only before and after school, be expanded to include school hours? That is the hope of supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment, the Religious Freedom Act, currently before the U.S. House of Representatives.
(The entire section is 738 words.)
School-Sponsored Prayer is Unconstitutional
The law with respect to school prayer is clear: when organized, supported, or required by the state, school prayer is illegal. Our purpose in this viewpoint is to explain . . . why this is the case.
Briefly, state-supported prayer amounts to the establishment of a religious practice. This is true whether the state actually prescribes the prayer to be said, or allows teachers and students to compose the prayer as they see fit. Let’s use the famous 1963 Engel v.Vitale case to illustrate our argument.
Engel v. Vitale revolved around a New York law that required school officials to publically recite each school day the following prayer, composed by the New York Board of Regents: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country.”
The Court ruled, correctly in our opinion, that the New York law violated the First Amendment. Indeed it’s difficult to imagine how the Court could have ruled otherwise. Prayer is, without question, a religious exercise, and when the state requires that a prayer be recited, it is establishing a religious practice. Additionally, it violates free exercise for the state to expose students to prayer against their will, or to force students to absent themselves from the classroom to avoid a prayer they do not want to hear. Finally, we note that, despite the fact that this prayer was written to be as general and...
(The entire section is 1641 words.)
Scientific Evidence Against Evolution and For Creation Should be Included In Science Curricula
1. Evolutionary interpretations and theories are taught:
a. Dogmatically as facts of earth history,
b. Protectively, without criticism of weaknesses and failures,
c. Exclusively, without competition, as the only scientifically acceptable way of thinking about the world.
d. Under an erroneous definition of science that is distorted by the injection of belief in a totally materialistic, uncreated universe as a prerequisite to valid scientific thought or research.
2. This is wrong because:
a. It is poor science. • There is no place for dogma in science. What cannot be demonstrated to be fact should not be taught as fact.
• Theories in science should not be protected. They must always be open to critical evaluation.
• All ideas in science should be open to competition with alternative ideas.
• Science, properly defined, is a method of studying the natural order, not a belief system about it.
b. It is poor teaching methodology to stifle criticism or competition of ideas.
c. Dogmatic, protective, exclusive teaching of evolution denies to Christians and other religious students their constitutionally guaranteed right to the free exercise of their faith.
HOW ORIGINS INTERPRETATIONS SHOULD BE TAUGHT
1. The observable, reproducible scientific data should be clearly distinguished from theories, interpretations and...
(The entire section is 1104 words.)
Creationism Should Not be Included in Science Curricula
Leon Lynn: How likely is it that a science teacher in this country will encounter creationism, or feel pressure for teaching evolution?
Eugenie Scott: At some time or another in their career, very likely. It varies based on where they work, of course. Usually, teachers in big cities will fare better than teachers in small towns and suburbs. But it’s a common thing, and it seems to be getting more common.
There are two sides to this. One is the effort by creationists to teach some kind of religiously based idea as part of the science curriculum. That’s usually pretty blatant. But there’s another side, which can be a lot harder to see.Teachers get the message, sometimes overtly, sometimes more subtly, that evolution has become a controversial subject in their community and they’ll just quietly stop teaching it, and evolution will sink out of the curriculum.
FLAWS OF THE “EQUAL-TIME”ARGUMENT
How do you respond when someone suggests that the fair thing to do is teach children about both evolution and creationism, and let them decide what to believe?
At its heart, the “equal-time” argument is substantially flawed. People who advocate it are basically saying we should teach that evolutionary theory—the idea that the universe changed through time, that the present is different from past— is equal in weight to the idea that the whole universe came into being at one time and hasn’t...
(The entire section is 1026 words.)