Is there anything wrong with lying, cheating, stealing, shop-lifting, taking drugs, premarital sex, insulting your parents, pornography, irresponsibility, or getting pregnant in junior high school? Not according to the values taught to children in many public schools today.
From the earliest times in America, teachers have believed that schools should teach moral values. What good is a child who knows when Columbus discovered America but can't tell right from wrong? The most popular reading instruction books in the nineteenth century were the "McGuffy Readers," which taught children to read through stories of increasing complexity.
Each story also taught children a moral lesson about values such as honesty, hard work, integrity, perseverance, compassion, obedience to parents, respect for others' rights, and indi-vidual responsibility. Up to the 1930s, most schools in America reinforced the Judeo-Christian values most parents taught their children at home.
Today, many school authorities seem to have contempt for religion and traditional moral values. They force children to endure years of "values clarification" classes, which teach children that all moral values are subjective and meaningless. Many teacher-facilitators, as some now prefer to call themselves, teach kids that whatever feels good at the moment or whatever the group considers acceptable is a "good" value.
Most parents, when asked in surveys, say they want schools to teach their children such traditional Western values as honesty, hard work, integrity, justice, self control, responsibility, respect for parents, and fidelity in marriage. Unfortunately, those values are not what most public schools teach.
Values-clarification programs often pretend to teach children real values to pacify parents, but textbooks used in values-clarification classes often censor or distort traditional family and religious values.
Dr. Paul Vitz did a study on these textbooks, funded by the National Institute of Education.Vitz discovered that traditional family and Judeo-Christian values had been eliminated from children's textbooks. He studied forty social studies textbooks used by first to fourth-grade public-school students and found no mention of the words "marriage," "wedding," "husband," or "wife." These textbooks commonly defined a "family" simply as a group of people.
Values clarification (sometimes now called "character education" or other names, depending on the public school)differs radically from traditional moral codes because it claims that children do not need established values to make moral choices. Values clarification teachers don't care which values children choose because in their view all values are subjective. The right value, they assert, depends on the situation and the individual -- a value is good if it "works" for a particular child at a particular time.
To many values clarification teacher-facilitators, cheating, lying, stealing, or having casual sex with other students are not bad acts in themselves. Such actions are just unfortunate choices that students make, depending on circumstances and personality traits, out of many alternative moral choices. Abiding by the Ten Commandments is merely one such option.
Values clarification classes deliberately teach children to be nonjudgmental about moral values. Values-clarification debates often turn into "bull" sessions where each student gives their opinion about a moral issue but conclusions are never reached. In these classes, the teacher-facilitator often acts like a talk-show host who gets the students to debate such topics as the merits or bad consequences of stealing, lying, pre-marital sex, or taking drugs.
In sex-education classes, sexual behavior is often described in purely mechanical terms and sexual choices are presented as morally neutral options or simply personal preferences each student has to decide for themselves. Similarly, in many drug-education programs the same non-judgemental attitude often prevails -- students are encouraged to talk about the good and bad consequences of taking drugs without reaching a clear moral conclusion.
Many public schools teach children that only self gratification and their feelings of the moment matter, that there are no moral absolutes. Admittedly, some parents are to blame for not teaching their children good ethical values, but values clarification programs are an assault on the time-tested values most parents teach their children.
Since ancient times, all societies have known that certain acts are inherently wrong and immoral. This knowledge became embedded in a cultural or religious moral code, which recognized that human beings must respect each other's person and property. Judaism and Christianity, for example, teach that lying, stealing, or murdering another human being is wrong, not only because they're prohibited by the Ten Commandments, but because they are inherently unjust to other human beings.
With rare exceptions, such as killing in self-defense, the morality of these basic values seldom depends on the situation or the individual. All of us are born with the same rights to life, liberty, and property. Respect for each other's rights and person simply reflects this fact of life.
Because values clarification programs teach children that all values are subjective, they destroy real values and corrupt children at the deepest level. If all values are subjective, there is no moral difference between mercy and murder, honesty and theft, sexual consent and rape, loyalty and treachery, or fidelity and adultery.
In a world where anything goes, children are turned into amoral creatures who will do anything to satisfy their momentary desires. Yet these are the insidious moral anti-values that many public schools now promote with values-clarification classes.
Joel Turtel is an education policy analyst, and author of "Public Schools, Public Menace: How Public Schools Lie To Parents and Betray Our Children."
Article Copyrighted © 2005 by Joel Turtel
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