Sunday, April 8, 2012

teaching morality

Jessica brought it up in her Facebook comment. She expresses a concern about the swing to teaching morality. I Googled it, which is what you do nowadays to find out how pervasive it is. It is . . . pervasive. 

It seems to be intertwined with the building blocks, which she was worried about were getting short shrift. And I can see the concern there. If a teacher is more focused on "the moral" of this story in history or literature, will the young people learn the history or literature? I'd like to make one observation on this before I dive straight into "teaching morality." One of the dangers of teaching to the moral is that children soon learn that the moral is the "lesson" and once they can regurgitate it, they have learned the lesson. They are not interested in discovering what lessons can be learned. Even if the teacher tries to draw it out of them, they will pounce on the thing that will win them the grade and their minds will not meditate on it and learn gradually and cumulatively. 

My best example against such "moral" teaching is Jesus. He did not tell the crowd what the parable meant. If He had, they would have "understood" it, filed it and walked away. His parables are for mulling over, learning from, seeing from all angles and allowing the Holy Spirit to have His way in us.

A secondary concern about teachers teaching morality into their lessons is whose morality are they teaching? They are obviously teaching their own, stemming from their own world view. Who determines which teachers and which world views are moral and whose are not?

Now, to the issue of teaching morality. Yes, there are curricula designed to do it, lesson plans and a huge agenda to focus on it. I believe it simply cannot be done.

We cannot teach morality. Morality is part of our belief and value system which spring from our worldview. Teachers do not touch worldview unless they have earned a deep right and built a strong relationship. That does not happen in our culture in the classroom. If we think we can teach morality, we fool ourselves. 

We can try to legislate morality but we cannot make moral people. We can enforce certain behavior. But behavior is only the veneer. The morality runs deep and behavior can be modified without affecting the world view. Janice, in her comment, explains what teaching morality appears to be: anti-bullying, anti-cheating, anti-racism. That clarifies a lot.

Yes, those things come out of a world view. The parents should be the ones teaching their children the cruelty of bullying, the self-defeat of cheating, the darwinian delusion of racism. But they are not. At least the young folk going to school do not all share a world view which eliminates those things. And do they define what is moral?

The educational system sees a huge gap in desired and actual behavior. Perhaps they reason that integrating morality into lessons will change the behavior of their students. But they will never change the world view--and until that changes, kids will bully, cheat and discriminate by color. What the educators are hoping for is a heart change with head knowledge. 

I wonder what their world view is. Since when have people shifted a world view without involving their heart felt values at a deep level? Or is this an attempt based on the assumption that we are evolving and Skinner's behaviorism along with survival of the nicest and a little natural selection will turn the young people of today into nice moral adults?


Honestly, Karen, I have too much to say about this subject--that is, the teaching of morality. One thing I cannot discuss is the public school system, since I haven't been a part of it since I was in school. 

American society has changed in the last 50 years. Working mothers spend less time with their school-aged children, and school has become another parent. There really is a need for some type of civilization in this Lord of the Flies environment. Unfortunately, as you said, teaching morality doesn't work.

It's kind of like patching a car engine with duct tape; a few miles along, and you're going to smell something bad. 


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