EDU 6989 Session 2 Reflection: Character, Moral, and Religious Education
One focus of this week’s session was the topic of character, moral, and religious education, and specifically whether or not it should be part of the school curriculum. Several decades ago, this issue was not even on the table. However, with the rising decline in solid family structures, concerns have risen regarding whether or not schools should step up and teach certain values to students. Crime, domestic violence, and high-risk behaviors by or against youth have increased over the past several years, and has become imperative that somebody steps up to address the issue. As Thomas Lickona (spelled Likona in Critical Issues) and others stated in 2003 in their argument for character education in schools, character education is important to instilling good character values such as caring, honesty, fairness, responsibility, and respect, among others. The arguments that Lickona makes for good character education programs in schools include: giving students the opportunity for moral action, creates a caring school community, includes a curriculum that helps all learners succeed, and fosters students’ self-motivation. My thoughts on the issue are that schools should be modeling character traits and values. I do believe that the home and family is where the majority of teaching character development should be occurring. Schools should not have to teach things like good manners, honesty, integrity, and respect. That should come from the home, and schools should model these virtues in lessons and activities. Additionally, I believe that schools should teach virtues such as diligence, perseverance, and resilience. When children come to school with values such as respect and honesty already instilled in their character, teachers are better able to teach and model virtues such as tolerance, cooperation, and compassion.
During class this session, the topic of moral behaviors in teachers was addressed. More specifically, the question of how can teachers help and guide students while still instilling good and whole moral values and beliefs amongst their students. Teachers may find ease in teaching and modeling basic character values, but what happens when they are faced with a moral dilemma? When I was teaching 4th grade in 2010, I was also coaching the middle school girls’ soccer team. One day, during my planning period, I had one of those players approach me in my classroom and confide in me that she thought that she was gay, and that she was having conflicting emotions about it. She sought out my advice, guidance, and support. However, my first thoughts after helping her navigate a difficult realization, was to protect myself. I was sure to think carefully about my comments, suggestions, and questions with her, because I did not want something I said to be construed in the wrong way or be used against me. I also struggled with knowing whether I should tell a colleague, when the student had come to me in discretion. This student could have gone to any other staff member, and by her coming to me, she was seeking a certain response and reaction from me; she wanted and needed my support. I gave this to her, because my moral and religious values allowed me to not judge or shame her for her sexuality. However, what would have happened had she gone to another teacher with less accepting moral and religious values? In the end, the character values that were most important in these interactions were trust, honesty, caring, and respect.