"It is a brave teacher who broaches the topic of values while standing in front of 30 restless students. That teacher is venturing where others in our society increasingly fear or fail to tread." Keith Geiger, President of the National Education Association, wrote that recently. And character education is an issue I've been thinking about for quite some time.
Nebraska parents and teachers know the consequences of neglecting to teach values. We see the acts of disrespect, dishonesty and sometimes even aggression. We know that children are born "value free" and that if we don't teach them values, if we don't provide moral instruction, they will learn their values from television and the street. That is not what we want. We must be mindful of the allure of drugs, violence and sexual experimentation. We must work together to instill the time-honored values of a civilized and ethical society.
Last year, a Gallup poll determined that 84 percent of parents with school-age children want public schools to provide "instruction that would deal with morals and moral behavior." Clearly, parents want public schools to reassert their traditional role as character-building institutions.
Frankly, school employees have never really stopped teaching values. Each time a teacher disciplines a student for tardiness or cheating, values are taught. When students are taught to treat one another with respect and compassion, values are taught. Indeed, nearly everything adults do in schools communicates a values message of some kind.
Critics question whose values are taught. They fear character education may be influenced with far-right or far-left agendas.
But character education is not about left or right. It is about right and wrong. It means teaching core values D honesty, respect, self-discipline, tolerance and more. These values are essential to good citizenship and are the values that bind us together as a people. These are shared ideals.
Parents and teachers must continue to embrace the agenda of instilling values. Clearly, the parents' role in teaching their children good values is paramount. Teachers reinforce those values in the classroom. Where a values vacuum exists, teachers and, in fact, the entire community, must not be casual or apologetic about confronting and working to fill that vacuum. Teaching values will serve our children well for years to come.
Reprinted with the permission of the Nebraska State Education Association.
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