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Published in Print: December 1, 2006, as Alternative Methods

Best Practices

Alternative Methods—High School

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English teacher
St. Edward High School
Lakewood, Ohio

It takes a village to raise a child—or, in our Catholic high school, it takes a community. St. Edward High practices a holistic approach to instruction, educating the minds and hearts of students. We also recognize that teachers educate in partnership with parents.

Moral development need not be limited to religion class or character education initiatives. Inevitably, my English classes’ reading traverses controversial themes. “Family homework” is an attempt to explore such topics thoughtfully while involving families in the content and moral reasoning involved. Among the objectives are educating students on current issues and inviting them to wrestle with moral dilemmas—something researchers consider beneficial to development—with their parents’ help.

For example, when reading H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, students extend the theme of man’s interference with nature’s designs. Typical family homework activities begin with background on an issue—in this case, stem cell research, cloning, or the medical use of human-animal chimeras. The position of the Catholic Church, if there is one, is included with the factual presentation. Students are then asked to evaluate a moral dilemma, such as: Do the potential benefits of embryonic stem cell research outweigh the human cost?

Following the background lessons, a handout covering the overarching issue, along with questions for family discussions, is assigned. The homework is complete when an adult’s signature indicates that the discussion has taken place.

On the due date, students are invited, not required, to volunteer their own or their families’ opinions in class discussion. I am careful not to tell them what to think. I believe students must think critically to independently reach conclusions that are nonetheless informed by their families and faith communities.

Vol. 18, Issue 03, Page 41

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