Schools Must Teach Values, Says A.S.C.D.

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Schools have an obligation to impart to students such values as self-discipline, tolerance, and justice, a policy panel of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development says in a forthcoming report.

One of "the causes for the current problems of youth is the inability of the culture to pass on its values," the panel's chairman, Kevin Ryan, said in an interview last week.

"Schools clearly have a mandate to promote the values of the community," he added. "Not to do that would be a grave disservice both to the culture and to the individuals."

"We have spent a great deal of time, appropriately so, on what students ought to know," he continued. "What they ought to be should be given greater attention."

Mr. Ryan, a professor of education at Boston University, was scheduled to present preliminary findings from the report last week in Boston at the4annual convention of the ascd, a 97,000-member group of school-curriculum specialists. It will be released in final form next month.

The report, he said, recommends that schools work with communities to determine what values ought to be stressed. Once that is determined, it says, schools should develop them by maintaining discipline, encouraging community service, and drawing out the moral lessons in history and literature.

Some educators fear that teaching moral values is tantamount to indoctrination, Mr. Ryan acknowledged.

"Indoctrination is a problem to the degree it is done irrationally,'' he said.

"If values are foisted on kids irrationally," he continued, "it limits their own understanding, particularly when it is done by a school without close cooperation with parents."

The new paper--which follows an ascd report last year urging schools to "end the current curricu8lar silence on religion"--appears likely to fuel the continuing debate over the proper place and content of moral instruction in public schools.

'Moral Models'

At a meeting last fall sponsored by the U.S. Education Department's research branch, for example, participants generally agreed on the need for such instruction, while differing on specific approaches. (See Education Week, Sept. 30, 1987.)

According to Mr. Ryan, schools have shied away from teaching values, because they felt they had "no mandate to teach morality, particularly in a pluralistic society."

In fact, he argued, "pluralism makes it imperative for schools to be the place to support the moral values that make a pluralistic society."

Schools can promote these values, he said, if teachers act as "moral models."

For example, he said, teachers need to maintain discipline, not only toel10lkeep the classroom atmosphere civil, but also to instill in students a sense of self-control.

"Many teachers have had a sense that this was not part of their work," Mr. Ryan said. "They had the sense that it was illiberal to do so, that it represented the 'cold hand of orthodoxy,' or that it shouldn't be part of their responsibility."

Parents 'Dealt Out'

At the same time, Mr. Ryan said, teachers should conduct their classrooms in ways that encourage desirable behavior in students.

Citing research on moral development by the late Lawrence Kohlberg, he said students should be more involved in making and administering rules in the classroom.

"They should be learning how to acquire skills for active participation in society by learning how to be just and fair in their class work," Mr. Ryan said.

Rules for behavior should also apply outside the classroom, he added.

"Is the playground teaching a bullying, intimidating message, while inside class another message is going out?" he asked.

In addition to providing moral leadership, teachers should encourage students to participate in community service, he said, and should use history and literature curricula to develop students' moral values.

"Teachers have spent an awful lot of time on the factual, or on elaborate interpretations," he said. "But they have not been engaging kids in the moral messages history and literature present to us."

Regardless of the methods schools use to promote values, they must develop such strategies in conjunction with parents, he emphasized.

"Parents feel dealt out when the school is moving too quickly," Mr. Ryan said. "As schools move into this area, they should work with the community and give them a voice to see what values they would like to see stressed."

In addition, he suggested, teachers could bring parents together to talk about issues such as curfews, alcohol restrictions, and rules on television viewing.

Vol. 07, Issue 25

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