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The Golden Rule Revisited
Has it been over 2000 years already? Time seems to fly by when you’re having so much fun. Of course, I’m talking about all those philosophical discussions that have taken place trying to figure out the secret to raising the moral child. Many of us feel it is of utmost importance for schools to be involved in this worthwhile pursuit; the question is in what capacity?
At times it has been argued that since moral values differed significantly from culture to culture it was off limits to even have such discussions regarding public school education. However, as discussed in my last post, this is not the case. In fact, there is a rather strong sense of agreement as to fundamental moral values, placing both the obligation and opportunity to enter the arena of moral education squarely on the shoulders of all educators.
So where do we begin? What is it we should be teaching? Do we need to teach our children what the fundamental rules are? Do we really need to design curriculum which teaches that it is wrong to hurt others without good reason? Do we have to spend time convincing students that they should not speak badly of others, not lie, not cheat? I think not.
Some may argue that we need no more than the Golden Rule. No, not the one that says that the one with the gold makes the rules, but the one that teaches that one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. Or, more cogently, in its negative form: One should not treat others in a fashion they do not wish to be treated. It’s so simple, so logical; who could argue? If you don’t want something done to you, why in the world would you think it’s OK to do it to others? However, if it’s all so simple and obvious, why do we find human behavior so frequently non-moral? What goes wrong and how can schools help?
Although it is obvious that one should never harm another unless one has good reasons, it is not at all obvious what constitutes good reasons. This is where moral behavior meets its greatest challenge. Morality suffers not on the level of its rules, but rather on the level of their implementation. One of the most important lessons, therefore, for schools to teach is how to implement the rules of moral behavior. But it seems so daunting a task. What truly constitutes good reasons? How or who decides? Can it be taught?
In my opinion, there are three areas on which moral education should focus. I will list them here and discuss them in my next posting.
1. Think before you act
2. Think the right way
3. Think the right things
As we will see, this is not as complicated as it sounds. Stay tuned.