Moral Education: Is it for children?

Teaching Morality in the Classroom
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iStock 000012241086XSmall 150x150 Moral Education: Is it for children?I hope you’re not one of the many people whose eyes start to glaze over when we begin to talk about the place of moral education in our schools. “Shouldn’t that be left to religion?” is a frequently heard comment. But the most common is, “Aren’t they a bit young to start thinking about stuff like that?”


Well, to answer both questions, no.

First of all, morality in its most basic sense is a universal human truth and not a religious belief. Every culture known to man has always agreed upon fundamental moral principles. For example, there is no known culture which has condoned harming others without good reasons. While we do argue about what constitutes good reasons, the basic rule still applies.


To illustrate this point, consider the difference between how you would react to someone who says one plus one is three or to someone who would say that it’s perfectly appropriate to harm another person for fun. To the first you would say, “You’re wrong; one plus one is two.” However, the second you would not call wrong, rather you would say, “You’re sick”. The first we would call ignorant, the second a psychopath.


Why the difference? Why would we not simply assume that the second person simply was home sick with the flu the day they taught the Golden Rule? The answer lies in the fact that we consider fundamental moral behavior to be so basic to human nature that it would be simply impossible for anyone of sound mind to be ignorant of the rule.


There are, therefore, those who would argue that these principles do not even have to be taught! Whether they have been divinely instilled or are part of a psychological/moral evolutionary process is an argument I will leave to others. What does seem to be clear is that they are written into our DNA. Children (and many adults, for that matter) may have to be reminded to adhere to expected behaviors, but you will never find a child who will counter by saying, “Could you explain that Golden Rule stuff again, I don’t understand it.”


The greater question, which we will deal with in a future posting, is what then is the role of the school? Should schools ignore teaching what seems to be so obvious and dedicate their efforts to strictly academic pursuits, or is there a place in public education for moral guidance? I would argue that as those dedicated to shaping the lives of our future citizens, teachers cannot ignore this crucially important aspect of their students’ development. How they should address this issue is a subject for further discussion.



5 Responses to Moral Education: Is it for children?

  1. Aruna says:

    Most of the children at primary level know to distinguish between right and wrong. The question is, do they practice what they know in real life situations? The answer is an emphatic ‘no’. Most schools don’t teach moral education as they believe it is integrated in Religious education.

    I remember, when I was in school, the nuns not only instilled the fear of God in mind but also taught us the serious repercussions one might face in committing a sin. Whatever has been sowed in my mind, still remains and I would like to share those benefits with my students.

    I once again emphasize, Moral education is a must in all schools in order to reap what we have sowed.

  2. Marshall R says:

    Teaching morals is the job of parents…will teachers have to get the kids potty-trained as well?! So next we will grade the teachers on ‘potty behavior results” and “moral behavior”?! What planet are you from?

  3. Renee says:

    I agree that moral education should be taught in schools. A lot of kids do not attend a church. Many of them have good moral education at home, but others do not. Television shows glorify poor life choices and throws money at those who make them. What is a kid supposed to believe? There needs to be a discussion in the classroom about that stuff, and it should begin in Kindergarten. Every year brings new challenges to kids’ lives, and new perspectives; their moral education should grow with them. We need to bring back manners and basic decency.

    • Karmi says:

      Agreed! Many children are not getting guidance at home and are being influenced by outside technologies. In addition, children spend many hours in school so teachers and school administrators have a responsibility to take advantage of the opportunities to educate children as they present themselves.

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