August 12, 2008

Ethics and Morality

The Teaching of Moral Values

Brian Orchard

As moral standards in society have come under attack, there has been a predictable two-pronged reaction. First, those who believe that morality has no fixed basis of validity rejoice as barriers and social taboos are broken down. Second, those who believe that society without clear moral underpinnings will disintegrate are alarmed by discernable trends in this direction. One group sees “progress” while the other sees society in a downhill slide. 

There is also an accompanying dual reaction. The progressives tend to support the dominant role of our schools in influencing morality, while those more inclined to hold on to traditional values see the family as the vehicle of choice for the transmission of moral standards. The trend over the past half century has definitely favored the progressives. The school system has not only changed with the times in regard to the teaching of morality, but has openly advocated a more moral relativistic approach to students. Most of us are familiar with issues such as feminism, homosexuality and behavioral diversity becoming part of curriculums. Regardless of one’s personal stand on these issues, it must be admitted they do represent a departure from previously held societal values. And the transmission of these new values by a source outside of the home also represents a departure from the previous norm. Now, however a new situation is drawing attention. 

Voice, a union for education professionals in the United Kingdom, is decrying the absence of parental training in the children they are called upon to teach. They say that children are no longer learning moral values at home, and that the lack of discipline is making the classroom an unruly place where teaching anything is becoming more difficult. 

General secretary Philip Parkin told delegates at a recent conference, “I’m making no judgment on this, but the focus on the primacy of the individual, rather than community; the changing pattern of family structures; the shortening of the length of many relationships; the creation of many more step families; the emphasis on parents going out to work and the consequent perception of the reduced value and worth of the full-time parent have all changed the way we behave.”  

Are we now in a time when those children who have been reared in the moral relativity of the educational system are now producing offspring who are taking moral relativity to new levels? Are we seeing cause and effect? It cannot be denied that moral values are not being taught in many homes as they used to be, but is this not the result of previous conditioning? Maybe it is time to rethink who has the primary responsibility to teach moral values.