Teaching values and morals in our schools can also be called “character education”. This is much debated on one hand and then much needed on the other. Education is generally focused on three things: knowledge, skills, and character.
Knowledge naturally covers the learning that is actually assimilated and usable in the future. It is also general knowledge that creates a well rounded mind and ultimately a well rounded person. This knowledge base allows students to experience a wide variety of subjects and therein find their particular interest and specialty. This is probably why in continuing education they require two years minimum of “general education”.
Skills refers to what the student can do or perform with the knowledge they have been given. It isn’t good enough to just give the information back on tests, students should come out with skills that they can use in the work place.
Character refers to the type of people that the school produces. If we do not teach character building values and morals in the schools we could be missing a great chance to better society. The debate comes in when parents believe that there is not place for anything but scholastic knowledge in the public schools.
Teachers and administrators will most likely argue the point that values and morals such as honesty and integrity are always okay and that there are no religious conflicts with such teachings. It isn’t that they are “God based” or “Christian” values and morals but that we need more upstanding and honest men and women in the world who are willing to do the right thing and stand up for what they know to be right.
Another attribute of character education is fostering pro-social traits. For example, an elementary school student may mistreat another student and the teacher may have to give a lesson on empathy and/or sympathy. These traits ultimately benefit the individuals, our families and then a society as a whole.
Character education can be taught in a wide variety of ways but it usually is not a specific topic in the curriculum. Rather it is a whole school focus that intertwines with scholastic education. That you are kind, you do take care of your neighbors, you treat the world and all those in it with the respect you want shown to you. Schools can do specific things such as focus on good role models and employ good role models, talk about heroes worth of being called heroes and what a hero really is, and then there needs to be reinforcement to see the kudos for what has been accomplished or shown. All students (young and old alike) like to see the fruits of their efforts.
Other things that can be brought about are critical thinking and problem solving skills, how they apply to the world and how to solve social problems. Helping students see as many sides to a situation as possible is a great thing and helps them in years to come with all of the interpersonal relationships. Students can also be taught how to break a situation down to make the best of a bad situation. For example, you can present a problem that there is no ideal answer to (like the welfare issues in the government). It can be taught that while there is no ideal answer other than to not have that issue you can choose from the options that you have wisely and try to foresee the pros and cons of each answer.