Foundational Values in Education

Stephen M. Clinton

Address to the Leadership Forum

International Leadership Council, November 29, 1990


I. The Struggle for Education

Education of the youth of a nation is the concern of every person who has any interest in the future of the nation, and is the responsibility of the parents and other adults in the nation. How are Americans doing in preparing a generation of children for the 21st century?

The drop out rate among the 27 million public school students is 28% nationally and over 35% in the inner cities. Another 20% do manage to graduate but are functionally illiterate. An additional 10% of all students aged 5-17 (about 3 million) are being educated in private schools. Thus, only 42% of school age children are brought to the level of functional literacy by the public schools during 12 years of education. The top 25% of U.S. school children are receiving a fine education. But inner city schools often resemble a gang dominated war zone, and drugs are available in or near every public school and most private schools every day.

However, the public education system in the U.S. is charged with building the best educational system in the world in order to compete with Japan and Germany. Bush said he wanted to be the education president. Now we have Goals 2000. More money is spent in the U.S. on schooling than in any country in the world. We have more than one million teachers and 1.5 million support personnel in the public schools alone.

In addition to its educational mandate, the public schools have been charged with a variety of social responsibilities. Many of these are now legal responsibilities, beginning with the desegregation decision in 1954. We now spend almost as much money to feed and clothe poor students, meet mental and physical handicapped needs, and provide personal and family counseling as we spend on direct education.

The control of all this money and personnel is also a problem. Who is in charge of education? The parents, who both the U.S. law and the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights say should be in control of the children's education? The local school boards, who in most areas are legally in charge? The state, who is usually in de facto control via regulation and finances? Or does the real control come from the special interest groups who have designs on public and private education: teachers unions, textbook publishers, and professional associations.

In the midst of this turmoil and enormous flow of money we still need to ask the basic question: is all this effort resulting in a superior or even high quality education? In many schools the answer would be, yes we are providing a good education, if the student wants to work and learn. Overall the judgment is more negative. In a 1989 televised round-table on international development with representatives from over twenty countries the question was put, "Where is the U.S. in terms of public education and where will it be in ten years?" The consensus from international leaders was that the U.S. is number three now (behind Germany and Japan) and will be further down the international scale by the year 2000. These top pragmatic leaders do not believe we will overcome our problems.

Two years ago (1988) I had the privilege to meet with the director of education for the Chinese city of Guangzhou (Canton). He is responsible for educating 1 million children and young adults. They go to school eight hours a day, six days a week, eleven months a year. Beginning in 1987, English has been required of all students from fourth grade up. This means that the Chinese students in their large cities are spending twice as much time in school as American students. The Japanese students have almost the same requirements except for English. The system we now have will not even hold us in third place.

In addition, the curriculum committees of three states, New York, Texas and California, are the agencies to which almost all textbook publishers respond in setting the direction and content of the books they publish, since these states generate about 40% of all sales. In a thorough study of contemporary textbooks Paul Vitz (1986) has discovered that such books portray mothers and fathers with children but never describe these parents as "married." None of the examples of budgeting allow any money for giving to charity, although vacations and entertainment are always included. The philosophies which dominate the state curriculum and textbook committees will show up in the textbooks.

American public education has neglected teaching character or moral education since the 1950's (Bloom, 1987). Even before then, what was taught about character and morals was usually not part of the prescribed curriculum, rather it was what each teacher brought to the classroom. We are seeing moral decline and a crisis of moral literacy in the United States something like what Gorbachev has recognized in the Soviet Union. In November of 1989 Gorbachev remarked to the Pope, "What we need in the Soviet Union is a moral basis, which can only be laid through a religious foundation" (TIME, December 4, 1989). In the United States we are trying to build a moral base apart from specific religious commitments (Whitehead, 1987).

At the heart of these crises in education are questions about basic values (Tyler, 1949; Dewey, 1958; Kneller, 1964). Which philosophies will dominate the classrooms, textbooks and teacher training: skeptical atheism, secular humanism, new age ideas, Judeo-Christian thinking, materialism? These value issues are fought at the level of local school boards and in state legislatures. They are being fought right now (cf. Glazer, 1987).

Is a turn to private education the best solution? Some private schools are doing a fine job. They are to be applauded. But most private schools are not doing a good job either intellectually or socially in preparing our children to face the obstacles and possibilities of the next 80 years. Sometimes they teach no more than rote learning. They are not preparing a generation of students who will be ready to face the economic, political, and technological demands of the 21st century. Our private schools sometimes condemn our children to lower middle class status and influence.

I have talked to over a hundred parents in two states who have taken their children out of private schools and put them in public education because of concerns about the quality of the private schools.

The parents are responsible for the education of children. Consciously or unconsciously, they will usually delegate each of these to different elements of their community to accomplish: the school (public or private), the church, youth groups, community activities. No single element will accomplish all the objectives so the parents need to balance the experiences their children receive. Depending on the local circumstances, parents are turning to private schools to escape the public schools or turning to public schools to escape the mediocrity of the private schools. One parent has pulled his children out of the public schools and put them in private schools; but he is running for the board of education for the public schools. If he is elected he has said he will put his children back in the public schools. He thinks one person can make a difference.

Even if the goals of education were worked out and agreed upon, there would still be a problem. If a student can sit through 12 years of school and still not learn to read or calculate well, it seems clear that the same student could listen to lectures on ethics, morality or spiritual matters and not respond to the call to be moral or spiritual. Some programs attempt to teach ethics directly to the students and do see limited success in changing student opinion (Penn, 1990). We can expose students in the classroom to moral thinking, but we cannot enforce learning, much less behavior (Hirst, 1974). This is symptomatic of the problem of authority at all levels. Maritain (1971) argues that human reason and governmental law are powerless to enforce their conclusions, except through intimidation, which would defeat the moral purpose. He thinks the modern world, including churches, has met with a complete failure in moral education (p. 466) and the school must work with the family and the church to remedy the situation.

This is not a task just for education professionals, for the outcome will effect the fate of our nation and our children's future. At present it is hard to imagine a task force composed of professional educators, parents and civic leaders coming together to make a difference. It could happen, but it is unlikely.

All authority, including education, needs some way to elicit a positive response from the people, without force. In the U.S. we call this the problem of the consent of the governed. Each idea, each regulation, each law must meet the people and be tested. If enough people believe the law is wrong then either through the Supreme Court or through the elected legislature the law can be changed. The education of the people and their willing consent to live by the law is necessary for the system to work. Here in America this is the law we have to live with and which creates the opportunity for us to do good to all men and women (Galatians 6:10).

One basis for attempting a resolution is found in natural law theory. The theory of natural law holds that the principles of the natural order, the laws which govern life on earth and the principles which are in each person are similar laws and that this universal natural law provides the only basis for linking human reason, social order and individual responsibility (Kaiser, 1990). The challenge of implementation of authority rests on the basis of acceptance and willing adherence by the people. In education this means the training of children to know and to freely embrace the moral purposes of the educational system and of the moral ends taught by the system. But moral training is in disarray. We often have no more to offer than the example of parents and teachers who are modeling the life we wish our children to emulate. This example is not bad, it is great, but it is not enough.

Is this kind of positive moral education, inlcuding developing moral virtues in actions, being adhered to by the vast majority of the 12th grade graduates of public schools? No. The basis for teaching moral education, the content of that education and the means of gaining the adherence of the students all still needs to be worked out.

Are private schools turning out students who have substantially higher ethical practices than students in public schools? No. In a survey of 10,000 adults and children Beal (1988) found that Christian teenagers articulate ethics better than non-Christian teens, but that their moral (and immoral) behavior almost exactly parallels the behavior of the non-Christians.

In this paper I shall explore the foundational values in public and private education. If positive foundational values for education are agreed upon and a means to work them into the curriculum theory, then there will be a basis for revising curriculum and instructional practices to formulate a better education for all children.

II. Methods of Value Assessment

How can we judge which value(s) ought to be the foundational value(s) for an entire system of morality and of education? How can we know which principles are applicable to all schools, public or private? In other words, what are the foundational values and what are the criteria for assessing this value choice? For the sake of simplicity, I will reduce the multitude of options to seven.

In most ethical decision-making one person judges from one bias against another bias. That is, I begin by assuming the correctness of my own thinking and evaluate all contenders using the standard of what seems right to me. This biased approach usually is simply a naive assumption. But philosophers have refined this approach in technical ethical studies and sociologists use the same approach in social theory. It is referred to as personally warranted belief or utilitarian egoism.

In social relations this often results in the question "whose pressure or arguments do you agree with?" It does not often result in a unitary framework for teaching to children, since agreement is rarely reached on a very widespread basis.

A special case of this fragmentation is deconstructionism via Derrida, Foucalt, and Rorty (1982). In deconstructionism no bias is taken except to be critical of all biases, believing there is no foundational value or truth possible. This critical approach often is useful to show weak points in arguments, but it is no help in building a positive case.

What is needed is a point of objectivity and there have been many claimants to have found such a point. Some people think the best alternative is relativistic pragmatism. This is where many contemporary philosophers are, although only a few are consistently ready to say there is no right or wrong. Most who claim to be relativists still wish to avoid harm or pain and wish to live under a system of law. Thus, they are cultural or social relativists. Of course the exact ethical base may change from person to person or society to society in this approach (Gutmann, 1986 - State of Families)

Other people think there is something more absolute on which to base ethics but still use social or legal bases for their determinations. This could result in a cultural or national regulation which says "this is right in this time and place, although it may change tomorrow or elsewhere." Most countries of the world have a national educational curriculum and a central educational authority. This may be the best which can be had under the laws of the United States.

A variation on cultural regulation is to think that the regulations are based on some absolute, whether that absolute is thought to be simply a matter of fact, a metaphysical truth, or a spiritual truth. This is where many people appreciate Kohlberg, for he thinks there are ethical absolutes with which people with sixth stage moral thinking have come into contact.

This position raises once again the question of "how do you know which is the real absolute?" Kohlberg uses the factual approach of looking at the common ethical assertions of the best respected people of history: Socrates, Jesus, Buddha, Gandi, etc. But this just raises the questions of why choose these people, and why use a "great minds" type of consensus. Kohlberg offers little to defend his choices.

However, Power and Kohlberg (1986) suggest that schools must do more than transmit values. They must become just communities which demonstrate via the hidden curriculum that moral standards exist and must be followed. This takes the discussion beyond the question of which values should be taught to actually expecting positive moral behavior from the students and teachers.

Another approach within the absolutist group is to see if social consensus is possible. Is there some set of truths or ethical thoughts by which all people would be willing to live? This approach is found in some of the great religions of the world and in the United States and United Nations documents. But this is hard to apply to local settings and, because of its wide spread social foundation, is usually inappropriate to develop much depth.

Finally, there are many people who believe that there are ethical absolutes and that we can know these absolutes and hence derive a workable system of ethics, whether we come to know them through divine revelation or by natural law. They think that some agreeable base can be developed which is compatible with U.S. law.

The great questions for each system of thought, excluding the deconstructionists who offer no system, are:

1. can you offer a description of your ethical system which seems to make sense and to fit our intuitive choices;

2. can you articulate a theory of axiology which gives the foundation for the ethical system, and

3. can you give criteria which will result in justification or warrant for your system?

The criteria given will vary in keeping with the nature of the system offered, which in turn depend on philosophical values or axiology. In this way, the method of value assessment depends on the choice of world view or philosophy.

III. Matrix of Values Sources

From William Bennett (1988) and Ed Wynne (1986, 1988) to Michael Apple (1981) and Henry Giroux (1988), educational theorists seem to agree that moral values are needed; they disagree as to which ones to teach and how to teach them. Dewey (1932) and Tyler (1949) both said that a curriculum is dependent on a philosophy of education and that a philosophy of education is based on value choices concerning the nature of mankind, the purpose of mankind on earth, and the inter-relation of person to person (social interaction). The NSSE yearbook on Philosophy and Education in 1981 edited by Jonas Soltis did not disagree or indicate a change. Holmes (1988) argues that students "should be prepared to define and defend the fundamental values of our Western inheritance."

The topography of this set of value choices is shown on the following graph, using the term "regulation" to reflect any authoritarian claimant and the term "reason" to be a place holder for both social and personal relativism.


regulation                 reason

public 1. law 2. philosophies

private 3. creed 4. individual


In the public sphere values are set by a combination of legal requirements and the personal philosophies of the framers of the educational system. In private education the values are set by the creed or doctrinal statement of the school, if any, and the philosophy of the headmaster and board of the school. It is in these spheres of influence that the choice of values will take place.

This leads naturally to the actual values which will be offered as foundational values for education. Rather than survey the choices, I will approach the issues from a needs perspective.

I believe the need for moral literacy (this term was coined by Bennett, 1986; see also Hirsch, 1987) that is, acquaintance with moral issues and moral positions and the ability to make moral decisions, may be grounded on three facts. First, values are absolutely necessary for the preservation and growth of our society (Shaver and Strong, 1982). We will stay behind a devastating pattern of dealing with value issues only after personal and social failures until we change the nature of education and begin to develop values in the students. Some values seem to develop in most people (Kohlberg, 1981; Rokeach, 1973). But such a semi-automatic process cannot be depended upon to produce in all people the values necessary to perpetuate the freedoms of America. We must actively teach positive values.

Second, a good case can be made for focusing on social behavior, not merely teaching a theory of social good - for what benefit would it be to have a strong nation which was without any concept of respect for other people? Values must be grounded in philosophical principles, but they must also be worked into the life of the people so that we all model and teach these values, not just have them in a book on a shelf somewhere. It seems clear that students do not always follow the values of their parents (Regier, 1988; Beal, 1988). But parents and teachers can enhance the likelihood that children will "catch" what they have not been "taught."

Third, the increase of crime, drug and alcohol abuse, and teenage pregnancy (to mention only a few of the social ills which involve teenagers) among teenagers over the past thirty years all point to a declining moral situation. Life today is not as moral as it was thirty years ago. I do not expect to set the clock back, nor would I want to; the 1940's and 50's had their own problems. But we do need to move ahead with the character and growth of our country, not fall further behind.

Based on these needs, a set of value options can be summarized as a choice of educational direction:

1. democratic - constitution/legal Wynne, Bennett; philosophical Gutmann, Vokey

2. perennialism - (broadly humanistic) Whitehead, Adler; (liberalism) Wilson

3. science/tech. - (materialism) economic and business interests

4. liberation - (neo-marxism, feminism) Ferire, Gilligan

5. religion/new age/morality - (transcendentalistic) Noddings, Kohlberg, Hunter & Pratt, Purpel

Ed Wynn (1986) argues that educators and schools are always transmitting values to students whether consciously or not, and that the most effective schools have coherent philosophies. When teachers try to be all things to all students they loose any ability to provide a coherent model which students will seek to emulate. Wynn (1988) thinks positive values and personal discipline can and must be modeled to the students by the faculty and should be expected from the students. William Bennett, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, coined the term "moral literacy" (1986) and suggested nine specific values which should be taught to students, modeled by teachers and enforced by school administrators:







respect for law

live by standards


Gutmann (1990, 1986) focuses on democratic freedom modified by principles of non-repression and non-discrimination from within an egalitarian framework. One major problem with her position is that she redefines rationality to mean agreement with the agnostic, intellectualistic elite. This strange preference for the rationality of the elite does not match with the egalitarian position. The concept of democratic citizenship is better presented by Engle and Ochoa (1988) and by Whitehead (1987).

John Wilson (1990) thinks the paranoia over liberalism's tendencies to relativism can be overcome by understanding the logical and psychological bases that liberalism requires and translating these into education and social practice. Then liberalism will be strong enough to provide a moral consensus which all educators can back. But this simply avoids the problems of coherence and integrity which educational liberalism has been encountering for sixty years.

Hunter and Pratt (1988) conducted a five year study on age and sex differences in moral reasoning of adults. They did not find any sex differences in values held by the adults, although women were more likely to discuss relationship issues. The age differences reflected different goals, not different values about which kinds of goals to achieve. Different types of reasoning occur, but not related to sex or age distinctions.

Power, Higgins, and Kohlberg (1989) contend that schools are moral when they emphasize community values and are built upon universal rules governing social interactions which are freely chosen by the members. The idea of "just communities" is being worked out in scores of schools around the nation.

Purpel (1989) has produced a very important work titled The Moral and Spiritual Crisis in Education: A Curriculum for Justice and Compassion in Education. He proposes that the spiritual terminology in contemporary American life is the point of "appropriate and meaningful departure" (p. 2) for an educational and curricular transformation. Values need to focus on spiritual concerns and serve a critical function, calling us to confront oppression, inequity, poverty, and hunger. Teachers serve as prophets calling students to justice, compassion and righteousness. The prophetic teacher poses the vitality of the spiritual realm as a "theory of a life of meaning" (p. 79). Purpel is calling for a genuine religious interpretation of life, but this could be adopted by New Age adherents or by evangelical believers (cf. Purpel and Ryan, 1976). I think Purpel is correct to think of compassion as a higher order value alongside justice.

IV. Foundational Value Options

In order to obtain agreement on the values for the agenda of moral education it is necessary to:

(a) choose the values that will inform moral judgments,

(b) help people reflectively assess the assumptions underlying their value choices, and

(c) make informed decisions about which values to choose and follow.

One major problem is where to ground the values which will direct the philosophy of education and the curriculum theory (Spiecker and Straughan, 1982; Schubert, 1985; Dickmeyer, 1989). Kohlberg (1981) tried to ground values in the natural maturational development of the child. Work paralleling this has been done by Fowler (1981) attempting to ground values in spiritual development. But these speculative, developmental schemes remain controversial. They will not serve as a foundation for rational educational values.

Many philosophers have tried to base values on a metaphysical theory (Feinberg, (1989). The study of such grounded values is called axiology. In a similar way theologians and religious leaders have attempted to ground values in a religious world view (Whitehead, 1987). However, there is no single framework which has been widely accepted (Gage, 1989).

The Panel on Moral Education, in their report "Moral Education in the Life of the School" issued by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (1988), identified six core values which should be held by any morally mature person and called on educators, parents and community groups to help insure the moral education of students:

respect human dignity

care about the welfare of others

integrates individual interests and social responsibility

demonstrates integrity

reflects on moral choices

seeks peaceful resolution of conflict

These six values replicate the core of the earlier value recommendations of the NEA's Educational Policies Commission (1951). These values are acceptable, but they are stated as moral maxims, not foundational (axiological) values. They are not tied to any base, philosophical, historical or absolute.

Wildavsky (1987) has tried to tie values choices to national sub-cultures by analytic review. He argues that the use of cultures is a more powerful construct than heuristics, schemas or ideologies. His form of pluralism denies that any single system can represent the diversity of the U.S.

Greene (1988) has suggested that freedom is the core value of American life and that a theory of "situated freedom" is an outgrowth of our human relations. This freedom occurs dialectically between our public needs and our private desires. While I believe this is a very helpful development of the idea of freedom and can be used within a system, I do not think that the grounding of freedom on one view of the outcome of human relations is adequate. It can easily be challenged by other appeals to interpretations of human relations and no criteria of justification are given.

Milton Rokeach, a sociologist, has taken a different approach (1973). He has shown through empirical testing that the same set of eighteen terminal (core) values can well characterize the deep values of the people in many diverse cultures:

A Comfortable Life

An Exciting Life

A Sense of Accomplishment

A World at Peace

A World of Beauty

Equality of Opportunity

Family Security



Inner Harmony

Mature Love

National Security




Social Recognition

True Friendship


Rokeach found that the differences between people and cultures is in how they rank order the values, thus changing the priority of their value structure. He carefully differentiates between values (deep beliefs about meaning and purpose in life), beliefs (surface beliefs about choices in life), and opinions (personal preferences) (cf. Thacker, Pring & Evans, 1987).

While Rokeach has the empirical research to demonstrate that people do hold the values indicated by his survey, the list does not form a base for teaching values since it does not prescribe any particular ordering of the values. We may well wish to use the 18 values Rokeach has defined but they need some organizing structure. Something more substantial and more widely acceptable is needed.

Vokey (1990) attempts to ground an educational theory of values on referential realism, but does so without dealing with the mass of critical literature from the last 80 years which has rejected this attempt. Something like what Vokey wants is needed but it will have to be established on the basis of a critical realism, following Putnam (1987) or others (Clinton, 1986).

This leaves us with little aid in deriving the critical values around which to form a value system. I suggest that there are three simple questions at the heart of all value choices. My own study of axiology for the past twenty years convinces me that these are foundational to all ethical systems. First, what is the meaning of being human? Second, how do we account for individual/societal relationship? Third, what is the ultimate purpose of humanity?

V. Making a Choice

In light of the absence of philosophical or cultural cohesion, I propose that the two founding documents of the United States be used as a base around which all Americans should be able to join. These documents were written, not to set forth a partisan political position, but to articulate truths which may be held as a permanent heritage by all people, on the basis of a certain view of people and interpersonal activities.

The Declaration of Independence says that we Americans hold certain truths to be self-evident and that the purpose of government is to secure these rights:

1. that all men and women are created equal;

2. that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; and

3. that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The Constitution specifies the purposes of government as including:

1. to form a more perfect union;

2. to establish justice;

3. to insure domestic tranquillity;

4. to provide for the common defense;

5. to promote the general welfare; and

6. to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

These clauses specify ten values: equality of being, right to life, right to liberty (freedom), right to pursue happiness (autonomy of personal conscience and choice), social union, justice, domestic tranquillity, common defense, social welfare, families. With these ten values as the base and the values in the Amendments to the Constitution as supplements, a full set of values to be taught to children as the common American heritage could be developed. It is important that the values in a general or national curriculum be grounded in a position which is defensible as common to all people in the United States (Merriman, 1987).

Since the values are foundational to our laws and to subsequent interpretation of laws and because all people who live in the U.S. must live by these constitutional guidelines, these ten values can form the foundation for an ethical system. To develop a total system, each religion or culture could supplement the constitutional values with their own ordering of these ten and with their own additional values.

The present school system, both public and private, are adequate to transmit these broad U.S. values. The formal place to discuss these values and to examine the implications of them is in the Social Studies segment of the curriculum. These can be taught as school and class rules from K-3rd grade, given at a deeper level as justification for the rules in 4-6th grade, and discussed openly in 7-12th grade. But the full exhibition of these values needs to come in all aspects of the curriculum and in the "hidden curriculum," not just in social studies (Power and Kohlberg, 1986).

These values about humanity, freedom, equality, etc. also have implications for how we teach science and its spin-off, technology. Science has often raised the question of "If we can, should we?" and thus formulated ethical debates. The impact of science on human life and on our common experiences needs to be examined. These values can give direction to selection of some of the literature in language arts classes and to the criterion of interpretation and discussion. These values even impact math in the content of the story problems, especially as we move to use more integrated curriculum.

These values can also give some direction to school roles in student-teacher relations, student participation in governance of the school, student-teacher-parent-district relations, parent involvement in district review committees, rules guiding student participation and behavior on school campuses, district-state-federal policies and issues, and district-teacher negotiations (the hidden curriculum effects teachers as well as students). All of this needs to reflect a commitment to local controls, personalization, involvement, partnership, innovation, educational excellence, and student involvement in the curriculum.

Since we do in fact hold these values, we must examine our consistency in living out these principles, especially in our school regulations and policies. Are we practicing justice, equality, and respect; or do the children receive a different message in how they are treated by adults, especially by teachers and administrators?

It seems clear that students cannot adopt a set of values given to them by someone else, for it would not be a set of values (according to Krathwold (1964) - being characterized by a value set) but a rote list of rules. While the previous section shows that a set of values can be developed and taught, those two facts do not mean that students are going to adopt those values and act on them. Krathwold's research, backed by Milton Rokeach's sociological perspective, shows that students will make their own commitments to a set of values which they choose. Kohlberg thinks that these commitments will come through a set of stages of value processing, which, he believes, is invariant. This means that the students may, eventually, move to level five of Kohlberg's stage theory in which they will begin to make autonomous decisions about their beliefs. If we truly hope for an educated citizenry then we must work toward the end of each student developing his or her own values, whether we follow Kohlberg's stages or not.

The second reason for believing that values must be developed in the students concerns the nature of values. We wish students to adopt values commensurate with the values of the founding documents of the United States. These include, at a minimum, freedom, honesty, the worth of the individual, and respect for other people. Most of these values cannot be effectively communicated by being taught in a classroom by a lecture method if we expect changes or growth in the students. For these values, or others, to be effectively developed we must enter the domain of value oriented behavior. The students need to see the values modeled by the teachers and other school authorities, by their parents, and by civil and governmental leaders. The students need to see the values being worked out in practice. For the student to adopt values and act on them, modeling in present life is necessary. They also need assignments which involve them in implementing values in their behavior. This can happen by creating class rules, by being involved in school governance, and by helping in solving discipline problems.

But such modeling and training is probably not sufficient, because we give mixed messages about values to children. In fact we do model and teach values, good and bad, to our students each day, at home, at school and in the workplace, whether we intend to or not. Students do become living examples of what we are implicitly teaching. Each generation does learn from the one which contains its parents and teachers. This "caught" value pattern includes the actual value practices of the parent generation. Even when active rebellion has taken place, when the students are faced with the existential situations of life they tend to follow the practices of the parent generation in coping with the problems; they do not fall back on some philosophically derived set of values and figure out new methods of dealing with problems.

In addition to forming their own values and seeing values modeled, students must be intrinsically motivated to follow such values if value driven behavior is to result. In the past, such intrinsic motivation has usually been linked to religious beliefs and practices. In order to maintain separation of church and state we have sometimes tried to elevate patriotism to take the place of religion, but it does not work. Our national values have been placed in a vague national context instead of a religious one. But it is tricky to believe in equality of all people and yet promote our nation over others with no further philosophical grounding as to what constitutes the good life. Pride in self and nation, without arrogance, seems to be very difficult to maintain, given the history of the nations.

It also might be objected that teachers are not adequately prepared to be, nor do they expect to be, the value role models for a new generation. In part, they have no choice, nor do the parents. The older generation will be the model for the students and their patterns will be adopted, either uncritically or, if education is effective, somewhat critically.

It might be objected that teacher education cannot be adapted to prepare teachers for value modeling and teaching critical reflection on values. They have their time full with the academic disciplines and social behavior control problems. But the alternative to following through on teaching values is to have increasing behavior problems until the student, sometime in high school, becomes such a problem that he is expelled from school or put in jail. This pattern of denial has reaped a 30%+ drop-out rate in southern California. From a social perspective, and from the perspective of regaining control in the classroom, we would be better off to teach prospective teachers to pass on values and critical reflection than to teach methods of coping with problems after they have arisen.

Since the United States needs a moral literacy taught in the schools, since such a moral literacy is derivable from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, since the means already exists to transmit the moral values of the American heritage within the public and private school sectors, since there is freedom to add a cultural ranking of the values and to mix in other additional values, and since the process also exists to develop these values in the character of children, I believe we need to get on with the task of building moral education based on these foundational values into the curriculum and into our interpersonal relations. We are the people from which the next generation's future takes shape.


Reference List

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Beal, Dean. (1988). Parents and Teens Attitudes towards Sex. San Bernardino: International Leadership Council.

Bennett, William. (1986). Moral Literacy and the Formation of Character. Washington: U.S. Department of Education.

Bennett, William. (1988). Our Children and Our Country. NY: Simon and Schuster.

Bloom, Allan. (1987). The Closing of the American Mind. NY: Simon and Schuster.

Clinton, S. M. (1988). "Realistic Theism and the Foundation of Spiritual Life," Bulletin of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, 11: 17-31.

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