I have officially completed my first week of grad school… Yay! For obvious reasons, I haven’t been able to keep up the pace with blogging as much as I’d like. As such, I decided that I’d just share some of my work with you. Please stop yawning! So far I’ve turned in about 5 assignments. Below is one of them:
Analyze, in a scholarly but personalized discussion, your personal beliefs regarding the teaching of character through the curriculum. Write no more than two pages, APA format and style. Be sure to cite your sources and list your references in proper APA style.
Note: I had so much more to say, but the limit was 2 pages, so I said what I could in that small amount of space. Also, I know NOW that the APA format does not use footnotes. I lost a point for that. But I still got an ‘A’ so it’s all good.
In his book, Educating for Character, Thomas Lickona provides a list of what he claims are universally accepted moral values. “Universal moral values,” Lickona (1992) writes, “bind all persons everywhere because they affirm our fundamental human worth and dignity” (p. 38). His argument, however, is flawed. Lickona fails to prove three crucial points: that the values he lists are universally agreed upon , that his list is exhaustive, and that his list represents the most essential of all values. Lickona’s method of determining which values should be included in character education, or CE, curriculum is purely subjective; it assumes that the virtues that he values most are the virtues that everyone else values most. Lickona (1992) further demonstrates the subjectivity of his argument when he briefly discusses the topic of religion, essentially writing faith off as a nonessential in regards to morality and proposing that public schools “find a basis for defining and teaching morality that compels rational assent without requiring religious belief.” (p. 41) [Emphasis mine]. This proposition is equal in feasibility to the act of plucking out a bird’s feathers, then commanding it to fly. In effect, the Christian moral mentor is dismissively told to find another “basis” (besides the Bible) “for defining and teaching morality”.
By What Authority? How the Efficacy of CE Programs is Nullified by Secularization
If a goal for society is its possession of morality, then CE is absolutely necessary. Yet, secularization of the CE curricula instantly renders a CE program’s effectiveness null and void. In, How Not to Teach Values, Aflie Kohn writes, “it is as ‘natural’ for children to help as to hurt” (1997). In other words, children are bent neither toward virtue nor toward evil. I believe that humans possess a neutral and pliant conscience at birth; one that is gradually molded and shaped by external input.
Lickona (1992) disagrees with this idea, arguing, “even a kid, using his intelligence, can figure out that something like stealing is bad because it hurts people… there is a natural moral law that prohibits injustice to others and that can be arrived at through the use of human reason” (p. 42). But if children are already wired to know right from wrong, why bother with CE? Shouldn’t we just step back and allow “human reason” to lead us into perfect morality?
A brief survey of history swiftly dispels the myth that unguided human reasoning (a.k.a., the unregenerate conscience) naturally results in morality. To the contrary, in the name of human reason, mankind has defended a host of egregious, immoral acts including slavery, genocide and violence of all sorts. The implementation of effective CE programs in schools will require an appeal to a much higher authority than human reason. Our appeal must be to God’s authority; and we must shape the collective conscience according to His recommendations.
Herein lies the problem. Secular CE attempts the impossible task of shaping a moral collective conscience outside the framework of faith. Secular CE refuses to appeal to God; preferring instead the inferior method of determining the standards of morality through consensus. However, public opinion is dynamic; and a consensus reached at one instance may be up for debate the next. Thus, the secular CE model causes the conscience to be shaped (and reshaped) by ever unstable and subjective forces, never becoming firmly established, never maturing. A firm conscience is needed, as it dictates the emotions, determines the potency of the will, and is the conduit through which passion flows, spurring mankind into virtuous action. The conscience is lord of personal character, thus, a community characterized by unstable conscience is a community replete with reprobates.
Kohn, A. (1997). How not to teach values: a critical look at character education. Retrieved from
Lickona, T. (1992). Educating for character: how our schools can teach respect and responsibility. New York:
 To support the concept of universally accepted values, Lickona writes, “Nearly all children of all faiths said yes.” But doesn’t the use of the word, “nearly” (vs. the word “all”) prove that it is not universally accepted? Universal acceptance requires that all assent, not nearly all. Further, the research participants were children of “all faiths” implying that religion (not natural moral law) had influenced the participant’s perspectives.
 As though the Bible is of no great consequence in the Christian moral mentor’s determining standards of morality.