Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Importance of Teaching Values in School Part 1 of V

The Importance of Teaching Values in School Part 1 of V
By Jill Jenkins
            With Isis recruiting our teenagers who are attracted by violence and religious extremists, with elected officials arrested for dishonest acts, with news of the corruption on Wall Street, teaching values to our children seems more important than in any other time in history. Students are being enticed by the lure of drugs and gangs.  Violence in our streets is more often committed by adolescents than any other age groups.  Yet many schools have abandoned value instruction for skill-based education.  Nazi Germany’s leaders were well-educated scientists and mathematicians, but it didn’t stop them from murdering seven million Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, and those who disagreed with their dogma.  They burned books and controlled what type of education students received.  Today, students are reading only excerpts from selected novels and non-fiction focusing on reading skills.  Is this a healthy?  Shouldn’t students be encouraged to ask question and use literature to explore the human condition? Since the purpose of education should    
be to prepare them for a productive, healthy future, can we actually do with if we ignore the importance of ethical behavior?

             I recently read an article about why we should not be addressing the topic of “Love” in school.  This article postulates the theory that love is too closely connected to religious beliefs; as a result,  it is better discussed in the home instead of in an academic arena.   On the contrary, learning about the human experience is fundamental to any student’s educational experience.  The new Common Core Curriculum emphasizes non-fiction reading, but it does not preclude the teaching of literature in all its genres.  It includes them.  Many publishers have reduced this instruction to careful analysis of excerpts from literature, Close Reading.  Although this increases acquisition of reading skills, it lacks what Janet Allen refers to as being “memorable andmeaningful.”  Students are naturally curious about the nature of human relationship, so this is a perfect time to use that interest to motivate them to increase their reading skills by selecting novels with complex sentence patterns, intertwining plots, and complicated characters while learning about human nature.  Furthermore, most people establish their life-long marital relationships during their “twenties.”  That relationship not only builds financial stability, but emotional security and happiness.  A bad love relationship can be detrimental to the individual’s financial security, emotional stability, and can result in physical abuse, great unhappiness and sometimes death; therefore, helping students understand relationship may be the most important role schools can play in preparing students for their futures.

            Conflicts do happen and students need to have skills solving them in a productive manner.  Using literature as models of problem solving is excellent. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee provides readers with the character, Atticus Finch who represents Tom Robinson, a black man unjustly accused of raping a white woman.  Despite mod cries and unjustified attacks on his children, Atticus remains calm and resolute in solving problems with legal action.  In The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, Lilly Owen, a fourteen year old girl, is given sanctuary from an abusive father who she believes killed her mother by the Boatwright sisters with her caregiver and only friend, Rosaleen.  The story depicts healthy human relationships even when they are from different racial groups. When her father ascertains the whereabouts of his daughter and demands her return, the situation is resolved in a caring and rational manner.   Even better is to give students first-hand knowledge about solving their own problems by using conflict resolution.
            As a society, we have a moral obligation to help students develop life skills that include ethical behavior, understanding the nature of human relationships, communication skills, and a solid set of values.  This is too important to pretend the home can do this.  Students spend a great deal of their time at school interacting with peers and teachers.  As they grow older these relationships play a greater role in molding who they become as adults. Therefore, it is imperative that we create a balance of learning skills and life skills.  Selecting literature and nonfiction that reflect important values is paramount.  Giving students opportunity to analyze and discuss these pieces is equally important. Furthermore, insisting that teachers treat each other and the faculty and staff with kindness, dignity, and respect is the most important.  Students learn by models and imitation.  It is important teachers and staff to treat each other and their students with kindness, dignity and respect.
In the upcoming editions, I will explore four different literary selections that might be useful with some activities that increase student's ability to behave as ethical. productive members of society.