Unification News for July 2001
Sustaining a Virtuous Society
Dr. Mose Durst
This article first appeared in the Daily Review, Hayward, CA:
As our nation reflects on the tragedy in Littleton, Colo., let us ask ourselves what kind of children we want, what responsibilities we all have in raising them and what special responsibilities schools bear.
As families, communities and a nation, there is general consensus as to what we want our children to be: caring, respectful, compassionate, honest, responsible, loving kind, and generally virtuous.
For children to act in these ways and for them to grow into virtuous adults, all of the institutions of our culture must work together to reinforce these ideals.
As a family has the primary responsibility, it must be helped by schools, religious communities and the larger culture, especially the powerful vehicles of popular culture which strongly impact young people. The institutions of culture comprise a moral world.
Children need to experience the coherence and consistency of their moral world. Meanings and values need to stick together (cohere) if their world is to nourish them properly and if they are to grow into healthy adults.
Schools are an important moral bridge for young people, since the school must reinforce the best of what a home values and also strengthen a child to understand and to act well in the larger culture.
As character educators have emphasized, schools must teach students "to know the good, desire the good and do the good."
Schools face an especially difficult job if parents have not provided clear moral values for their children and if the larger culture is indifferent or hostile to the virtues I outlined above.
The parents, the schools, the communities and the larger culture all share some responsibility for the tragedy in Littleton.
Schools, especially, must re-evaluate their responsibility, for children are in school to develop into good citizens who can in turn nurture and sustain a virtuous society.
We must ask ourselves honestly if our schools are in fact succeeding in this goal.
The tragedy in Colorado shows the need for schools to provide a principled education that clarifies and reinforces the Judeo-Christian ideals which are the source of our country's values. Do young people learn that the core of Judaism is "Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God"? Do they understand a central teaching of Christianity: "Love your enemies"?
If we want our children to mature into just, merciful and loving human beings, they need to be taught what has motivated the best of American culture from the Mayflower to Martin Luther King Jr.
Public schools must no practice religion, but they must not run from it. We teach the political, economic, social and scientific dimensions of culture, yet we avoid the religious.
The Supreme Court and the major teachers' organizations explain the importance of teaching about religion in schools.
It is not an easy thing to do, but then neither is educating young people into mature adults, whom we admire for their loving-kindness, for this is also a responsibility of schools.
[Mose Durst is chairman of the board of the Principled Academy in Hayward]
(Note: The Principled Academy, like New Hope Academy, was set up by members of our movement to provide education to 2nd generation BCs as well as to children of others seeking such a healthy environment. Dr. Durst is actively involved in the teaching and administration of the school, and recently published a book on Principled Education.)
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