Friday, July 23, 2010

Learning moral values

Interesting op-ed in the NY Times today on anti-bullying efforts.

This highlights some of the tension I’m feeling about putting River into a classroom. Part of me wants him to integrate, to learn how to deal with people, to make his own way. But another part of me thinks kids are mean. I was sometimes mean and I definitely suffered from the meanness of others.

This is not purely child’s territory. There are plenty of uncomfortable, dangerous and morally ambiguous situations to navigate as an adult. But does going through this as a child teach kids how to handle it better as adults? I’m not so sure. I also think there is more meanness off the radar screen among kids. 4.5 instances per hour on the playground? How many of those are witnessed and addressed by an adult? Probably very few.

A friend of mine told me about how difficult the transition was for her from a Catholic grade school, where children were expected to be kind to each other, to a public school, where teachers did little moral enforcement outside of breaking up fist fights.

We aren’t religious, so attending a religious school is not on our radar screen. One of the main reasons I want to enroll River in the Unitarian religious education system though is to have some education and role models in his life on how to respect and treat other people, how and why it’s important to think about others and the role he plays in the larger world. Mark is not excited about this idea, as he’s suspicious of any organized religious group, regardless of how inclusive it might be. But I think it’s important for River to see both adults and children who embody the morals I want to teach him. I don’t think that hoping for a few in his public school class is sufficient nor do I feel confident that the children of good parents always behave in an ethical/moral manner around their peers.

Outside of attending a religious school, how do you expect your child to learn morals? Do you plan to teach him/her to be one of the few who intervenes when witnesses bullying? If so, how?

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