April 26: Values in Public Education

One of the topics I have enjoyed discussing and reflecting on is the role of values in public education. Having only attended and taught at religious schools, I have a deep respect for core values that guide academic and social education. And from what I have experienced being brought up in a strong faith tradition, there is no way that values, morals, and beliefs can be separated from a person’s character. Due to this, in private and public institutions alike people are living their values and this is true for educators. Even if a teacher is unable to profess their faith publically, they have been shaped in a way that leads them to model a specific set of values that their students will pick up on inside and outside of the classroom.

I begin with this because the critical issues for debate were sex education and character education. Both of these issues are directly connected to values, although there is disagreement when it comes to which set of values is meant to drive each issue in education. There is valuable research and argument on either side of the debate and it is safe to say that three will never be one right way to address these two topics in public education. The best thing that schools can do is include the parents and any other stakeholders in the conversation when the time comes to adopt any type of sex or character education curriculums. It is also essential that the school community is united when it comes to rolling out the curriculum and that ample support is provided to the teachers and staff who will be responsible for presenting the material. It is also important to recognize that there is no one size fits all curriculum in either case and that not everyone will be satisfied with the what students are taught.

And most importantly of all, it is impossible to remove values from the conversation all together. Values, even those that clash, need to be included in the curriculum. Just as it would be harmful to remove religion all together from history, literature or art curriculums, it would be harmful and misleading for students to remove values from the conversations around character and sex education.

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