December 28, 2006 6:40am CST
WASHINGTON, D.C. (EP) - America's public schools should be giving students more moral education, according to a report by a national organization that focuses on curriculum development and teaching procedures. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development's report said moral education was not the "latest education fad, but a very old concept." Boston University professor Kevin Ryan, who chaired the panel, said American schools were founded with moral purpose, and offered moral education until the 1960s. Since that time, he said, schools have "stepped back" from their responsibility to teach morality. The report noted increasing public concern over adolescent emotional problems, rising teenage suicide and murder, and unwed mothers. The report also cited public opinion polls which indicate that most Americans favor the teaching of moral behavior by public schools. The Alexandria, Virginia-based association, which is made up of educators involved in curriculum development for public schools, defines moral education as "whatever schools do to influence how students think, feel and act regarding issues of right and wrong." The report says such education can help students become "morally mature." The report recommends: * A greater place for moral education in public school curricula. * A cooperative effort among teachers, parents, media, courts, businesses, and civil, racial, ethnic, and religious organizations, for creating a social and cultural setting that supports moral behavior and education. * The establishment and publicizing of clear expectations for teachers and administrators in their roles as moral educators. * Increased attention to moral education in teachers' colleges and other educators' training programs. * The inclusion of critical thinking and decision making skills in moral education. * Regular assessments of the moral climate of schools and conduct of students, with the results of those assessments being made public. The report acknowledges, however, that moral education is a possible source of controversy, including such issues as the religious underpinnings of moral behavior, how moral values should be taught, and whether moral education should strive to encourage adherence to a set of central values or to develop morally autonomous individuals.