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9/11 American context

The question of how to teach values is a complicated and significant issue that individual’s, families, schools, religions, and societies are constantly debating. The major problem this presents is that inter-weaving and overlapping cultures are forced to confront competing interests and methods. In our Post 9/11 American context, we are faced with a meaningful opportunity to re-examine the way we teach values.

According to the University of Princeton’s online philosophy dictionary, value is ‘an ideal accepted by some individual or group’ (Value). John Holt, the author of the book How Children Fail writes, “Teachers and schools tend to mistake good behavior for good character. What they prize is docility, suggestibility; the child who will do what he is told; or even better, the child who will do what is wanted without even having to be told (Kohn).

From this perspective the question becomes which values to teach instead of how we should teach values. This is an important distinction to be made in the discussion of the widespread adoption of character education in American public schools. In an interview with Ethics Center Exectutive Director Kirk Hanson, the Director of Character Education, Steve Johnson outlines the eight key values that frame the program: respect, responsibility, integrity, self-control, self-direction, change requires effort, moderation, and justice (Hanson).

These are ideal virtues that most people can agree upon, but in order to take them beyond the realm of ideals we need to teach people how to incorporate these virtues into everyday actions and thoughts by encouraging pro-social currents that reward virtuous behavior rather than docile bodies.

Works Cited

Hanson, Kirk. (2008). Teaching Values in Schools: An Interview with Steve Johnson. Markula Center for Applied Ethics. Retrieved January 12, 2009, from http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v13n1/interview.html

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