Monday, August 22, 2016

Bill Crawford: Schools Must Become Environments That Instill Virtue

Teaching children “virtue” is the key to solving poverty, insists a reader and regular critic. That’s how we break the “cycle of dependency,” he said.
To do this, he argues, we must “indoctrinate our children from the early years with a sense of virtue through education.”
Well, “indoctrinate” threw me off. Reminded me of the old Soviet Union brainwashing children as well as my delightful time in boot camp. So, I thought, while it may be permissible for parents to indoctrinate children, that’s hardly the role for schools.
Then, another reader sent me a public policy article published by Wharton University. In it the author wrote about a “set of skills sometimes called non-cognitive skills, sometimes called character strengths, things like grit and curiosity, conscientiousness, perseverance, self-control.”
These sound a lot like traditional the “cardinal virtues” of justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude.
“I remain convinced that these are important capacities for kids to have,” said Paul Tough, author of Helping Children Succeed.
The bestselling writer goes on to say that these virtues are not “the kind of skills that you can teach in school the way you teach math or reading or geography or anything else.” Rather, he says, research suggests “they are more the product of a child’s environment.”
In the early 1950s, C.S. Lewis postulated that people are born with an innate sense of right from wrong. These days, apparently, that sense must be resuscitated to function in many children.
Parents have the primary responsibility to create environments that instill virtue in children, Tough says, but schools, particularly in high-poverty areas, must take responsibility too.
In his epochal Book of Virtues, William Bennett equates virtue with morality. In the introduction he wrote: “For children to take morality seriously they must be in the presence of adults who take morality seriously.” 
Tough said adults can create an environment in the classroom that “makes kids able to persevere, to exercise self-control, to behave in all of the ways that are going to maximize their future opportunities.”  
In his book, Tough tells of schools in high poverty areas with innovative programs that motivate children and give them a “real sense of community and connection.” He cites others that give kids “work that is more challenging, more rigorous and more meaningful” which changes their level of motivation. He said some charter schools are able to create “environments for kids that make them feel that sense of connection, feel that sense of challenge.”
He’s talking about positive motivation. That’s different from the negative motivation “indoctrination” makes me think of. Looks like my perception of indoctrination is too narrow.
So, thanks to my readers for indoctrinating me.
Still and all, it will not be enough for the occasional classroom to create virtuous environments. Research shows children, particularly those for whom virtue is not modeled at home, must be consistently exposed to and expected to exhibit virtuous behavior. Virtuous environments must become whole school endeavors.
Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (


Bill Dees said...

This is very well said. But schools can only reinforce what's taught at home by word and by example. No amount of exposure at school to virtuous living would have changed the hate in the thugs from Rankin County who sadistically murdered James Craig Anderson in Jackson and laughed about it. Those kids weren't born haters - they were taught to hate.

Dill Bees said...

Taught by whom, Bill? Their parents? Since that incident, there have been over 250 murders in Jackson, none of which has garnered a lick of national attention. Who taught those individuals to hate? Their parents? Or is it only the one "civil rights" style murder in over five years we should worry about while ignoring the other ones?

Aghast At The Ignorance said...

It's asinine to suggest that schools cannot 'teach' the directional points to be found on a moral compass. Of course they can.

While we all have moaned for decades that "It's the role of parents", that moaning has earned us nothing more than more misery. While such things are ideally 'learned' at home, maybe the best we can do is start teaching them at an age when they're already wayward.

Isn't this one of the responsibilities and ethical principle paths of programs like Head-start? If so, that organization fails miserably. Don't they start at Head-start at about age 3 or 4? And they spend more than 50% of their waking hours there.

I learned more in college than I ever did at home when taking such courses as philosophy, marriage and family relations, sociology and ethics.

And to further counter the idiotic post of Bill Dees (AKA Jerry Mitchell II), thousands of daughters and sons of members of the clergy have gotten off in the ditch of bad behavior while being raised in pristine, orderly and well-structured home environments. So, who knows where these 'Thugs From Rankin' learned that behavior?

Jams Bonney said...

In the late 1990s the Mississippi Economic Council assembled a group of distinguished Mississippi teachers and for two years they worked on a project to teach virtue and build character in our schools. Columbus businessman William E. McClure funded the project and said; "Moral character and development can not be limited only to home and church. Sadly, too many children receive inadequate training from parents and religious institutions, for various reasons; and if our schools do not teach the basic differences between right and wrong, society will suffer."

In 1997 the project was complete and the teachers delivered a complete package for the classroom teacher to use. It was called "Imagine u .. The Quest for Character." Lesson plans, activities, teaching tools, it was all there. Every teacher received all of this plus a copy of William Bennett's "The Book of Virtues." The problem: It didn't fit the mindset of teaching to the standardized tests, a concept which was beginning to take hold.

USM president Aubrey Lucus wrote in a forward: "Our schools are asked to perform many tasks, all of which are intended to prepare our young people with those skills an learnings which will enable them to make a living as well as a life. If this schooling is to be complete, i tmus tinclude teaching priniples which help students make moral choices; otherwise, we will provide a deficient education that will endanger the peace and security of society."


Bill Dees said...

@11:18 Sure, the parents in the case of the Rankin County thugs. That was a hate crime pure and simple. It's my impression (though I have no way of knowing) that most of the Jackson murders aren't hate crimes. Many, if not most, appear to be crimes of passion or gang-related crimes. There are rare cases of robberies gone wrong (as in the case of my high school classmate and friend, Carolyn Temple) but those seem to be few in number. I don't know anything about the sociology of gangs, so I won't speculate on why there is such apparent compulsion to join one, black or white, here in Mississippi.

Anonymous said...

8,760 hours in a year, less 3,300 hours sleeping. That leaves 5,460 waking hours. The average school age child spends 1,000 hours at school each year, leaving 4,460 waking hours under the "care" of a parent or guardian. I honestly cannot imagine what your typical inner city child is exposed to outside of school. There's no way you can undo all of that in 1,000 hours.

World of Dees said...

Hate crime death = bad, the worst of all, taught, parents are complicit

All other crime death = not as bad, unexplainable, not taught to kill others by parents

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who teaches in JPS. Junior high kids. She had to call some parents because of bad behavior and the next day, the kids she called on deliberately shoved her in the hallway. She went to administration and they gave one of the kids in school suspension for two days.

She has to worry about what this kid may try to do to her for the rest of the year.

Lots of kids have zero respect for authority.

Anonymous said...

No matter the question, if your proposed solution is "the government needs to change people's basic character traits," you need to head back to the drawing board.

Anonymous said...

JPS is a lost cause, nothing but lackadaisical teachers collecting a paycheck, does anyone really think that you can make the teachers give any more of a shit than the parents? All public schools reflect what happens when you let of bunch of politically correct humanist pantywaists get in charge. No corporal punishment, no child left behind, common core, nonsense. We are fucked, pray that we have a revolution and overthrow the commies running our country...

Anonymous said...

Schools cannot completely take the place of parents. For many years that has been the idea. Both the govt. and the parents decided that it is the best thing for the kids. The govt. because they like to control everything. The parents because it puts the responsibility and care of the kids on someone else.
Neither the schools or the parents are doing their job.

Anonymous said...

Some arguments are just stupid.
Yes parents influence their children. That includes teaching them to hate others.
Yes a school can define boundaries of acceptable behavior and let students know how they expect them to treat one another.
And, I would remind all of you that etiquette can not only be taught but there are books available. I would remind all of you that etiquette is about behaving in a civilized manner.
And, I would also remind some of you that the inability to make a point or defend a position without resorting to name calling , profanity or insult is the indicator of ignorance and/or stupidity!

Anonymous said...

8:13, not many pre school kids can read the books on etiquette. Hell, a lot of the parents can't read either. That is one of the biggest problems.

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Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

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There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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