Teaching Morally and Teaching Morality

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Student achievement is not the only topic of conversation in teachers’ lounges, parent-teacher organizations, and teacher education classrooms. There is also much discussion of the moral features of teaching and learning. Sometimes this talk centers on such issues as prayer in schools, sex education, and whether there are just grounds for teaching intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. At other times, the conversation is about a teacher’s own moral values and whether or not these values should be communicated to one’s students. When the talk turns to a teacher’s own moral values, it often becomes entangled in whether it is even possible to provide a thorough and adequate education in the absence of certain moral values, as well as whether teachers are and should be the proper agents for the transmission of such values. These are thorny issues, which all too often get pushed aside because of their complexity and the ease with which they seem to foster disagreement. We believe there are ways to sort through these issues, ways that are not only helpful in resolving many of the tensions in the moral education debate, but ways that enable more powerful approaches to teaching and learning.

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