Etymologically, the word virtue is derived from the latin -vir,which means “man”. The word most closely associated with virtue in Anglo-Saxon English is vertu, which means “moral strength, manliness, valor, excellence, and/or worth" (Virtue, n.d.). This definition would lead one to mistakenly conclude that virtue is a masculine trait. Indeed, in developing my personal worldview, I have always associated virtue with femininity. In fact, my earliest recollections of school, church, and home (the three critical learning environments for me), are all inundated with images of virtuous women. It was not until I considered those memories in terms of the knowledge that I have gained as a result of this learning experience that I developed an understanding of what typifies a virtuous man. Needless to say, this “aha” moment was as startling for me as it was enjoyable.
Considering the many virtuous men (and women) that I have encountered in my life helped me to establish a strong stance on character education. Previously, I had been “on the fence” where character education is concerned. On the one hand, I realize that there is a pressing need for our children to develop strong character traits. One of the harsh realities of this modernized, progressive, global society is that many of the things that were understood or accepted just a few years ago are now being questioned. Now, this can be and has been a good thing where racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of injustice are concerned. Still, the new norm of scrutiny has challenged our fundamental concept of morality and human decency as well. Thus, it becomes incumbent upon our society to ensure that our children have an unwavering moral compass. However, the evidence is far from conclusive that schools, or more pointedly standardized curricula, can achieve or even move us towards realizing this goal.
Thus, the central question becomes “can a school effectively teach morality”? The...
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