Parents Look To Schools To Re-enforce Values For Children

Religious,public Institutions Mull How Best To Implement Lessons

May 15, 1991|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff writer

As teen pregnancy rates rise and drug abuse reaches epidemic proportions, some parents seek to surround their children with traditional values.

"Children ask for guidance and direction in their lives," said Pat Brink, principal of St. John's Catholic School in Westminster. "If we don't give that guidance and direction -- first coming from parents with school support -- then we do an injustice to children."

For those of a religious nature, the answer often lies in parochial schools.

"We train children not necessarily how to make a living, but how to live," said Alan Flugge, pastor of Community Baptist inWestminster, which sponsors the Community Baptist Church School.

"That's a big reason why some people put their children in Christian schools."

Bible-based teachings are the foundation of values such as purity, honesty, respect and love for mankind in Carroll's religious academies.

"We believe that the Bible is absolute truth," said Flugge. "Anything apart from the Bible changes. Without it, we really don't have much of an education."

Other parents are turning to the public schools to strengthen values taught at home.

"We've received a loud message from the community that they wanted kids to leave(the public schools) with a stronger set of values to become responsible citizens," said Brian L. Lockard, Carroll's assistant superintendent of instruction.

Eighteen values -- compiled by the Maryland Values Education Commission in 1986 -- are integrated into social studies classes and discussed in at least one grade of elementary, middleand high school, he said.

The values -- divided into character and citizenship objectives -- cover traits such as honesty, compassion, discipline, allegiance to democracy and understanding other societies.

"These are not real threatening things we're talking about," said Donald P. Vetter, supervisor of social studies for county public schools. "They're pretty readily accepted by people in the community."

Currently, the Board of Education is reviewing a school improvement policy that -- among other changes -- would upgrade values instruction.

The five-year plan calls for developing a program to help students gain skills in becoming good family and community members.

Maureen A. Dincher, president of the Carroll County teachers association, said a committee should be formed to review values instruction.

"There ought to be a widely representative task force of educators and community people involved in making a decision about what values ought to be taught," she said.

"There are a lot of groups who want to impress their own sets of values on the school system, and thatbecomes a problem."

Though mindful of concerns like Dincher's, Lockard said values courses can be placed in the curriculum.

Values instruction -- based on qualities inherent in the U.S. Constitution -- has been approved by a committee and implemented successfully in Baltimore County, Lockard said.

"People are surprised at how smoothly it's gone," he said. "Just about everyone feels comfortably about it."

Howard County also has begun creating a values curriculum, Lockard said.

Several county religious leaders agreed it's possible to find and teach a common base of values acceptable to all.

"Values transcend religion," said the Rev. Charles A. Stanfield, pastor of St. Matthew's United Church of Christ in Pleasant Valley.

"I'd rather see a good man who's able to look back in history and have respect for society and civilization than have a religious fundamentalist of the Ayatollah's ilk who has no place in his heart for anyone else."

One motto that both public school and religious leaders felt would be applicable was "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

"If you have love for others and treat them as God would want you to love them, then everything else kind of falls into place," said Ruth Ann Cottrell, a teacher at Crest Lane Seventh Day Adventist Church School.

Although the "golden rule" is often attributed to Christianity, it has roots in other philosophies, including Confucianism, Judaism and the shamanism of the American Indians, religious and school leaders said.

"Ideas have an entity all to themselves, and when you try to box them in this category or that category, you really limit them," said Stanfield.

However, school and religious leaderssaid values cannot be taught in isolation. Teachers must set good examples, they said, and help children assimilate moral principles intodaily life.

"We follow (our students) to see if what we are teaching is being mastered through their actions," Brink said.

She saidher Catholic school teaches students respect for life -- to reject abortion and be environmentally conscious.

"Basically, being a human being, that's what's important," said Al Stein, cantor of Beth Shalom synagogue in Eldersburg. "If we can teach our young people honesty, and respect for family and parents and neighbors, then they have respect for themselves."

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