By American Humanist Association
Many students spend as much or more time in school than they do at home. Therefore, the school must be a place that supports family and community efforts to build strong values. Consistent with our constitution and our ever-changing diverse society, such values can and ought to be taught free of ideology and theology. In that spirit, we offer the following values for public school teachers, administrators, and students. To be sure, schools are responsible for developing literate and skilled human beings. But they also must be committed to helping their students develop good personal, social, and citizenship values. This ethical mission is an essential part of all education, public and private, elementary through high school and university. In a democratic and pluralist society, we believe that the values presented should be the moral foundation of education.
-The Advisory Council of the Kochhar Humanist Education Center
Altruism is the unselfish concern for the welfare of others without expectation of reward, recognition, or return. Opportunities for acts of altruism are everywhere in the family, the classroom, the school, and the wider community. Think of examples of altruistic acts in your experience. What person-to-person and group projects, classroom and school-wide activities, and community service projects might you and your students undertake?
2. Caring for the World Around Us
Everyone can and ought to play a role in caring for the Earth and its inhabitants. We can directly experience the living things in our homes and neighborhoods like trees, flowers, birds, insects, and pets. Gradually we expand our neighborhood. We learn about deserts and oceans, rivers and forests, the wild life around us and the wild life elsewhere. We learn that we are dependent on each other, on the natural world, and all that lives in it for food and shelter, space and beauty.
3. Critical Thinking
We gain reliable knowledge because we are able to observe, report, experiment, and analyze what goes on around us. We also learn to raise questions that are clear and precise, to gather information, and to reason about the information we receive in a way that tests it for truthfulness, accuracy, and utility. From our earliest years we learn how to think and to share and challenge our ideas and the ideas of others, and consider their consequences. Practice asking “what next?” and “why?” and “how do I/you/we know that?”
We human beings are capable of empathy, the ability to understand and enter imaginatively into another living being’s feelings, the sad ones and the happy ones as well. Many of the personal relationships we have (in the family, among friends, between diverse individuals, and amid other living things) are made positive through empathy. With discussion and role-playing, we can learn how other people feel when they are sad or hurt or ignored, as well as when they experience great joys. We can use stories, anecdotes, and classroom events to help us nurture sensitivity to how our actions impact others.
5. Ethical Development
Questions of fairness, cooperation, and sharing are among the first moral issues we encounter in our ethical development as human beings. Ethical education is ongoing implicitly and explicitly in what is called the “hidden curriculum” that we experience through the media, the family, and the community. Ethics can be taught through discussion, role-playing, story telling, and other activities that improve analysis and decision-making regarding what’s good and bad, right and wrong.
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