The Bookish Virtues
Perry Glanzer on Public-School Character Education
Should state legislatures tell us what kind of character our children should acquire? Actually, many states already do. Seven states recently passed a law requiring public schools to teach students “courage.” Texas and Virginia mandate that students learn to be “reliable,” and Arizona insists that they learn “orderliness,” while five states (Florida, Georgia, Iowa, South Carolina, and Texas) now require that children acquire “patience.”
States are legislating virtue like never before. In this case, “virtue” means certain qualities of personal character, a much vaguer and broader category than the classic virtues of courage, temperance, and the like. From 1993 to 2004, almost half the states (23) either passed new laws requiring public schools to teach kids virtues or modified old laws. Add in the three states that had such laws already, and more than half the states in the nation now want public schools to teach children particular virtues to make them good students.
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Perry Glanzer is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at Baylor University and the author of The Quest for Russia?s Soul (Baylor University Press). He attends First Baptist Church in Woodway, Texas.
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