Morality 101 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

April 9, 2009
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What ails contemporary American society? Everyone seems to have an answer. Racism, intolerance, ignorance, depression, lack of compassion – all valid issues that share one thing in common: the fact that their respective practitioners suffer from a basic lack of value for human life, in all its diverse forms and configurations. Confucius taught that a life should never be taken unless it is absolutely unavoidable. This writer agrees. If only the various groups that make up our society had a common foundation of values. The Ku Klux Klan is a white separatist group that blames the problems in American culture on “outsider races.” The Black Panthers, though not as violent as their Caucasian counterparts, spread a message of hatred for an oppressive “White America,” blaming an entire race for the actions of a seemingly ignorant minority. Violent religious fundamentalists, Neo-Nazis, and “gay bashers” all show a common lack of respect for their fellow human beings. How can these issues be addressed? How can we take a step toward that harmonious society that we've all but written off as a pipe dream?

The solution has to begin with education. Let's face it, it's impossible to remedy the views of every living person. So we must start young. My idea is to introduce Morality 101 into public school curriculum.

We should begin in the third grade, teaching basic sharing and reasoning skills as well as general kind behavior. Fifth grade morality classes would focus on building and maintaining healthy relationships with peers, authority ­figures, and relatives. In middle school, morality lessons would center on acceptance of different races, religions (or lack thereof), lifestyle choices, and so on.

In high school, morality class would involve less comprehension-building busywork and more independent ­development of understanding. Students would be encouraged to further their own studies in what good morals are and how they should be applied to everyday life. Students would be informed of national and global issues and asked to illustrate how what they learned in class applies. Morality classes should be required curriculum for all public schools, necessary for high school graduation, and colleges and universities should consider successful completion of morality studies an admission criteria.

Some people may be concerned about what children would be learning in these classes. All teachers would be carefully selected, since religious, lifestyle, or racial biases could be the downfall of this program. Students would not be told that any particular belief or lifestyle choice is right, rather that what is right is that we are all allowed to choose for ourselves.

During their education, students would learn to resolve disputes between parties that have pre-existing grudges or are not likely to see the situation through the eyes of the opposition. They would learn about our environment and what we must do to keep it healthy. They would learn that, though independence is key to furthering ourselves, it is important to maintain an open mind and to be willing to accept the wisdom and counsel of others. They should be taught to embrace their fellow human beings, whether in love, friendship or simply mutual respect. They would be offered a number of chances to apply their learning to real-world situations, becoming well-versed in current national and global events. Most importantly, students would gain the one thing that is absolutely essential if we are ever to reach the goal of a more harmonious society: a deeply rooted, unshakeable belief in the right of every human being to live a life free of harassment or harm.

Could Morality 101 solve every problem in American society? Of course not. However, it would be a huge step in the right direction. If we wish for an end to ignorance and intolerance, then we must all make an active effort to drive small-mindedness out of our culture. Morality 101 would teach each new generation to think and feel on their own while always remaining aware of the thoughts and feelings of others. It would teach our youth that it is not possible for us to exist without one another. Above all, if we are ever to achieve the world that Confucius and others like him sought, we must know and understand the infinite potential belonging to every human life, and the tragedy of such a life lost.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 6 comments. Post your own now!

stupendousman said...
Oct. 19, 2012 at 10:19 pm
*world (sorry, misspelled)
stupendousman said...
Oct. 19, 2012 at 10:18 pm
amazing article! you had very good points, and i strongly agree that the work needs more acceptance and morality, but i don't think it would be very easy to make some people, especially kids, be nice.
dannym said...
Sept. 19, 2011 at 10:14 am
I think you have a point when it comes to allowing children to decide their own paths and belifs, the thing is most children already do choose their own path and sometimes its an evil one. Knowing how to do right doesnt me you cant do wrong.
Destinee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 27, 2010 at 12:27 am
I don't necessarily agree with this, but it's extremely well-written
peace123 said...
Sept. 11, 2010 at 8:34 pm
i totally agree with this. good job! said...
May 14, 2009 at 7:26 am
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