Friday, December 7, 2007

Teaching chastity by transforming schools' culture

"Once young people are seriously engaged in the project of becoming the best persons they can be, they will make progress in the virtues. But still more is required if we wish, as character educators, to maximize support for living a life of character. We must create supportive moral environments, ones that help to offset the negative influences of a world that is hostile to chastity and many of the other virtues we want to foster. In our homes, schools, churches, youth groups, and other environments that we can influence, we must do everything we can to create a culture of character that supports good character and chaste living.

"In our Smart & Good Schools vision, we call upon schools to take a leadership role in developing an 'ethical learning community.' The ethical learning community provides a culture of character that challenges its members to do and be their best. To create this culture of character, the school must model and foster virtues through every phase of school life: the example of adults, the relationships among peers, the handling of rules and discipline, the content of the curriculum, the rigor of academic standards, the resolution of conflict, the ethos of the total school environment, the conduct of sports and other co-curricular activities, and the treatment and involvement of parents. Every dimension of school life provides important opportunities for character development."

— State University of New York professor and developmental psychologist Thomas Lickona, from his must-read backgrounder on character-based sex-education, presented to the Second International Congress on Education in Life, Sex and Love, held in Manila, the Philippines, last month. He namechecks me and Wendy Shalit as "fresh new voices speaking up for sexual sanity."