In the article below, the topic of student conscience and civic engagement is explored in the context of courageous individuals who have quietly helped Holocaust survivors and others in need. The author raises the important perspective that what matters most in our learning is what KIND of students are reading the books and doing the math? The piece of educational emphasis about being a good person, making ethical choices, contributing to the world beyond your own needs is central to human development, but often left out in school. Arguably, these “human” skills are the most important abilities for college, career and life fulfillment and success.
Several schools in Michigan have taken on a hunger initiative. Their students learned that 18,000 people die each day from hunger and 850 million people go to bed hungry each night. How do you think those statistics motivate apathetic students? Research shows that working with real problems facing the world—hunger, health, education, injustices—have the ability to motivate and call forth some of the most dispassionate students. We can all learn a lesson from the model of Michigan and begin to apply this “perspective” to how we teach students to understand themselves and the world that they are preparing to enter.
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Education’s highest aim is to create moral and civic habits of the heart. At a time when the United States faces unprecedented challenges at home and abroad, public schools must do far more to prepare young people to be engaged, ethical advocates of “liberty and justice for all.” Yes, reading and math are important. But what matters most is what kinds of human beings are reading the books and doing the math.
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