To navigate today's rough waters and avoid sinking in a sea of harm, children need to learn how to use a moral compass - and they need to learn it in school.
That was the message delivered Friday by a handful of experts in the fields of ethics and education at the Legacy Foundation's conference on "Moral Development and Character Education," held at the recently remodeled Scera Theater.Ten professional educators spoke on topics ranging from honesty and love to teaching moral concepts in literature and the ethics of sexuality. The conference was attended by scores of teachers, parents, and business and civic leaders.
"We can ensure that we give children a finer legacy - one that includes a moral compass, confidence they can learn and achieve, a sense of personal responsibility and a willingness to contribute to others," said A. Lynn Scoresby, an associate professor of family sciences at Brigham Young University. "We can do this if we join together and commit ourselves to the idea that it is one of the greatest endeavors we will ever undertake."
Scoresby said the "morality of honor" - based on a system of laws with accompanying rewards and punishments - falls short of developing ethical individuals. So does the "morality of deliberation," which focuses on individual reasoning to make choices in a given situation.
The ethical system that children should be taught is "personal morality," he said, because it places emphasis on individual responsibility and relationships with others. When children realize their actions have consequences for other people, they will make good choices.
"The measure of whether or not we are moral is based on the idea of consequences for you and the other person in a given situation," Scoresby said.
Terry Warner, a BYU professor of philosophy, told conferencegoers the key to teaching children about morality is for teachers and parents to practice what they preach. He also said the effort schoolteachers make to care about the children they teach is worthwhile.
"This kind of investment saves trouble, hassle and time," Warner said. "There's nothing dangerous about letting down our guard with other people and opening up to them. They're only threatening to us, because we're threatening to them."
Phillip Snyder, associate professor of English at BYU, outlined ways to include character education in the study of literature. His address focused on the relationship between the "self" and the "other."
Meanwhile, Suzanne Evertsen Lundquist, also a BYU associate professor of English, discussed the ethics of sexuality. She said chastity includes ethical as well as sexual integrity, and that harmony in the world will be achieved only through solidarity between men and women.