School leaders around the world are more and more accepting responsibility for including social and moral education in their schools. Expanding a traditional academic curriculum to include these two issues usually generates a great deal of enthusiasm, confusion, and criticism. Thus, it is important for educational leaders, teachers, parents, and community leaders to think and plan carefully about the history, philosophies, and research pertaining to these broad reforms.
First, it is valuable to be clear about the two central elements of this broad educational reform−a curriculum that enables students to grow into young adults with individual integrity and good character as well as a curriculum that helps students develop into socially responsible and civically active members of their communities. For many generations and in many countries these key elements have been excluded from schools and were presumed to conducted in other parts of a student’s life; that is, in their homes, their churches, and community agencies. Often today that presumption is unwarranted.
Second, two powerful forces−globalization and rapidly expanding technology−have transformed the lives and learning of young people. One of the transformations affecting students social and moral growth involves their instant access to vast new information sources, ideas, and differences. Thus, schools need to provide guidance so students can integrate their traditional academic subjects with their emerging capacities to make consistent, clear-eyed moral and civic choices.
Third, the basic modes of analysis across subject areas are part of the solution, but those must be much better integrated with students decision-making talents so that ethical, moral, and socially responsible dimensions are regarded as just as vital as strictly rational analytics. The ability to reflect carefully and collaboratively about these kinds of daily decisions is the foundational ingredient of effective social and moral education.