Teaching Moral Literacy
The Dos and Don'ts of Life
The training of the heart and mind towards good involves many things. Moral education of the young involves rules and precepts as well as training and exhortation. It must provide training in good habits.
Good habits formed at youth make all the difference. ~Aristotle
Nothing can affect a child's future more than good moral example of the adults he grows up with. They must see adults take morality seriously. Moral literacy can also be taught with stories, essays, poems
Children are taught math, science, music and many other subjects in school, but the traits needed to achieve at least a minimum of moral literacy are not often taught.
Traits of character include, honesty, courage, compassion, perseverance and compassion. Children are not born with this knowledge, so they need to be informed. Our history and literature contains rich examples of moral literacy.
Children should have at their disposal examples illustrating what is morally right and wrong, good and bad. Modern media seldom improves on a good story that begins with "Once upon a time . . ."
Leaving children to their own devices and entertainment may never correctly learn principles of moral virtues. They are seeking out anchors to follow every day. Goodness and greatness can ensure a continuing community of moral persons. Difficult ethical controversies present themselves from day to day. But planting virtue and good traits must come first.
A person armed with morally literacy will be better equipped than a morally illiterate person to take positions on tough issues. This hub is about the basics addressing each individual as human beings, as moral agents.
Most of all, we should be encouraging. Some of our own experiences may be discouraging, but we should pick and choose what we tell our children to encourage them to strive for something better than our nature. Life your eyes.
"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things." ~ St. Paul
To know about a virtue, children must know about its opposite. Perhaps we have more examples of vices in the world today.
You know that the beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken...Shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up? ~ Plato's Republic
Plato divided the soul into three parts - reason, passion, and appetite, and said that right behavior results from harmony or control of these elements.
St Augustine ranked the various forms of love: love of God, neighbor, self and materials goods (ordo amoris)
William Shakespeare examined the conflicts of the soul in his immortal works (Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet and King Lear). Again the problem stems from proper balance and order.
"Oh, if only I had stopped myself" is an all too frequent refrain.
Our habits make all the difference. We can learn to order our souls in the same way we learn to do math problems or sing, through practice. This lies at the heart of the task of our behavior, whether we control our temper, our appetite or our words. Practice brings self control.
This could very well be a poem about me, as I remember well doing the same thing when I was upset:
A trick that everyone abhors
In Little Girls is slamming doors.
A Wealthy Banker's Little Daughter
Who lived in Palace Green, Bayswater (By name Rebecca Offendort), Was given to this Furious Sport. She would deliberately go And Slam the door like Billy-Ho! To make her Uncle Jacob start She was not really bad at heart, But only rather rude and wild; She was an aggravating child... It happened that a Marble Bust of Abraham was standing just Above the door this little Lamb Had carefully prepared to Slam, And Down it came! It knocked her flat! It laid her out! She looked like that. Her Funeral Sermon (which was long And followed by a Sacred Song) Mentioned her virtues, it is true, But dwelt upon her Vices too, And showed the Dreadful End of One Who goes and slams the Door for fun. The children who were brought to hear The awful Tale from far and near Were much impressed, and inly swore They never more would slam the Door. As often they had done before.
© 2014 Elayne
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