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Irvine to Teach 'Moral Values,' but Whose?

March 22, 1992

Whatever good is proposed, there are those who will condemn it! Case in point is the March 5 story, "Moral Values to Be Taught in the Irvine Schools." On the next day, Dana Parsons' column ("Teaching Values in Schools Could Be Adult Education") predicted that the program would be abandoned. Although he praised the plan, he asserted that bigotry, so deeply rooted in our mores, embodied in the fundamental moral view of the group, will block it at the school level.

Unfortunately, this is the way our society works. Addressing the immediate issue, there will be those who say that morals are the province of the church, definitely not the schools.

Then what of the child who has no religious connection? Is he to be deprived of the concept that goodness and virtue are gained from the choice between right and wrong? Who determines right and wrong? Is only the religious element of society capable of judgment? Indeed, we learn of the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, the good Samaritan in religious books, but could not these values exist outside the symbolisms that have adopted these same basic principles?

As a child, long before I attended church school, I read Aesop's Fables, in which animals of the forest spoke and thought in human terms. The short tales taught a moral intended to govern daily behavior. When I went to church school, I was already aware that one did unto others as one would have them do unto him. We retrieve a ball for a child, we hold a door to allow another to pass, and most of us practice courtesy on the freeway.

Religion preempts these daily acts of goodwill and citizenship. Despite the teachings of religions founded on these precepts, they are often not acted upon by those who need reminding once a week.

If morals, relating to right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong, are so closely associated with religion, then substitute the word citizenship, the state of being vested with the rights, privileges and duties of a citizen. Then we can practice the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments as members of a community and be thankful that our children can be taught--along with reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic--that civics, the study of the rights, privileges and duties of a citizen, is of equal importance.

WALTER H. KADLEC, Irvine

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