Saturday, June 2, 2012

Rick Santorum's It Takes a Family 12

In my latest reading of It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good, Rick Santorum continued to talk about how the entertainment media's focus on illicit sex and violence could harm kids.  He commended companies (such as Wal-Mart) that try to clean up the culture for kids, lamented that piracy enables children to see rotten movies, presented public policy proposals for dealing with the culture (which sometimes entailed censorship of such things as pornography, since Santorum believes that the First Amendment is primarily about protecting political speech and not smut, but his proposals mostly related to the government making it easier for private interests to clean up the entertainment media for children, without necessarily banning mature movies for adults), exhorted families to monitor what their kids watched and to turn off the TV and tell their kids stories, and affirmed that schools should teach values.

What I want to highlight here, however, is something that Santorum says on pages 357-358:

"In addition to the usual checklist of learning skills, sciences, and humanities, the orientation of education toward truth should include moral truth as well.  I know this will strike some readers as either dangerous or impossible for a public school system in a pluralistic democracy, but that's because we all tend to focus on a few highly contentious areas of morality in our culture, mostly revolving around human life and sexuality.  But what about honesty and loyalty?  What about self-control and self-sacrifice?  Aren't these true values that we can agree to teach our children as being part of an objective moral reality?"

I appreciate Santorum's willingness here to search for common moral ground rather than obsessing over controversial issues.  I guess my question is this: Don't schools teach morality already?  Good behavior in the classroom is necessary for the class to run smoothly, after all!  There are right-wingers who have criticized situational-ethics exercises in the classroom as an attack on morality being absolute, but, heck, acknowledging that there are gray areas and difficult dilemmas does not nullify morality as a whole, or the truth that it is wrong to be inconsiderate of others and to hurt them.  Santorum will be criticizing "value-free" education that promotes tolerance, for he mentions that on page 358, but I have not yet read his specific criticisms.  But I don't think that the current educational system is completely "value-free".  Tolerance, after all, is a value, as long as we're not tolerating acts that directly hurt others.

UPDATE: On pages 388-389, Santorum acknowledges that liberals are committed to certain correct values (i.e., equality) and states that "tolerance, properly understood" should be taught.

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