Teaching Peace: Toward Cultural Selflessness

Teaching Peace: Toward Cultural Selflessness

Teaching Peace: Toward Cultural Selflessness

Teaching Peace: Toward Cultural Selflessness

Excerpt

American culture is changing rapidly. It is becoming more pluralistic, more complex, and more violent. Associated with these realities is the fact that many people feel isolated from their communities and experience fear with regard to cultural changes that appear to be engendering tribalism rather than pluralism. Adults who grew up in simpler times argue for a return to the traditional values that seemed so prominent in previous decades--times when commitments to community, neighbors, and family were evident and when people really knew and cared about what happened to others. At the same time that American culture is growing in moral complexity, many are now envisioning a need for traditional values that will anchor that growth.

Although educators are in the middle of the debates about how moral growth should be accommodated and what values should be espoused, they have had limited input regarding the politics of change. The cultural debates rage around them, with some right-wingers demanding that schools and parents teach specific values and those with more libertarian views arguing that any imposition of adult values is wrong and an infringement on the rights of young people. The debates are heated, emotional, and often poorly focused in terms of goals, especially regarding the goals that schools should establish and communities should encourage. The goal-definition problem is a reflection in part of the varied philosophical perspectives people bring to the value-setting process. Neoconservatives on the right want prescriptiveness; they know what values schools should teach. Libertarians on the left want no intervention at all. For them any effort to define values mitigates the freedom of the student. In be-

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