Ethics and values in education: Can schools teach Right and Wrong?

Year: 1994

Author: O'Donnell, Dan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In the wake of the presentation of the Wiltshire Report to the Queensland Parliament there is much public interest in values education, and also much public disquiet at the findings that Australian State schools have never ever taught Right and Wrong since they have never been equipped professionally to do so. This basic premise appears to be fallacious, massive evidence extrapolated from Annual Reports of the Queensland Minister for Education to Parliament and from Inspection Reports on individual schools demonstrating abundantly that not only were schools and teachers making vigorous efforts to inculcate socially acceptable behaviours (such as abstaining from lying, cheating, stealing and murder) but that they were required by their employer to do so. Time and again it was reiterated that the development of good citizens was the primary obligation of all teachers above all else-including the three R's.

Two developments have arisen since the presentation of the Report to the Queensland Parliament. First, strenuous efforts have been made by supporters of the Wiltshire recommendations to influence the Government to introduce Ethics into every school as a "discrete, stand-alone subject" rather than the all-encompassing responsibility of every teacher. Second, every school "constituency" is to be encouraged to create its own "charter of values". This paper argues that both are radical departures from the traditional approach to values education.