Public Values – Legislation

A letter to the editor in the AJC (which does not support permalinks — so this link will die) raises some issues about a law in Georgia requiring a “comprehensive character education program” (see O.C.G.A. § 20-2-145).

(a) The State Board of Education shall develop by the start of the 1997-1998 school year a comprehensive character education program for levels K-12. This comprehensive character education program shall be known as the “character curriculum” and shall focus on the students’ development of the following character traits: courage, patriotism, citizenship, honesty, fairness, respect for others, kindness, cooperation, self-respect, self-control, courtesy, compassion, tolerance, diligence, generosity, punctuality, cleanliness, cheerfulness, school pride, respect for the environment, respect for the creator, patience, creativity, sportsmanship, loyalty, perseverance, and virtue. Such program shall also address, by the start of the 1999-2000 school year, methods of discouraging bullying and violent acts against fellow students. Local boards shall implement such a program in all grade levels at the beginning of the 2000-2001 school year and shall provide opportunities for parental involvement in establishing expected outcomes of the character education program.

(b) The Department of Education shall develop character education program workshops designed for employees of local school systems.

HISTORY: Code 1981, § 20-2-145, enacted by Ga. L. 1997, p. 1386, § 1; Ga. L. 1999, p. 362, § 2; Ga. L. 1999, p. 438, § 2.

Jonathan Herman wrote the letter, and, among many points, he says:

To be fair, I should say that of the 41 values and character traits articulated in the guide, many of them struck me as innocuous. I don’t really have any problem with “cleanliness,” “fairness,” “honesty,” or “respect for others.”  Others bothered me only slightly, though they left me a bit confused. Why was “moderation” listed, but not “passion?” Why was “cooperation” listed, but not “leadership?” Why are both “honesty” and “truthfulness” included? Are these somehow understood as different qualities? Is it really the charge of public educators to instill
“cheerfulness” in the student? And what on earth do they mean by “virtue?” Aren’t the other forty traits supposedly “virtues?”

Trying to understand which “values” drive what “policy” can be an interesting test of detective skills.  But, what of legislation that directly reflects public values within the text.  You can’t be more explicit than the bill that created OCGA 20-02-145.  And, you cannot have a more explicit example of public values failure than when you measure the outcomes of such legislation.


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Filed under Government, public failure, public values

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