Beautiful Books Can Cultivate Virtue

Beautiful Books Can Cultivate Virtue

By: Beanie Geoghegan

Character Education” has been integral to public schools since colonial times. Our founding fathers knew our republic’s strength and success hinged on its citizenry’s moral aptitude. The primary author of the Declaration of Independence clearly stated, “No government can continue good but under the control of the people; and … their minds are to be informed by education what is right and what wrong; to be encouraged in habits of virtue and to be deterred from those of vice…” In fact, the original purpose of “common schools” was moral formation. This was a relatively noncontroversial issue until the middle of the twentieth century, when the source shifted away from Judeo-Christian principles and began to reflect subjective personality traits and qualities deemed appropriate or necessary by secular society. 

Some early examples of character education would have included lessons that promoted “agriculture, arts, sciences, …, to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings; sincerity, good humor, and all social affections, and generous sentiments among the people.” Today, character education has morphed into Social Emotional Learning (SEL) that claims to help “young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

While this shift did not immediately raise concern among most parents, in recent years, it has become an increasingly divisive issue.

The simple fact is that we, as Americans, no longer share the common values such as respect for authority, patriotism, and personal responsibility we once shared. Our society once widely accepted that parents were their children’s primary authority and custodians and knew what was best for them. This made conversations and lessons highlighting the importance of the nuclear family and respecting authority irrefutable.

In today’s culture, we have organizations like BLM actively promoting the “disruption of the nuclear family” within public school classrooms. While many parents oppose this, a small group supports this type of “values education,” so it remains a part of the curriculum.

Another irrefutable truth that every American agreed with until very recently is the fundamental biological differences between boys and girls (and ultimately men and women) and the unique qualities of each. Radical gender ideology that has wedged its way into mainstream education seeks to confuse students and make them question what they know to be true and what their parents have taught them. This ideology was ushered into schools under the guise of “tolerance” and “compassion” through various “character education” programs. What started as teaching students to be kind has morphed into forcing students to say things that are factually incorrect or be labeled as hateful or transphobic.

So, what is the solution? Do we attempt to educate students academically while ignoring their moral formation? Do we try to fill their heads with knowledge while neglecting to nourish their hearts and souls? Our founding fathers would argue that this type of education is incomplete and inadequate for preparing students to become the virtuous, self-governing citizens needed for our country to survive. The wise educators and leaders who came before us would likely encourage us to move away from teaching values that ebb and flow with the culture and return to cultivating timeless and universal virtues. How do we do that?

Freedom In Education believes one solution involves filling the classroom and library bookshelves with books that cultivate those timeless virtues in children of all ages. Thanks to companies like Big Sky Life Books that is becoming easier to do. Parents can trust that the selections are age-appropriate and teachers can rely on these wholesome stories, rather than trendy Social Emotional Learning programs, to teach important lessons. Big Sky Life has carefully curated fiction and non-fiction selections that highlight virtues such as patience, courage, humility, perseverance, integrity, and more. These stories exemplify and inspire readers to strive to emulate the traits of the characters. Good Book Drive

At Freedom In Education we envision engaged parents raising knowledgeable, virtuous children who are equipped to become self-governing adults. We know schools must play a role in cultivating both knowledege and virtue. Just as we tirelessly promote quality standards and curriculum to restore rigor and content to academic subjects, we must also advocate for the resources that cultivate virtues. Thanks to Big Sky Life Books and some very generous donors, we were able to that through our 2023 Good Book Drive. We look forward to expanding our campaign in 2024 and providing even more books that promote “virtues cultivation” to classrooms and schools across the country. We hope you’ll join us!

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