Sharp, P.T. & Wood, R.M. (1994, May). Morals/values: A review of selected third and fifth grade reading and social studies texts. Texas Reading Report.
School texts are under criticism for being devoid of positive values. As psychologists try to assess the “development” of moral development, many agree that children’s stories should include characters as role models. They also state that children should be able to relate to the situations at hand. These situations should show not only motivations for behavior, but also the outcomes of those behaviors.
In 1989 the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development resolved that moral education should be a priority. The first of twelve resolutions states:
Students today are expected to address moral issues in their own lives and to fulfill the moral responsibilities of citizenship. (p. 6)
They recommended that the democratic values that are supported both in religious and secular realms be of great significance in the school setting.
Third and fifth grade reading and social studies texts were reviewed to see if the criticism was justified. Those involved in the study were greatly concerned about defining a moral value. Therefore, they created a matrix of values divided into three major sections: religious, individual, and social/secular values. This matrix became the basis for examining the texts. Researchers were sure that the random samples used included a single moral/value from the matrix category; thus the samples were judged as having fulfilled the matrix category. The four social studies textbook selections, adopted for use in the state of Texas, were taken from Harcourt Brace; D.C. Heath; Scott, Foresman; Silver Burdett & Ginn; and McGraw Hill.
- Random samples from three of the four third grade social studies books contain 75% of the values cited in the matrix. Scott, Foresman, had examples of all the values.
- For the fifth grade, three of the five books, Harcourt Brace, D.C. Heath, and McGraw Hill, incorporated 100% of the values identified. Scott, Foresman had 83% of the values and Silver Burdett & Ginn had 75% of the values shown on the matrix.
- Third grade reading books, adopted by the state of Texas, were also reviewed. MacMillan/McGraw-Hill; Scott, Foresman; and Houghton Mifflin included more than 50% of the matrix values. Harcourt Brace had 47% of the cited values.
- The fifth grade text, MacMillan/McGraw-Hill, was the only one that had less than 50% of the value areas included (pp. 7, 11).
- In relation to the textbooks examined, criticisms regarding the lack of positive values seems to be unfounded.
- According to the matrix developed for this study, researchers found examples to illustrate each moral/value category in the random samples of readings.
- By using only a small portion of these readings, a student would be exposed to at least one or more examples of the moral/values from the matrix.
- These texts do not only include above stated examples, they also present the concepts in concrete terms suitable to a child’s understanding.
Critique and Evaluation
The researchers appear to be concerned about the morals/values presented in textbooks used in the schools and have done well in examining those texts widely used throughout the country. Although the purpose of this study was not to trace the results in attitudes and behaviors of children exposed to these readings, my questions are as follows:
- If morals/values concepts are so easily found and so well presented in these widely used texts, why is there such concern about student life across the nation?
- Are children left to discover and incorporate these values in their own lives?
- Are teachers directly teaching the students, acting as positive role models? Where does society go from here?
- It is important that school administrators and teachers thoroughly research school textbooks and materials before making a choice. It is equally important that a schoolwide plan of instruction be in place before implementing materials.
- Parents need to explore the school’s choice of curriculum and policies of moral education before placing their child.
- Other concerned adults should be aware of the teachings of the local schools.
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