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Education: Is poverty the cause of low achievement?

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In “Education and Poverty” ( The Best Schools, December 13, 2011) James Barhams writes,

That the heart of the problem with our educational system is not just cognitive deficit, but virtue deficit, is a nearly unthinkable thought in our culture. That is because it contravenes the most cherished axiom of the liberal educational establishment—moral and cultural relativism. I am not saying that correcting this situation will be easy. In a pluralistic society like ours, introducing virtue explicitly into the classroom is bound to be contentious and messy. But until we begin to incorporate the most important missing ingredient into education reform, nothing else is likely to change very much.

The trouble is, it’s very difficult to incorporate virtue into today’s “package” educational system.

Virtue can only ever be taught by example. Kids learn fair play from the honest hockey ref. They learn self-control when they see adults controlling themselves during a serious dispute. They learn honesty when Mom quietly and kindly points out to the new shop clerk that she has given her too much change.

Examples from literature help, but only when backed up by everyday experience of the same virtues. There is no package. Virtue is lived or not.


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