A majority of public school teachers think the schools are doing too little to emphasize the development of ethical character in students, according to a new national poll by the Virginia-based Educational Research Service.
The "Educator Opinion Poll," a mail survey of 1,346 public school teachers, found that 57.4 percent thought schools were doing too little about ethics. Forty-nine percent also said schools put too little emphasis on preparing young people for citizenship.
Ethics and citizenship training have become the rhetorical guideposts of Reagan administration officials, who have repeatedly chastised America's public schools for failing to transmit proper values and instill patriotism in the country's institutions and symbols.
Education Secretary William J. Bennett said in a speech last Saturday that schools are failing to tell children that America is "morally superior" to the Soviet Union. In an earlier speech, he said young people today should be told about the urgency of the communist threat in Nicaragua. Education Undersecretary Gary Bauer has said that by failing to teach values, schools are partially to blame for the rise in pornography, teen-age suicide and drug abuse.
Bennett and Bauer often cite Gallup Poll findings that the American public wants schools to teach children to read and write, and to know the difference betweeen right and wrong. A recent business group report on education also emphasized the character issue.
In 1966, the National Education Association listed seven "objectives" of education, specifically to teach basic skills, health, citizenship, ethical character, vocation, worthy use of leisure time and worthy home membership, or interfamily relationships. In the most recent poll, more than 92 percent of the teachers said teaching ethical character was still a major objective, while more than 95 percent said teaching proper citizenship was still important.