The New York Society for Ethical Culture hosted a regional meeting for people interested in ethical education for children, and several ECSW members were in attendance. The meeting included a presentation by our new National Director for Ethical Education, Dale McGowan, who spoke about a number of ideas and trends in ethical education that will likely be part of the American Ethical Union’s program for ethical education.
Dale noted that there are cultural trends that are favorable to a humanist approach to ethical education. A growing number of young adults say they do not belong to a religious organization, but still believe that raising ethical kids is important and have the need for support and community in raising their children. Ethical Societies who have programs that are already geared toward ethical education and not toward indoctrination may be poised to succeed well with this population.
Recent research in how children learn and develop has shown the importance of strong and secure emotional attachments with a consistent caregiver to moral development. Dale emphasized the importance of children learning to work through problems and challenges with their peers – opportunities that are often lacking in our culture’s current highly structured activities for children and the common practice of grouping children all of the same age together. He promoted greater use of experiential learning opportunities in our ethical education programs which he said would be much more effective than a traditional didactic approach.
The second part of the meeting was a conversation with the participants (who represented seven Ethical Societies) about the successes and struggles for ethical education programs in their Societies. The discussions will continue as Dale will be leading a workshop at the National Assembly in May and hosting the Ethical Education Conference in November.