Friday, September 15, 2006

 

A call to Civil Society?

In a democratic nation, the connection between moral foundations and civic health is immediate and inescapable. “America’s civic institutions are declining,” the nonpartisan Council on Civil Society pointed out in a recent report entitled A Call to Civil Society: Why America Needs Moral Truths. That is “because the moral ideas that fueled and formed them are losing their power—the power to shape our behavior, to unite us as one people in pursuit of common ideals. Too many Americans view morality as a threat to freedom, rather than its essential guarantor.”

In the name of personal freedom and respect for diversity, the family—which has long been the first and most important place where values are learned—is under assault. “The family is the cradle of citizenship,” as the report A Call to Civil Society puts it. “It is in the family that a child first learns, or fails to learn, the essential qualities necessary for governing the self: honesty, trust, loyalty, cooperation, self-restraint, civility, compassion, personal responsibility, and respect for others. . . . Families can teach standards of personal conduct that cannot be enforced by law, but which are indispensable traits for democratic civil society.” Along with families, schools have traditionally played a crucial role in teaching and reinforcing our shared moral heritage. For all the attention devoted to teaching children about respecting individual rights and honoring diversity, one report after another has noted the neglect of civic education that teaches the values of democratic life and its corresponding obligations and responsibilities.

Just as the erosion of family life and neglect of civic values in the schools have undermined the moral foundation, so too, say advocates of this choice, has the marginalization of religious institutions. The repeated message, in the words of the Council on Civil Society, is that we should be “a society sanitized of public religious influence.” The virtues promulgated by religious institutions—tolerance, compassion, and the importance of conscience, to name a few—are essential to democratic society.

You and read rest of Approach One (in the Democracy discussion guide) online.

What do you like, or dislike, about this stated position so far?
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