Virtue Cards At Renton School Raise Concerns About Religion

{amazon id='B00936DS24'}

Tuesday, November 15, 1994

RENTON - Modesty, courtesy, kindness, forgiveness. These are words more often found in old-fashioned primers or Sunday-school lessons than in modern public-school classrooms.

Yet, there they are, along with 47 others like them, printed in neat, alphabetical rows on posters adorning the walls at Renton Alternative High School.

Idealism, responsibility, peacefulness, steadfastness, love. The words are being discussed by teachers and students at the high school this year because of a new program called the 52 Virtues. It is an effort to introduce students to moral values shared by religions and humanists - "values that everybody holds," Principal Jack Rogers said.

Most teachers say they have taken a low-key approach, using the virtues as vocabulary words, and having students identify virtues in people they know or admire. "One kid said, `What's courtesy?' " said science teacher Steve Gerkey. "You can't practice it if you don't know what it is."

{josquote}This is something we never intended to be used in classrooms.{/josquote}

But at least one teacher has crossed a line that's supposed to separate church and state. For the past three months, he's handed out cards that, while describing what reverence, or patience or helpfulness is, also instruct students to, "love God and all that God created," "trust that God will help," "listen when God speaks to your heart," and do something "just to serve God."

Full story...