Having seen a fleet of yellow buses on the road this morning, I am reminded that school has started again—for better and for worse. While there are many good public schools, it is no secret that some offer bleak educational prospects to their students. Many people in our society seem to think that increased funding will brighten these prospects. If we just allocate more money to these schools, they will then have the resources necessary to help students achieve acceptable levels of academic performance. While more funding might have some positive effect, financial resources alone cannot significantly improve education in troubled schools.
Virtue must make a return to the curriculum in public education. Students must be instructed as to the value of virtues such as integrity and hard work. Even though the courts in the United States have precluded public school teachers from talking about God and praying with their classes, teachers may still demonstrate to and discuss with their students the morality that God requires. Helping students see the importance of virtuous action—in addition to knowing all the facts about history, science, math, and language—is a better remedy for challenged public schools than those solutions offered by the state.
With all the fine alternatives to traditional public education that are now available, it would be easy to leave these challenged public schools to their own devices. But this is not a fitting response for those committed to the free and virtuous society. We must strive to bring about the free and virtuous society for everyone; this includes ministering to cross-sections of the population who might actively resist our efforts. One of these cross-sections might include the children on the yellow buses headed for one of these troubled public schools. At the Acton Institute, we promote policies and scholarship on education that assist all teachers with providing moral instruction to this next generation. We are exceedingly grateful for your financial contributions, without which none of this would be possible.
Rev. Robert A. Sirico