Public Schools Teaching Ethics?

In 1938, a Mormon apostle spoke at a training for teachers of religion classes in the church, and asked if their job was merely to instruct students in good behavior.  He said:

The teaching of a system of ethics to the students is not a sufficient reason for running our seminaries and institutes. The great public school system teaches ethics.

The great public school system teaches ethics?  Indeed, our campuses even used to have classes named “Ethics.”  How deeply this role of instructing students in proper conduct was integrated into our secular discourse should be clear from how easily this apostle references it, as if no one could disagree with so obvious a fact.

But when was the last time any religious leader was able to say that the “great public school system” already taught students acceptable ethics?  For that matter, when do you think the last time was when a religious leader called our public school system “great?”

In the seventy plus years since that statement was made, I wonder what exactly has changed that this statement now seems so quaint and obsolete.

 

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