This is what I think.
I think a class in Ethics should be taught in public school. I hear the same thing over and over again from parents whom I talk to about schools. And that is that the reason they don’t send their kids to public school is because that they don’t teach "morality." I’m not sure this is true, frankly. I mean, I was taught about God wanting us to behave this way and that, and if we didn't... what would happen. And, it wasn't going to be pretty! I'm not sure that's ethics. I think that's more in the scaring children category.
But I do think that there should be a class called "Ethics" and it should be taught from first grade. There is a lot to teach about ethics without getting into religion: trustworthiness, responsibility, family, and lot of ambiguous and complicated situations that could be debated and talked about. There is enough shared agreement over certain behavior that this could be taught. When the public schools refuse to teach ethics, they reinforce the idea that morality and religiosity are synonymous. And that is untrue.
Here’s the other thing I think: Religion should also be taught from first grade on in public school. When people say they don’t want the Bible in schools, I say the opposite. The Bible should be in schools. Along with the Koran and all the other major religious texts. Children should learn about religion. Just look around us, religion is a major force in the world. It’s a mistake to think that ignoring it is the right way to go.
The instructor/teacher should teach about religion, not indoctrinate children. If the teacher is a member of a certain religion, he or she may spend ten percent more time on that particular religion. He or she must not speculate on the veracity of any one religion. They must simply teach about the different religious beliefs. (See? I can already make up rules!)
I know this all may seem statement-of-the-obvious, but to me this is fundamental knowledge that each child deserves to know about. Last night another parent told me that public school was no good for them because those schools don’t teach “how to be good.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but on my daily dog-walk today, I ranted in my head about it.
Today I got to interview a scientist at Caltech (see, I spelled it right this time!) who is working on the special glasses that allow some types of blind people see some objects and the future of that research. I spoke to him yesterday as well, but today it was much more in depth. I mostly just sat in the background and listened to him hold a model of an eyeball and talk about the retinal implants that are possible. It was really fun. It actually takes my breath away that these types of technology are being developed.
Also, I spent some time talking to a person at the Paramount Theater in Seattle (where I did a show with Ira Glass last May) about doing “Letting Go Of God” on December 26th there. It seems possible. It might even be fun. It might even be successful! I will keep you posted…