You’ve seen our articles on S.E.L. (Social Emotional Learning) and our concerns. Then we saw this new article at Forbes by Peter Greene.
When will it be coming to a school near you? Stop laughing…this is serious!
I’m not really sure how to start this, because — well, I’ll just let the lede on this press release speak for itself:
IOWA CITY, Iowa—ACT, the nonprofit developer of the ACT® test and other assessments taken by millions of individuals worldwide, announced today that it was selected by the Crown Prince Court in Abu Dhabi to provide the Moral Education Standardized Assessment (MESA) for the Moral Education program in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
That’s right. The ACT folks have developed a standardized test for measuring morality.
It goes with the moral education program developed for the UAE. If you look at it, it seems relatively benign. Based on four pillars, which are Character & Morality, Individual & Community, Civic Studies, and Cultural Studies. The four goals are to build character, instill ethical outlook, foster community, and endear culture. The local goal is to “develop responsible, cultured, engaged adults ready for the wider globalized world. The global objective is to “develop student awareness of the shared human experience and make them messengers of the values they embody.”
As one might expect, there is all manner of moral irony in this plan for a nation that is not exactly an egalitarian haven for freedom of expression and the rights of women and children (the penal code allows the “chastisement by a husband of his wife and … minor child” as long as he doesn’t go to far. Homosexuality is not explicitly forbidden throughout the UAE (ten years for sodomy in Dubai), though certain emirates do forbid it and all the UAE criminalizes “indecency” which ends up meaning “consensual sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage.”
But then, that’s the problem when you start deciding to teach everyone the same standardized moral code–exactly whose code do you officially enshrine. “Don’t kill people on purpose” is an easy one, but then we start getting into grey areas. As benign as the above listing sounds, some folks are already hearing alarms because of that “global” thing. And the definition of the second pillar is “a true citizen is one that takes care of themselves in addition to caring about the good of society…” which either means good citizens are sufficiently selfish or maybe that good citizens don’t need or take welfare. Character is about students being “honest, tolerant, resilient and persevering” but nobody anywhere thinks you’re supposed to tolerate everything, so where are those lines drawn.