Responsibility and Respect (The 4th and 5th R’s)

Moral educationChildren Need to Learn Responsibility and Respect

In addition to the 3 R’s, two key principles that children need to learn in order to to live a successful life are responsibility and respect. As we teach knowledge and information, these areas need to be taught through an ethical frame of reference.

Not all information is equally helpful in learning to become a good citizen. While we encourage good thinking, we also need to encourage good behavior in order to provide a well-rounded education.

“Responsibility and Respect – known among proponents as the fourth and fifth R’s – are increasingly being taught alongside academic subjects as schools try to address what many see as the declining moral fiber of the country’s youth.”

Lori Miller Kase, Reading, Writing, & Respect, Parents Magazine

Wouldn’t it be helpful if we taught subjects like these along with the traditional classes?

  • Learning Self-Control (When What You Want to Do Seems Really Fun, But You Shouldn’t Do It)
  • How to Be a Responsible Thinker (Thinking Beyond Yourself)
  • How To Treat Other People (What Respect Looks Like)

What is the Role of K-12 Education in Moral Education?

Moral education is the key to helping students become responsible citizens. Shouldn’t it be more important to know how to treat other people than to know the exact date something happened in history? One you can look up. The other is harder to learn, but is critical for a civil society.

“Character education has taken many different forms, and has varied monikers- moral reasoning, moral education, character development, and civic education- but the substance behind the names has a common thread. The need for children to become productive citizens in American society is the heart of character education. Moral reasoning is imperative for schools to incorporate to truly reach this mission: an educated citizenry.”

Dolph and Lynca, Moral Reasoning: A Necessary Standard of Learning in Today’s Classroom, Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Education

Throughout history, morality transmission has been present in education. Furthermore, many people believe that there is a connection between learning academically and the development of mental power, and the learning of moral values and the development of strength of character. The development of the intellect and of moral character are intimately related. Just as there is an order in nature (the laws of science), in reason (the laws of logic), and in the realm of numbers, so too is there a moral order. One thing we need to do is recover the belief that there is a transcendent, unchanging moral order, and restore it once more to a central place in the educational process. (Nash)

Morality in Education, University of Michigan Department of Psychology,

Teaching students how to research, read, write and do math is only part of the picture. Let’s make responsibility and respect equally important components of childhood education – then we’ll be developing the ethical leaders of the future.

Character Education Programs Designed for Children:


For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
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About 7 Lenses  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

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  1. Tom, Thanks so much for highlighting the very important parallel to moral formal education – moral education at home. Both are necessary for helping children become responsible citizens. I agree that what parents say and do is so important – they have the power to enable or undermine a child’s development toward ethical choices and ethical behavior. Linda


  2. Lori,
    Thank you for the great post. To me it all starts in the home. The actions of the parents is what will set the standard for responsibilty and respect. I am divorced, at the same time the way I handle my responsibilities for my children and the respect I show their Mother is where they will learn. Lessons given in our schools are important and needed. If they are not supported by the actions of the parents at home they will be lost.



  3. Lori,
    Thank you for this article. I could not agree more with the need for focusing on the 4th and 5th R’s. Personally this education starts at home and is lead by the parents. Even in a family split by divorce showing respect and responsibility is key to the future of the children. Our teachers are wonderful. At the same time if we do not have authentic responsibilty and respect at home any lessons taught in school will be lost.


  4. Thank you Lori for your thoughtful post. I would submit, for your consideration, that the most effective way in which to demonstrate responsibility and respect to young people is by and with our example. These, as you illustrate are a difficult fit into any curriculum. This, I believe is best course of action and requires parents, educators, students be encouraged to take responsibility for their actions.

    The best place to start with this, to my mind, is for all to discover who and what we really are within this physical frame in which we occupy. Mentoring young people in this regard establishes the significance of our spiritual integrity which is very different than our physical selves. It is here we discover all that connects us and is meaningful in that consiously recognizing and respecting others brings benefit to all parties, including self. The demonstration of kindness, sympathy and patience by example sets the stage for all significant life building undertaking. This cannot be deligated. The practice, once initiated, is the motivation to continue.

    This awareness requires nothing more than curiosity and desire to change the world in which we live. Let us all consider a quote taken from the late author Betty Smith. I believe she died in the early 70’s but left us this pearl of wisdom: “Look at everything as if you are looking at it for the first/last time.” I find it gives wonderful perspective to all things including this, your thoughtful topic.


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