Children’s Values: More Common Ground than You Think?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Children's Values
Wayne Baker United America front cover

AMERICANS SHARE MORE VALUES THAN YOU MIGHT THINK. That’s the message drawn from nationwide research that went into my book “United America.” Click on the cover to learn more about this book.

Americans generally agree about several values that are especially important to teach our children. “Being responsible” is #1, as we discussed yesterday. What other values are also widely considered to be essential?

As a reminder, here are the 12 values the Pew Research Center asked about in their recent survey of the nation:

  • Curiosity
  • Religious faith
  • Obedience
  • Tolerance
  • Persistence
  • Empathy
  • Creativity
  • Independence
  • Being well-mannered
  • Helping others
  • Being responsible
  • Hard work

Half of these 12 values are widely considered to be especially important to teach children. After responsibility, “hard work” is part of the common ground. At one end of the political spectrum, 95% of consistently conservative Americans say that hard work is one of the most important values to instill in children, with 44% naming it as the most important. At the other end, 82% of consistently liberal Americans agree, with 26% naming hard works is the most important value.

Large majorities of Americans across political lines also say that “being well-mannered” and “helping others” are among the most important qualities for children to learn.

“Independence” is very important to teach children. At least three of four Americans in every political category—from consistent liberals to consistent conservatives—agree that this value is among the most important.

And, “persistence” is a key value. There is somewhat less support for this value, compared to the other five, but at least six of ten Americans in each political category say persistence is among the most important values to teach our children.

Are you surprised to learn that there is so much common ground when it comes to the values we want our children to have?

Would you put these six values—responsibility, hard work, good manners, helping others, independence, and persistence—at the top of your list?

If not, what values do you consider to be more important?

Comments: (0)
Categories: Justice and Fairness

Children’s Values: What’s the most important value to teach children?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Children's Values
Classroom photo in Wikimedia

THEY’RE WAITING. WHAT ARE WE TEACHING? (Photo by Anittos, provided via Wikimedia Commons.)

Children learn their basic values at home by observing their parents’ behavior and by talking with them. However, children may or may not learn the values that are the most important to you.

What values or qualities do you think are important to instill in children? Which value is the most important one?

In a new survey, the Pew Research Center asked Americans about the values they believe are especially important to teach children. Before I reveal any findings, consider the following list of 12 values.

Which one is the most important value to teach children?

  • Curiosity
  • Religious faith
  • Obedience
  • Tolerance
  • Persistence
  • Empathy
  • Creativity
  • Independence
  • Being well-mannered
  • Helping others
  • Being responsible
  • Hard work

(Note that respondents could name up to three values as the most important.)

Here are Pew results: More than nine of ten American adults (93%) say that “being responsible” is especially important to teach children, with more than half (55%) selecting this value as the single most important one. Belief in the importance of teaching responsibility is widespread. Across the political spectrum, from consistently conservative Americans to consistently liberal Americans, responsibility is seen as the most important value to impart to children.

For example, 96% of Americans who are consistently conservative say “being responsible” is important, with well over half (61%) naming it as the most important value to each children. At the other end of the political spectrum, 92% of consistently liberal Americans say “being responsible” is especially important to teach children, with 47% naming it as the most important.

There is even more common ground when it comes to the values that Americans believe are important to teach children, as we’ll discuss tomorrow. Of course, there are also sharp differences along ideological lines, which we’ll cover later in the week.

Do you agree that “being responsible” is most important on this list?
If not, which value tops your list—and why?
What are the top three on your list of qualities children should acquire?

Comments: (4)
Categories: Uncategorized

Banned Books: Why are books challenged?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Banned Books
CARE TO READ A FAMOUS CASE STUDY OF BOOK BANNING? On Monday, in Part 1 of this series, I recommended Kevin Birmingham's new book about worldwide response to James Joyce's "Ulysses." Click this cover image to visit the book's Amazon page.

CARE TO READ A FAMOUS CASE STUDY OF BOOK BANNING? On Monday, in Part 1 of this series, I recommended Kevin Birmingham’s new book about worldwide response to James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” Click this cover image to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Book censorship is a time-honored tradition. Banning books is alive and well in America today. Today, we consider why books are challenged—the reasons cited by those who attempt to ban books in our schools and libraries.

What do you think is the main reason?

This week, as most of America’s schoolchildren are going back to school, we’ve examined new attempts to ban ‘demonic’ books, the No. 1 banned book in the last 10 years, self-censorship by authors in our climate of surveillance, and the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week this month and 451 Degrees, a high-school book club devoted to reading banned books. (By the way, I asked my son about Captain Underpants, the No. 1 banned book in the last decade. Had he read it in elementary school? “Yes,” he said. “It was kinda funny, but pretty stupid.”)

We conclude this week by considering the reasons why books are challenged.

There have been 5,099 challenges to books from 2000–2009, according to the ALA. Here are the main reasons why books are challenged. (Note that some books are challenged for multiple reasons, so the figures below don’t total 5,099.)

  • “Sexually explicit” material (1,577 challenges)
  • “Offensive language” (1,291 challenges)
  • “Unsuited to age group” (989 challenges)
  • “Violence” (619 challenges)
  • “Homosexuality” (361 challenges)

More challenges are made to books in school libraries than any other place, followed by challenges to books used in classrooms and then books available in public libraries. There are relatively few challenges to books used in college or in academic libraries, according to the ALA.

Are you surprised to learn that “sexually explicit” material is the most commonly made charge?

Of these five reasons, which one is the most important to you?

Which of the five is the least important to you?

Comments: (0)
Categories: Critical PatriotismFreedom

Banned Books: What’s the No. 1 banned book in the last 10 years?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Banned Books
The American Library Association Banned Books Week

Want to find out more about the American Library Association’s plans to promote Banned Books Week this year? Click this ALA image to visit the group’s resource page for this year’s campaign.

Librarians nationwide already are getting ready for this year’s Banned Book Week—but are you ready? Can you identify the books that draw the most fire nationwide?

Recently, The Kite Runner and Chinese Handcuffs were on the educational chopping block at the public high school in Waukesha, Wisconsin, put there by a parent who objected to the “extreme violence” they depict. Just a few days ago, the Waukesha school committee rejected the parent’s challenge, keeping the books on the high-school reading list. But this is just the most recent challenge.

Do you know what book holds the top spot for the most frequently challenged and banned book? I’ll give you five choices. All of them made the Top 10 list of most frequently challenged books in the last decade. Can you spot No. 1?

  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green

Data on these and other challenged books are complied by the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association. (See the complete lists here.)

The most frequently challenged book—and the most banned—is the 4th one on my list of five books: Captain Underpants. It topped the list in 2012 and 2013. If you are not familiar with this series (it sold 70 million copies worldwide), here’s a brief synopsis from Wikipedia:

Captain Underpants is a children’s novel series by American author and illustrator Dav Pilkey. The series revolves around two fourth graders, George Beard and Harold Hutchins living in Piqua, Ohio—and Captain Underpants, an aptly named superhero from one of the boys’ homemade comic books, that accidentally becomes real when George and Harold hypnotize their megalomaniacal principal, Mr. Krupp.

The book was challenged (and banned) in many schools and libraries because it was considered insensitive, not appropriate for the age group, and it condoned (and even encourage) kids to disobey people in authority.

What do you think of the recent attempts to ban The Kite Runner and Chinese Handcuffs?

Are you surprised to learn that Captain Underpants is the #1 most banned book?

Are any books challenged or banned in your school district?

Comments: (2)
Categories: FreedomPursuit of Happines

Doing Good: Why do the poor give more than the rich?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Doing Good

Money falling into a pileNOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: Have you told a friend about Gayle Campbell’s fascinating series about the ways Americans are “doing good”—or, rather, the ways we think we’re doing good? It’s easy to share these columns with the social media icons on this page. Here is her fourth of five parts …

Yesterday, we learned that Americans generally donate around 2% of their discretionary income to charity. The number is a far cry from the 10% often encouraged by charities and religious organizations.

We could point to plenty of reasons for the discrepancy—tight finances and a tough economy would likely top the list. But that doesn’t seem to stop low-income households in the U.S. from giving.

Did you know that low-income households tend to donate a much larger share of their discretionary income than the wealthy?

In 2011, Americans in the top 20% income bracket contributed 1.3 percent of their income to charity, while Americans in the bottom 20% donated 3.2 percent of their income. The Atlantic Magazine calls this “one of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America.”

What gives?

Some experts have speculated that the wealthy are simply less generous, and as wealth increases, compassion, altruism and ethical behavior decrease. What’s more—a study at The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that wealthy individuals who live in affluent areas are less likely to give than those who live in more socioeconomically diverse areas.

Simply put: When the rich don’t see the poor, their inclination to give decreases.

Research by social psychologist Paul Piff, over the last several years, generally supports this argument. Want to hear from Piff? Here’s a 16-minute TED talk by Piff titled “Does Money Make You Mean?”

The percentage of income donated isn’t the only major difference in how the rich and poor are giving. The wealthy tend to direct their donations not to the needs of the poor, but to other causes including cultural institutions or universities (often alma maters.) The poor, on the other hand, tend to give to religious organizations and social-service charities.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your experiences!
Are you surprised to hear to hear those with the least are giving the most?
Does increased wealth often lead to decreased compassion?
Why aren’t the rich giving to charities that primarily serve the poor?

Comments: (2)
Categories: Getting AheadUncategorized

Divided America: Do you trust God or yourself?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Divided America

The Creation of Adam on Sistine Chapel ceilingOne of the main messages of OurValues.org is that, after all, Americans still have a lot in common. We are united by 10 core values. (You’ll find them all on our resource page). But when I give talks about my latest book, United America, I’m often confronted with skepticism and questions.

Why isn’t the family on your list of core values?

Where’s God or religion?

Values like these don’t make the list of core values for a simple reason: Americans are divided on many values, even though they are united on others. All this week, I will give you glimpses of the “other side” of my research on values in America: the values that divide us. Are you ready for the story of divided America?

The most divided value concerns moral authority: Where is the ultimate source of moral authority? Is it God? Or, are you the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong?

Many Americans say that right and wrong is based on God’s law. They also say that American kids should be raised to believe in God.

Americans are unusually God believing and God fearing, according to data from the World Value Surveys. I wrote about this in my earlier book on values, America’s Crisis of Values: Reality and Perception.

But many Americans don’t believe that God is the ultimate source of morals and moral authority. Rather, they say, what is right and wrong is up to each person to decide. The individual is the decider.

For you, where is the source of moral authority?

Does it reside in God and religion?

Or, do you place your trust in yourself as the arbiter of right and wrong?

Comments: (1)
Categories: Uncategorized

Moral Crisis: Is it mostly a matter of perception?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Moral Crisis
Want a free, colorful, printable chart of the 10 core values that my research has identified? Click on this image.

Want a free, colorful, printable chart of the 10 core values that my research has identified? Click on this image.

If we share core values, why does the nation seem so divided? Why do most Americans feel that the state of morals is deplorable? I get questions like these every time I give a talk about my book United America and tell people about our 10 core values. These important questions are so persistent that I devote this week to the five reasons why we perceive a moral crisis.

Reason #1 is basic human psychology.

We are hardwired to give much more weight, importance, and attention to negative things than positive ones. Here’s an example I experience at the end of every teaching semester when I get anonymous feedback from my students. The course may have been quite successful, with 49 of 50 students giving me positive feedback. But what do I remember? What keeps me up at night is the one student who hated the course and told me so in no uncertain terms.

I’ve learned that it’s not just me. It’s all of us.

Psychologists Roy Baumeister and colleagues, writing in the Review of General Psychology, put it this way: “The greater power of bad events over good ones is found in everyday events, major life events (e.g., trauma), close relationship outcomes, social network patterns, interpersonal interactions, and learning processes. Bad emotions, bad parents, and bad feedback have more impact than good ones, and bad information is processed more thoroughly than good.”

Blame evolution. Paying more attention to the negative than the positive has survival value. Early humans who stopped to smell the roses didn’t live long enough to procreate and pass on their genes. Our ancestors were the negative ones. Over time, we evolved as a species with a potent negativity bias.

All of which means that we are much more likely to perceive a moral crisis, perhaps even a moral panic—even when the facts don’t warrant it. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are real problems and real issues out there. But our negativity bias makes it seem far worse than it really is.

And, the reverse is true. Our negativity bias means that we give too little weight and credence to the good and the positive.

So that’s one of five reasons why we perceive the state of our nation to be far worse than it really is.

Is our moral crisis “real”?

How much perception versus reality?

Is our bias toward negativity to blame?

Comments: (2)
Categories: Uncategorized