Manners and Morals

The Keywords essay “Education” states that “…education is primarily a matter of manners and morals; curriculum is secondary”. Gruner argues that education encompasses more than just math and sciences- it provides children with a space to learn the lessons of life and citizenship. She continues by explaining how education often provides students with cultural context, a space where they can explore the diversity of their peers and land around them. The importance of understanding ethics often exceeds the importance of understanding curriculum within the classroom.

BuildOn is an international organization that builds schools in developing countries. Funded through volunteer contributions, schools are built together by local villagers and volunteers. In hopes of breaking the poverty and illiteracy cycles, BuildOn aims to provide a space for children and adults to begin- and hopefully continue- their education.

On their website (, BuildOn states that 197,354 children and adults attend their schools every day. Although, they never specify what students actually learn within classroom walls or test for literacy rates. Some people may challenge the organization for not adequately teaching their students, arguing that building a physical school does not improve education unless the students genuinely learn. Others, including author of Keywords essay “Education” Elisabeth Rose Gruner, may argue that the act of attending school teaches children manners and morals they cannot learn outside of the classroom. Understanding how to act in a classroom setting, obeying adult instruction, and learning how to interact with peers are important, revelvent skills that apply to the outside workforce and world of today.

In American Indian Stories, Zitkala attends boarding school where she is forced to do many things against her will. Her mother sends her with intentions of learning curriculum, stating “She will need an education when she is grown…”, although throughout her experience, Zitkala learns more lessons about life than curriculum. Tough experiences teach her how to follow rigid schedules and instruction, dress appropriately (according to white settlers), and deal with punishment. After instilling fear in her through mythical stories about Satan and many incidences of corporal punishment, Zitkala gains resilience. She learns how to cope with hardship and push through tough times- lessons that she may not have learned without attending school.

1 thought on “Manners and Morals”

  1. I agree that there is more to be learned than just curriculum like how to add or subtract. Etiquette and social norms are extremely important to learn for a nation/region to function properly. A lot of these values are not blatantly taught but they are learned through interactions, experiences, and mimicking others. A physical school many times brings this about because children are interacting with many different peers and adults, however, this is not to say that not going to traditional school will exclude such learning. Homeschooling, for example, leaves time to go out into the world and experience things, such as a trip to a zoo or the grocery store. By going out and just experiencing life, one picks up on many social norms, activities, and behaviors. In this way, education and learning is everywhere, which is a fascinating thing to think about!

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