GMAT : Analysis of An Issue

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An Issue

23. Schools should be responsible only for teaching academic skills and not for teaching ethical and social values.


Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Support your views with reasons and / or examples from your own experience, observations or reading.


The speaker asserts that schools should teach only academic skills and not ethical or social values. I agree with the speaker insofar as instruction on certain moral issues is best left to parents and churches. However, in my view it is in the best interests of a democratic society for schools to teach at least the values necessary to preserve freedom and a democratic way of life and perhaps even additional values that enrich and nurture a society and its members.

We all have in interest in preserving our freedom and democratic way of life. At the very least, then, schools should provide instruction in the ethical and social values required for our democracy to survive particularly the values of respect and tolerance. Respect for individual persons is a basic ethical value that requires us to acknowledge the fundamental equality of all people, a tenet of a democratic society. Tolerance of differences among individuals and their viewpoints is required to actualize many of our basic constitutional rights-including life, liberty, pursuit of happiness and freedom of speech and religion.

While respect and tolerance are the minimal values that schools should teach, the list should ideally go further to include caring, compassion and willingness to help one another. A democracy might survive without these values, but it would not thrive. Respect and tolerance without compassion, it seems to me, breed a cool aloofness that undermines our humanity and leaves those in the worst position to suffer more and suffer alone - an unhealthy state for any society.

Admittedly, schools should avoid advocating particular viewpoints on controversial moral issues such as abortion or capital punishment. Instruction on issues with clear spiritual or religious implications is best left to parents and churches. Even so, schools should teach students how to approach these kinds of issues by helping students to recognize their complexity and to clarify competing points of view. In doing so, schools can help breed citizens who approach controversy in the rational and responsible ways characteristic of a healthy democracy.

In sum, schools should by all means refrain from indoctrinating our young people with particular view on controversial questions of morality. However, it is in a democratic society's interest for schools to inculcate the democratic values of respect and tolerance and perhaps even additional values that humanize and enrich society.

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