Many public and secular schools are undertaking the difficult task of initiating anti-bullying programs while remaining unabashedly secular. The following is an imaginary conversation between a student and teacher at such a school.
Teacher: Johnny, stop hitting Billy.
Johnny: But it's fun and Billy hasn't given me his lunch money yet.
T: Johnny, bullying is wrong!
J: What makes something wrong teacher?
T: Well, we don't treat people like that.
J: Who's "we"? We do in my culture. Are you suggesting that my culture is inferior to yours. Aren't you being intolerant and judgemental?
T: Look Johnny, people have rights.
J: What rights and where did we get them?
T: Well, do you remember our lessons about our constitution? Our forefathers wrote a remarkable document that protects our rights.
J: So we have rights because of stuff written by a bunch of dead guys?
T: Well those dead guys didn't think it was they who were giving us our rights.
J: Interesting! Where did those dead guys think we got our rights?
T: Umm, uh, look Johnny, would you want to be treated like you are treating Billy?
J: You are not answering my question but I will go along anyway. No, I wouldn't want Billy to beat me up and take my lunch money. That's why I eat well balanced meals and do 100 pushups a day. What's your point?
T: My point is that we should treat people like we would want to be treated.
J: Now that is an interesting concept teacher. Can you tell me the origins of that idea?
T: It is time to go to the principals office Johnny.
I know, this is a silly and entirely unlikely conversation, but I offer it to suggest that a secular only approach to teaching about moral issues has its limits, and that we are doing a disservice, even handicapping, our children if we do not explore moral issues in greater depth.