By a Staff Reporter
The Social Morality Council is optimistic about its appeal for Government help to continue its schools programme, made by Lord Hylton in the House of Lords last week,
Lord Hylton, former chairman of the Catholic Housing Aid Society, questioned the Government about its attitude towards the council, of which Bishop Butler, Auxiliary of Westminster, is president and Mr H. J. Blackman, of the British Humanist Association, is chairman.
He said the council was started in 1966 to promote morality in all aspects of the life of the community and numbered Jews and Moslems as well as Christians among its members.
The council had published a report on moral and religious education in county schools, and another on the future of broadcasting, he said. In January a report on education and drug dependence would be published, "followed by, as it were, the second volume on moral and religious education" dealing mainly with primary schools.
Lord Hylton said moral education was not something to replace religious education, but "it is badly needed in the presea-climate to supplement and complement whatever goes on in the field of religious education."
The council is now carrying out a national moral education project providing an information service to teachers and parents and promoting a closer partnership in moral education between the home and the school.
The centre, with a permanent director and offices at Goldsmiths' College, London University, had an advisory body which included the members of 43 major national bodies concerned with educa
tion under Sir Lincoln Ralphs, 'chairman of the Schools Council, Lord Hylton told the Lords.
He said the centre had got off to a good start, which was important "beCause, in my view, no teacher can teach in any school without conveying something of his own moral values to those he teaches."
It was important that teachers were aware of this and carried out their teaching having been themselves educated as to moral values.
The Government had contributed £12,000 towards the £25,000 annual cost of the moral education project ending in July 1975, Lord Hylton said. Unless further Government help was available after that date, the Social Morality Council could not afford to continue it.
In the debate which preceded the Government reply, eight nears and peeresses took part, including Dr Oliver Tomkins, Bishop of Bristol, all supporting Lord Hylton.
Lord Soper, former president of the Methodist Conference, who praised Bishop Butler as "a very great man in many ways," said there was today a clamour for moral judgment, not surprising in view of the fact that the social contract, free collective bargaining and a plea for unity in the community were all being discussed and all "are essentially moral propositions."
With the decline of religious belief and the growth of a multiracial society people could not be assumed automatically to see morality in terms of a Christian ethic.
Looking at the problem of violence in the world today he said that "a new moral spirit is required" but people were bewildered by the complexity of the problems and became cynical because they could find no answers.
"We desperately need a recognition of the fundamental moral issues which belong to any society which can claim to be civilised," he said.
Baroness Masham of Ilton said one of her children had suffered at one school, but profited greatly from another apparently similar one. She asked if the Government thought emotional stability should be the aim of moral education.
"It is difficult to teach children to understand their own and other people's feelings without giving them sonic chance to make moral judgments," she said.
She asked if the development of "sensitivity, understanding and conscience" should not he brought into all school subjects, including sport.
Lord Melchett, replying for the Department of Education and Science, praised the work of the Social Morality Council, but emphasised that the Government valued a diversity in tackling moral education in schools — "a diversity fostered by lack of direct Government interference."
He would give no undertaking that further help would be available after next year.
Mr Edward Oliver, secretarygeneral of the council, said that despite the Government's noncommittal reply, he_Nvas optimistic that the education project would continue to receive State help.
This was more important than ever now, not only because of the work being done, but any funds available from trusts were drying up because of the economic situation.
Mr Reg Prentice, Secretary of State for Education and Science, "was known to be very aware of moral priorities," he said.
Mr Oliver said the centre in Goldsmiths' College had been open nearly a year and its contact had mainly been with colleges of education, after a questionnaire from the council to the colleges had attracted a high response rate.
"It is the first centre for moral education in the country," he said. "Ourconcern is mainly with county schools, where over 75 per cent of the population are educated,"
The aim was "emphatically not to make moral education a separate subject," he said.
Moral education was the business of the whole school all the time, a function of Ifow the school was organised as a cornmunity.
Mr Oliver, a Catholic, said it was thought denominational schools were already sufficiently aware of the importance of moral education.
The Social Morality Council existed to promote values common to both Christians and Ilumanists, and it had received warm support from Cardinal Koenig, president of the Vatican Secretariat for NonBelievers, from the very beginning, said Mr Oliver.
The council had hundredsof members, and branches in Durham, Leeds and Merseyside. Its education project needed "all the voluntary help it could get" and its work was a challenge to Catholics. .
Further details may be obtained from Mr Oliver, c/o 17 York House, London W8 4EY.