What are family values?

My 6 year old daughter Rosie created and posted the above sign on our door a few weeks ago. It’s in opposition to the proposed Minnesota Marriage amendment. Rosie passionately believes that you should be able to mary [sic] who you want. Yep, she’s awesome.

Yesterday, as I was looking through various sources on virtue ethics, I came across a book that I checked out of the U of Minnesota library years ago: Bill Bennet’s The Book of Virtues. In fact, I checked this book out around the same time that I started this blog. I know this because I remember checking it out as I was reading and writing about Peter Sagal’s The Book of Vice.

Since first mentioning this book on my blog, I’ve thought about creating some sort of response and/or alternative to Bennet’s call for and list of virtues. My own children’s book of virtues? A critical essay dissecting the problems with Bennet’s approach? An edited collection with essays on various feminist (and queer) virtues? Yep. I’ve tentatively (and rather vaguely) imagined all of these approaches. But, since I’ve been too busy teaching and researching and writing other things (and trying to raise two young kids while struggling to cope with my mom’s diagnosis and then death from pancreatic cancer), I haven’t had enough time to follow through on any of these (rather ambitious) plans. Instead, over the past three years, I’ve sprinkled in random musing about these virtues into my blog posts. Note: I hope to cull this blog sometime soon and collect many of those musings. I’ve also made family values, which Bennet uses The Book of Virtues to promote, a frequent teaching topic for one of the classes that I’ve taught many times for the U of M Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies Department.

Inspired by my revisiting of Bennet’s introduction to the book, this week I’m working on collecting and archiving some of my past class summaries from my lecture notes, handouts and course blogs on family values in my feminist debates course. As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts, I’m in the process of migrating my material from my U of M blogs and archiving my teaching resources. I hope to post them in a ridiculously long blog entry by the end of the week.

For now, I want to offer up a question that makes me curious. In the introduction, Bennett argues that his book is a  “‘how to’ book for moral literacy” that can provide kids with valuable resources for how to develop a moral/good/admirable character. His vision of moral literacy includes the following character traits:


Question: What traits do you think are necessary for moral literacy?