Students learn how to lead moral lives from classes, teachers
By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
Jan. 24, 2008
The Catholic schools in the Diocese of Sioux City not only offer religion
classes to students but classes that help students lead moral lifestyles.
"Theoretically, all of our classes should teach moral lifestyles,"
said Brendan Burchard, a theology teacher at Bishop Heelan High School in Sioux
Burchard teaches a class called Christian Lifestyles, a semester long class
taken by seniors. The class learns about topics such as marriage, friendship and
Throughout the semester, Burchard has speakers come talk to the seniors about
what to expect when they graduate.
One of the speakers this semester talked to the students about his life and
what types of experiences he has had in his life. Burchard wanted the students
to hear about life from the perspective of an older person.
"The students are seniors and they are going to be out of here in a
couple months," he said. "I try to base this class on what life will
be like for them in the next few years, especially that first year of
The students will be out on their own, spiritually and physically. They will
not have their parents there telling them to get out of bed on Sunday to go to
church, he pointed out.
The speakers talk to the students about a range of topics. A financial
planner comes in to talk to the students about the basics of financial planning
- savings, credit cards, etc. - to make them aware. Other topics include fetal
alcohol syndrome, shaken baby syndrome, sexually transmitted diseases, natural
family planning, etc. The students might be aware of the topics, but not
necessarily know many details.
"I hope it is a heads up for them," said Burchard. "To me this
is our last chance at them - morally and spiritually. We hope we have covered as
many bases as we can."
Heelan also offers class relating to the topics of morality, social justice
At St. Mary High School in Storm Lake, each grade level has a different area
of religion that they cover each year. Some of the classes are a semester long
and others are the whole year.
Juniors at St. Mary's take a morality class for one semester taught by Ryan
Berg. A main topic covered in the class is virtues - faith, hope, charity,
temperance and fortitude.
"When I taught it for a semester, we used a book (The Book of Virtues
for Young People by William Bennett) that talks about 10 specific virtues,"
said Berg, who mainly teaches English classes. "We looked at those 10
pretty closely. The book gives different stories - past and present - that show
how those virtues come out."
He also had the students do a survey-based research project during the class.
The students were given a moral dilemma and they had to go out and pose their
question to at least 40 people.
The students had certain criteria of what people to ask to make sure they had
a good range of people - males, females, teenagers, ages 20 to 30, ages 40 to
50, senior citizens and people of different religious backgrounds.
"They had to interpret their own results to see what kinds of trends
they found based on the criteria," said Berg. "As teachers we are not
only trying to give them information they need to use for college but the real
world applications - knowing how to get along with other people and how to make
good decisions that will help them advance in different parts of their life once
they get out on their own. It is an important thing to progress in your life the
right way rather than taking advantage of people along the way."
Other schools in the diocese also offer classes that point student in the
right direction when it comes to ethics, respecting life, service, social