I can't really tell from CNN's article what sort of ethics classes the public schools are considering. I certainly hope it's not classes in "the following things are right, and the following are wrong." ("right" and "wrong" being, of course, determined by the school's local hotline to the Objective Moral Truth Oracle.) I can imagine the final:
Fill in (A) for Right and (B) for Wrong:
I can't see something like that as anything more than a waste of good classtime. I'd prefer to have my kid learn a bit of math or English than sit in a classroom and be told "Integrity is Good!" Pep rallies never did much to improve school spirit; I doubt that moral pep rallies will do much to improve morality.
- Drowning kittens
On the other hand, a true class in philosophical Ethics would be a good addition to a (secondary) curriculum. Not a class about which things are good or bad, but about those qualities by virtue of which things can be good or bad. Don't tell the kids that X is good; they either already know that, or don't care. Ask them why X is good. Is it good because, if everyone did the opposite, chaos would ensue? Is it good because it increases the aggregate happiness of the population? Is it good because we have certain obligations towards each other?
I suspect you could get a good classroom debate about these sort of things. People tend to feel strongly about, say, deontological vs. consequentialist (means vs. ends, roughly) theories of ethics; I doubt they'll need much coaxing to defend their side. I have the suspicion that ramming "this is good, this is bad" down students' throats wouldn't be half as useful as getting them to reason about the serious issues behind ethics. Compare "X is good because school told me so" to "X is good because, IMO at least, living in a society engenders certain societal obligations, of which X is one" or "X is good in this situation because it causes less suffering than any other reasonable alternative".
Now, meta-ethics might be a little too much for a secondary ethics class; I don't know if our schools could handle hundreds of little newly-converted moral non-cognitivists running amok. But that aside, I have the hypothesis that a little reasoning about ethics will cause more ethical behavior than pep rallies in prescriptive ethics.
If the above sort of class is the sort that educators want to put in our schools, I'm behind it 100%. But I suspect, sadly, that it's some sort of "Integrity is good; Columbine was bad" tripe to allay someone's (SFAIK unsupported) fears that "kids aren't being taught morals in the home these days".
Perhaps we can do *snappy fun* with you everytime! -- Orz