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Lawrence Kohlberg:

Moral Educator

Leah Smith

on 13 December 2013

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Transcript of Lawrence Kohlberg:

Lawrence Kohlberg:
Moral Educator

Crain, W.C.. (1985). Theories of Development. Prentice-Hall: Upper Saddle River,
New Jersey. pp. 118-136. Retrieved from http://faculty.plts.edu/gpence/html/
Daeg de Mott, Dianne & Gale Thomson. (1998) Healthline
ICELS (International Centre for Educators’ Learning Styles). (2013). Retrieved from
Long, Robyn. (n.d.). Lawrence Kohlberg. Retrieved from http://
Murray, Mary Elizabeth. (n.d.) Studies in social and moral development and
education. Retrieved from http://tigger.uic.edu/~lnucci/MoralEd/overview.html
RebelMangoTV. Heinz Dilemma - Kohlberg's stages of Moral Development
(Interactive Animation). [Video file]. Retrieved from
Walsh, Catherine. (2000, October 1). Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Retrieved from http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/features/
Summary of
Kohlberg's 6 Stages of Moral Development
Kohlberg built on the work of Jean Piaget who developed a theory that children go through stages of cognitive development. Through his careful research, Kohlberg argued that likewise, children also go through stages of moral development.
Lawrence Kohlberg

"At stage 1 children think of what is right as that which authority says is right. Doing the right thing is obeying authority and avoiding punishment. At stage 2, children are no longer so impressed by any single authority; they see that there are different sides to any issue. Since everything is relative, one is free to pursue one's own interests, although it is often useful to make deals and exchange favors with others.

At stages 3 and 4, young people think as members of the conventional society with its values, norms, and expectations. At stage 3, they emphasize being a good person, which basically means having helpful motives toward people close to one At stage 4, the concern shifts toward obeying laws to maintain society as a whole.

At stages 5 and 6 people are less concerned with maintaining society for it own sake, and more concerned with the principles and values that make for a good society. At stage 5 they emphasize basic rights and the democratic processes that give everyone a say, and at stage 6 they define the principles by which agreement will be most just. (Crain, 1985)
Heinz Steals the Drug

In Europe, a woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It was a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to make. He paid $200 for the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug. The sick woman's husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about $ 1,000 which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said: "No, I discovered the drug and I'm going to make money from it." So Heinz got desperate and broke into the man's store to steal the drug-for his wife. Should the husband have done that? (Kohlberg, 1963, p. 19), as quoted in (Crain, 1985).
Example "Dilemma"
Kohlberg used "dilemmas" to distinguish the stages of moral development. He would present his subjects with a moral scenario and ask the subject what they think the person in the scenario should do. He wasn't interested in the subjects' answers so much as he was interested in their reasoning behind them (Crain, 1985). His study of these answers led him to propose that children go through 6 stages of moral development.
Stages of Moral Development
See what stage of moral development YOU are in with this interactive animation
"Kohlberg purported that women were often at a lower stage of moral development than men (Good Therapy, 2013)."

Some criticize Kohlberg for mostly interviewing white, middle-to-upper-class males.

His colleague Carol Gilligan suggested that men and women perhaps perceive justice differently, with women placing more emphasis on empathy and caring (Murray).
Personal Troubles
Kohlberg struggled with physical pain and depression, ending with his suicide. I do not blame him for this, as anyone who struggles with physical or mental illness is in great pain - suffering from both must have been excruciating. He was in treatment for depression when he walked away and ended his life.

However, his lack of boundaries probably exhausted him and made his conditions worse. His willingness to be available for anyone interested in his ideas at any time undoubtedly put undue strains on him, and on his family (Walsh, 2000).
Too Theoretical
Although Kohlberg's stages are very helpful for differentiating different types of moral reasoning, the dilemmas are all theoretical. People sometimes say they will act a certain way and then act quite differently when in the actual situation. This can lead to" habitual juvenile delinquents [scoring] at a higher stage of moral development than well-behaved children (Daeg de Mott, 1998)."
Deficiencies I Least Admire
Kohlberg established "just communities" (mostly in schools). "Larry promoted the idea of a democratic, just-community school where each person—whether a student or staff member—had one vote in deciding school policies (Elsa Wasserman as quoted in Walsh, 2000)."
He gave kids a "say"
Kohlberg was very bright - he managed to earn his Bachelor's Degree in one year, partly through his high scores on entrance exams (Walsh, 2000).

Instead of parlaying this vast intelligence into just wealth or fame, he applied his skills to moral education.
Used his Ability for Good of Humankind
In Kohlberg's highest stage of
development (Post-Conventional
Morality), people choose
outcomes based on the "most
just" outcome. Sometimes this
includes the breaking of an unjust
rule or law (Good Therapy, 2013).
I appreciate his understanding
of the nuances of some situations
All Right and All Wrong are rarely so clear cut.
He Went
"Black and White" Morality
Qualities I Admire
Image Credits
kohlberg photo 1 http://relong.myweb.uga.edu/
Question Figure Blue http://atlantaseoconsulting.com/SEO/seoblog/
Kohlbeg with scissors http://www.famouspsychologists.org/lawrence-kohlberg/
Kids have a say http://bestmomstv.com/2013/09/04/armed-forces-dont-deploy-without-following-these-critical-steps-for-your-children/
Halo http://www.clker.com/clipart-animal-angel1.html
Scales of justice: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Transparent_balanced_scales.png
Kohlberg glasses on head: http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news-impact/2005/11/debating-human-morality/kohlberg/
Question Figure Red: http://pics1.this-pic.com/image/question%20mark%20transparent%20background
Glasses: http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/16236
Quotation marks: http://www.wingsweb.org/blogpost/895911/Philanthropy-In-Focus?tag=quote
Building Blocks Figure: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/science/programming-proteins-with-new-building-blocks-234197.html
Beyond black and white: http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/#

Character Lenses:

A second valuable lens this pioneer character educator exemplifies is RESPECT because he wanted everyone in his "just communities" to have an equal voice. Everyone's opinion and judgement was respected equally.
The best quote from the research that captures the essence of my pioneer character educator is...
3 Words
The one 'value' I would ascribe to my pioneer character educator is..
One Sentence Summary
The one sentence I would use to summarize the ethics of this pioneer would be…

"He explored our moral reasoning to help us educate ourselves and our children about how to make better decisions that benefit us all in the most just way."
EDGR 502
Concordia University
Leah Smith
October 2013


In addition, in the "just communities", students learned by doing. Through practice, they learned which rules were fair and how to be the "most" just (ICELS, 2013).

Lastly, Kohlberg's approach was in "contrast to traditional moral education, which stresses adult “right answers” and adult abstractions far above the learner’s current level (ICELS, 2013)."

In his "just communities", Kohlberg held that "there were no single, correct answers to ethical dilemmas, but that there was value in holding clear views and acting accordingly (ICELS, 2013)."
Kohlberg used his moral dilemmas as teaching tools. His theory was that through discussion of the dilemmas, children could progress through the levels of moral development to the highest/most complex (ICELS, 2013).
My pioneer character educator best exemplifies HONESTY because he wanted honest answers to his scenarios/dilemmas and dealt with the ambiguity between black and white that is often present in moral decisions.
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