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Transcript of Moral Education
13th Feb 2017
1) Act only according to that maxim by which you can also will that it would become a universal law.
2) Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.
The categorical imperative
This has been taken to represent the primacy of the rational individual agent as the moral arbiter in all things, with his / her respect for others based on recognising others' sovereign rights as individuals also.
Psychologist Kohlberg posited a structure for moral development analogous to Piaget's cognitive model. Abstract moral reasoning is the highest form.
So in everything, do unto others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12
Gilligan (1982) countered Kohlberg's work, which suggested that women were morally inferior because less capable of abstract moral reasoning.
Gilligan argued that women tend to be more care-focused, which is simply different rather than inferior, prizing engagement over reasoning.
This has led to 'care' becoming a popular branch of ethics.
Dewey, J. (1966). Democracy and Education. New York: The Free Press.
Gilligan, C. (1982). In a Different voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Oddie, G. (2009). Values Education. In H. Siegel (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Noddings, N., & Slote, M. (2003). Changing Notions of the Moral and of Moral Education. In N. Blake, P. Smeyers, R. Smith & P. Standish (Eds.), The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Education. Oxford: Blackwell.
Slote, M. (2009). Caring, Empathy and Moral Education. In H. Siegel (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
In a different voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development
Noddings (2009) argues that the relationship of care is ethically prior to individuals' caring values.This is similar to Biesta's (2006) and Levinas' ethical relationship with the Other (see previous)
Empathy is posited as the key disposition that promotes care; this can be inculcated in children from an early age through non-violent insistence that they imagine the impact their actions have on others. This is called 'induction'.
We have greater empathy for those closest to us; this is natural and recognises our interdependence as moral agents.
We must be open to the Other's sense of what is good for them, not just impose what we think is good for them.
Principles of an ethic of care
Slote (2003) largely accepts Noddings' position as the most plausible - but disagrees that relationships of care precede individual dispositions.
His rejection of this implies a greater sense of individuality and of values as critical to moral education.
Slote critiques Kantian rationalism for providing reasons but no motive for moral action. Even the categorical imperative isn't intrinsically motivating.
He also criticises value ethics and character education for coming up with competing lists of important values, with no valid means of choosing between them. By contrast, empathy is the highest, unifying value in an ethics of care.
Values cannot be separated from education as educational aims are rooted in them: knowledge promotes rationality, the alleviation of suffering, the beneficial exploitation of resources, things of beauty etc; a curriculum is a value choice of topics; disciplines have internal standards and values; the educational system itself is laden with values about passing on valued knowledge. (2009, p.261).
Because value knowledge requires good reasons, as well as facts, to be considered knowledge, it must be examined and encouraged, not indoctrinated. (263)
The values inherent in disciplines are also applicable elsewhere (honesty, rigour etc) – but that doesn’t mean that practitioners in that discipline apply them evenly elsewhere (affairs, washing up etc).
Baron (2009) argues that Kant is often set up as a bogeyman of cold moral rationalism; in fact, he wrote extensively on developing the correct feelings and attitudes as part of the perfection of individual morals.
In emphasising this, Baron is moving towards a more 'virtue ethics' stance in her interpretation of Kant.
However, we're still left with the issue of how we educate for ethical rationalism when children aren't yet capable of such reasoning; drilling and punishment emerge as candidates
The inevitability of values-based education
Often we can separate cognitive values in sciences from non-cognitive ones; but sometimes they come into the content of the curriculum (e.g. climate change). In the Arts, students are developing structures for evaluation (Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’). Teachers should not avoid them but present different sides (263).
Like Noddings, Oddie argues that values are also situated in time and space, with proximity very important in shaping those values; thus a value is distinct from the appropriate response to that value for the individual.
Slote cites Bernard Williams famously describing a man, on seeing his wife and a stranger both fall into a river, stop to recognise that he owed a greater duty to his wife than the stranger, as having "one thought too many".
No man is an island, no man stands alone
Each man's joy is joy to me
Each man's grief is my own
We need one another, so I will defend
Each man as my brother
Each man as my friend
(folk song, based on Donne's meditation)
How do we move from knowledge of rules and principles to the desire to follow them? To do so under threat of punishment or shame isn't moral.
Baron (2009) argues that we are obliged to perfect our virtues, including the desire to meet others' needs - but this still leaves the problem of how we begin that journey.
Oddie acknowledges that value ethicists have to find a mechanism for linking virtue to action. Value empiricists argue that we respond to situations with 'value-seemings', and that these are 'desire-like' (2009, p.268); critical empiricists would argue we teach values by setting up appropriate value-inducing experiences alongside appropriate instruction. This means having 'conative pedagogies' (p.269)
For Noddings, care is a reciprocal relationship; the patient subtly acknowledges the help of the nurse, thus rewarding and reinforcing the caring attitude. Care is also for oneself as well as others. (2009, p.349)
She also acknowledges that when such reciprocation is absent, as in a classroom of unruly and untrusting students, the caring relationship becomes very hard to maintain.
Education for a morality of care, then, is a matter of directing children to feel empathy at first, then widening that empathy through giving them the chance to feel related to those at a distance by appeal to common features; this is a ground-up universalisation based in affect, not an abstract principle.
What motivates us to be good?
Explicit or implicit moral teaching?
Explicit teaching of morality may be necessary for a deontic (duty-based) approach. But this again raises the issue of motivation, and that of punishment and compulsion being a second-order tool.
Also, whose morals are taught? Explicit morality must be fixed, imposed and belonging to someone other than the learner.
Doesn't the same apply to virtues? Whose virtues, and in what order of priority? What about when virtues come into conflict?
What would be the justification for an explicit ethic of care in teaching? Might we agree care as a universal value - and how far beyond immediate family / friends would we agree to promote it?
Implicit education for morality could be promoted through:
values inherent in the curriculum and in subject disciplines
adults and children role-modelling care
adhering to class and school rules that promote wider good
However, implicit values may come in 'under the radar' from wider society such as:
Competition and inequality
Peer social status and material / consumer values
Is this inevitable, and is it desirable? Care might challenge this even implicitly while values-led morality might lionise resilience and endurance in the face of inequality and injustice; deontic moral education, with a focus on the individual, might set a minimum standard for ethical interactions and leave the rest to competitive forces.
Pragmatism collapses the distinction between moral theory and action. This draws on the inherent values in subject-learning and on an ethics of care:
...because the studies of the curriculum represent standard factors in social life, they are organs of initiation into social values. As mere school studies, their acquisition has only a technical worth. Acquired under conditions where their social significance is realized, they feed moral interest and develop moral insight.
To possess virtue does not signify to have cultivated a few nameable and exclusive traits; it means to be fully and adequately what one is capable of becoming through association with others in all the offices of life... Interest in learning from all the contacts of life is the essential moral interest.
Dewey 1966, pp. 356-360)
Pragmatism as a moral philosophy of education
Dewey argues that to educate for morality without recourse to actions is like ‘the stirring of water and sand with a stick’ – it feels productive when you’re doing it, but settles down to nothing new.
Dewey contends that morality must not be abstracted from a moral society. What issues might arise from this?
Dewey can only reconcile the need to allow children to act morally in order to learn morality with the need to teach subject knowledge etc. by demanding much more porous borders between school and community, and also that the school become primarily a moral community in itself, with that morality as a central aim.
How feasible is Dewey's integration of moral education with pedagogy as a way of solving the dilemmas presented?