Moral Education Perspectives

Based on his review of theory and research related to moral education, Damon has several recommendations related to moral education in schools. Moral education must help students reason autonomously about moral problems. The students’ decision-making capacities must be fostered through respectful engagement that helps them develop clear and healthy values. Many issues in school offer opportunities to have teachers respectfully engage their students in moral discussions that help them develop moral intelligence. By exposing student to moral exemplars in their communities, moral models and values can be explored through real illustrations and mentors. These activities should inspire students, cause them to assume more responsibility and become more involved in service and moral activities (1988).

The Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) recommended that moral education be a powerful unifying and energizing force in the curriculum. They encouraged educators to create social and cultural contexts to support the development of morally mature persons. Moral education needs to include socialization of appropriate conduct, critical thinking and decision-making and educators should ensure that school climate and policies contribute to moral growth. As schools establish and convey clear expectations about their roles as moral educators, educators can give more attention to moral education (1988).

Borba offers several ideas that would help develop moral intelligence (2002). She suggests fostering awareness and an emotional vocabulary, enhancing sensitivity to the feelings of others and developing empathy for another’s point of view. Teachers can create the context for moral growth, teach virtues to strengthen conscience and guide behavior and foster moral discipline to learn right from wrong. Teachers can model and prioritize self-control and encourage students to self-motivate, deal with temptations and think before acting. Educators show respect by modeling how they value others by treating them in a courteous and considerate way. They can teach respect, enhance respect for authority and emphasize good manners and courtesy in the classroom.

Borba suggests that kindness can be encouraged by demonstrating concern about the welfare and feelings of others through teaching its meaning and value, establishing a zero tolerance for meanness and encouraging and pointing out its positive effect. By teaching students to respect the dignity and rights of all persons, even those whose beliefs and behaviors we may disagree with, they learn tolerance and engender it by instilling an appreciation for diversity, countering stereotypes and not tolerating prejudice. We can teach fairness by treating others fairly, helping them learn to behave fairly and to stand up against unfairness and injustice (2002).

As Mustakavoa-Possardt succinctly and powerfully states:

Until education focuses on the cultivation of character and the development of a moral sense of identity and moral imperative, until it begins to purposefully emphasize models of authentic moral authority and to foster moral responsibility and agency, until it makes central the cultivation of expanding levels of empathy, progressively embracing the human race and until it is willing to entertain an explicit spiritual conversation about truth and meaning in life, it cannot really fulfil its responsibility to human potential. (2004, p. 266)


About rodclarken

Dr. Rodney H Clarken is professor emeritus, School of Education, Northern Michigan University.
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