BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES AND ' 'VALUE EDUCATION' AS TEACHING OF CODES OF
BEHAVIOUR OR 'ETHICS'
ETHICS IN AMERICAN CULTURE 'MORAL EDUCATION' as teacing of ethics
theme: In the traditional paradigm, the teacherís role is considered to be the transmission of collective social values from one generation to the next. Children are expected to be obedient and to imitate the adult. Though these are natural characteristics, little attention is paid to childrenís growth needs and the laws of psychological development. Education involves the childís growth and development as well as norms of socialisation - social, intellectual and moral values. The exclusivity of the two is the basis for the passive methods of traditional education.
"The history of moral education in the U.S. is by and large, a history of failure." (Scriven, Michael. Moral Education: It Comes With the Territory. (Ed) David Purpel and Kevin Ryan, Berkeley, CA: McCutchen Publishing Co. 1976, page 313)
The paradigm of 'traditional American culture' (American Constitution) is characterised by its dichotomous perception of human nature in terms of its innate goodness versus its innate wickedness or 'evil'.
In the traditional paradigm, justified by the behavioural sciences, morality is defined in terms of specific 'sets of morals' or 'ethics'.
AMERICAN CULTURE AND THE SO-CALLED 'RELATIVITY OF ETHICS'
The word 'ethics' comes from a Latin root which originally meant 'custom'. The word eventually came to refer to the science dealing with the ideal character. The confusion between custom and ideal character still exists. The word 'ethics' is used to refer to a moral philosophy or code of behaviour i.e. a 'code of ethics'. A code of ethics is valid and desirable within the context of... or 'relative to' ... a given social and cultural situation. The concept of the 'relativity of ethics' is the cornerstone of moral education in American culture.
Codes of ethics can degenerate to serve the personal interests of individuals in the whichever profession is involved... 'Medical ethics' serves the medical profession; 'business ethics' serves business; 'military ethics' serves the military and so on. The concept of the relativity of ethics... 'ethics relativity' is the basis for moral education or 'value education'. Moral education or 'value education' based on the relativity of ethics is justified by the behavioural sciences. In the behavioural paradigm, value education involves the indoctrination approach to socialisation and aims for conformity with the values of the culture i.e. the cultural values or 'conceived values'. Value education which is regarded in terms of formal education for conceived values is 'moralism'.
"Objectives of the behavioral approach to education make 'ethical relativity' the cornerstone of 'value education'. According to behaviorists, moral education should be aimed at teaching some specific set of morals. The objectives of the behavioral approach to moral education are based on the 'socialization' or indoctrination approach, which aims at producing conformity with the state's, the teacher's, and the school's values."
Traditionally, moral education is based on the fall/redemption of Christianity and the belief in the inherent sinfulness... innate wickedness or 'evil' of human nature.
MORALISM IMPLIES MISTRUST IN HUMAN NATURE Moralism is based on a profound mistrust of the nature of the human personality or 'human nature'. This profound mistrust originates in the pessimistic view of human nature which stems from the teachings of the Christian Church and the belief in the inherent wickedness or 'evil' of human nature - a belief is derived from the Fall/Redemption theology or 'myth' of the Protestant Calvinist and Puritan movements of orthodox Protestantism. According to the Fall/ Redemption myth, Adam and Eve committed the 'original sin' when they disobeyed God. Their disobedience resulted in a 'fall' from God's grace and their sin was inherited by all human beings who were born after them. The belief that every human child is brought into this life tainted with the original sin, as a 'child of sin' which could only be saved through baptism. Furthermore it was believed that each individual must suffer in this life and even in the 'afterlife' unless they were redeemed by God. In this context, human suffering is explained away as a natural consequence of the original sin. Since human nature is not to be trusted it must be restrained and controlled... guided, instructed, rewarded and punished by those who are wiser or higher in status. Furthermore, the 'forces of evil' are believed to be in competition with the 'forces of good'.
Belief in the innate evil of human nature originally derives from the notion of the separation of the material and spiritual realms of human existence - the disconnectedness of the 'natural' and the 'supernatural', the person and 'God'. This conceptual dichotomy between matter and spirit was incorporated into the worldview which originated with the 'scientific revolution' of the eighteenth century otherwise known as the 'Enlightenment.' In this traditional scientific worldview, emphasis is on 'cause and effect' relationships of the material world. Natural events were thought to be governed by observable natural laws. Human nature was thought to be explainable in terms of natural causes.
As a more optimistic perception of human nature, the scientific view had a profound influence on social and political thought.
AMERICAN CULTURE: NATURAL RIGHTS PHILOSOPHY The American founding fathers advocated a 'natural rights philosophy'. They envisioned a humane and democratic society which could be attained through a rational scientific understanding of human nature. They incorporated into the American Constitution their belief in the individual's 'inalienable God-given rights'. In addition, each individual was expected to obey the authority of strict codes of civil law, ethical standards and social mores. Each individual was to have the moral responsibility for restraining and controlling their own naturally evil impulses. Those who were unable to do so were to be punished. It was believed that the suppression of the evil forces constituted 'virtue' and that virtuous people suppress their inherently evil nature. Those individuals who could abide by the codes of ethical behavior were considered to be moral and had the right to teach the moral life.
The characteristic mistrust of human nature forms the basis of the moralistic attitude towards human problems.
IMPLICATIONS FOR EDUCATION The belief in the innate evil of human nature is the basic premise of moral education in the traditional paradigm. Education is considered necessary for the teaching of knowledge of 'morals' i.e. 'morality'.
The mistrust of human nature has placed severe limitations on the faith in human growth and the human potential. Perceived in this context, social problems cannot be resolved.
Changing the premise changes the paradigm. Changing the premise and the paradigm makes it possible to ask the same questions in a new framework and to find solutions to moral problems. The basic assumption that human nature is inherently evil can be changed to the assumption that human nature is basically good. On the basis of the assumption that the human being's basic nature is good, the process of education is perceived in terms of basic physiological and psychological needs which must be recognized and respected with a view to the actualization of the individual's humanness.
The basic right of every human being is the right to education for full human development. The basic responsibility of each individual is to develop their own humanity or 'humanness'. By developing their own humanness the individual fulfills their responsibility to their fellow human beings.
Education cannot be responsible if it is based on a mistrust of human nature. The natural impulses of human behaviour are not necessarily evil and should be trusted...Individuals who are not able to trust human nature, cannot trust their own nature. Unable to trust their own humanity, they cannot trust the humanity of others. They cannot trust others to develop a personal sense of moral responsibility and expect them to rely on external authorities, strict codes of civil law and codes of ethics. In this traditional paradigm, moral education depends on control and manipulation and produces an irrational morality of the 'authoritarian conscience'.
In contrast, moral education which is based on a realistic view of human nature depends on respect for human growth and development and produces a rational morality of the fully developed 'humanistic conscience'.
In the paradigm of holistic education, moral education is based on a realistic view of human nature and respect for the needs for human growth and development i.e. 'human needs'. The result is the natural development of moral consciousness or 'conscience'. The human conscience is the source of social values or 'human values'.
RETURN TO TOP OF PAGE / RETURN TO INTRODUCTION / RETURN TO HOMEPAGE