link: moral education


                                   VALUE EDUCATION OR 'MORAL EDUCATION'

theme: A valid discussion of moral education depends on the important distinction between two kinds of teaching: teaching as the transmission of specific 'sets of morals' or 'ethics i.e. authoritarian morality or 'moralism' and teaching as the facilitation of spiritual growth for moral maturity i.e. 'free morality'. Free morality or 'true morality' is a function of moral consciousness or 'conscience' - the source of an individual's natural sense of moral responsibility. Development of conscience is a function of inner freedom or 'spiritual freedom'. Spiritual freedom depends on education for the development of human potential in all its interrelated aspects - physical, intellectual, psychological, emotional, political, philosophical, aesthetic and spiritual or 'moral' i.e. 'holistic education'. Holistic education is moral education. 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'.

(photo Dalai Lama)   

traditional paradigm:  

 'moralism'...   moralism implies mistrust of human nature...   

                        so-called 'basic corruption of human nature'...

 traditional concept of values as values taught by religions...

so-called 'relativity of ethics'...  

    traditional 'character education' as teaching of values...

holistic paradigm:

              morality as 'free morality' (moral science)...

              cognitive-developmental approach to moral education...

             moral education as provision of appropriate environmental conditions for moral development...

  implications for 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)

  American culture: moral education in the traditional paradigm... behavioural paradigm:   The paradigm of 'traditional American culture' (American Constitution) is characterised by its dichotomous perception of human nature in terms of the need to control its innate wickedness or 'evil'. 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.

In the traditional paradigm justified by the behavioural sciences controlling the 'evil impulses' of human nature... specific 'sets of morals' or 'ethics'... 'moralism' ...  moral education as value education is considered in terms of rules for behaviour or moral codes... as teaching of codes of behaviour or 'ethics'...  Value education or 'moral education' is considered in terms of 'teaching sets of values... 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. 

 Moralism implies mistrust of 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.

The characteristic mistrust of human nature forms the basis of the moralistic attitude towards human problems.

  "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." (Lawrence Kohlberg "The Moral Atmosphere of the School" Chapter 13 Moral Education: It Comes With the Territory (Ed) David Purpel and Kevin Ryan, Berkeley,CA: McCutchen Publishing Co. 1976, 200)

 Belief in the basic corruption of human nature or 'evil' American culture is based on American 'nationalisn' and formulated in terms of the abstract ideals upon which the Americans founded their 'nation'. American nationalism combines the ideals of democracy with belief systems which are derived from reductionist science, capitalism and Protestantism as the source of the American concept of morality or 'moralism' formed on the basis of their profound mistrust of human nature...

According to the moralist belief in the basic absolute evil of human nature, virtue is the suppression of the inherent evil of human nature. Virtuous people suppress their inherently evil nature and social communities are possible only if all people are united by a communally fixed universal moral order. Questions concerning values and the 'good life' are formulated in the context of the view that man's basic nature is evil.

 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 ... morals or 'ethics'.

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'.

    Traditional concept of morality based on external authority: 'moralism' The American concept of morality is based on the understanding that it is based on external authority. This leads to formulation of codes of ethics' i.e. 'authoritarian ethics'... the development of a conscience which is deformed because it is derived from the internalization of an external authority - parental, societal or state authority 'authoritarian conscience'. The authoritarian conscience is the voice of an internalised power... is irrational because it is based on fear for the authority rather on the intrinsic conscience the source from which natural value judgements arise.

As representing the authoritarian conscience, moralism is based on the assumption that human nature - the so-called 'animal nature' of human nature - is fundamentally evil and that instinctive human needs - the so-called 'animal instincts' - are dangerous and base and therefore 'immoral' and not to be trusted... a historically determined tendency in Western culture.            

 Concerning the supposed dichotomy between freedom and social responsibility: "How is a social life possible for man if each one is only striving to assert his own individuality? This objection is characteristic of a false understanding in moralism. Such a moralist believes that a social community is possible only if all men are united by a communally fixed moral order. What this kind of moralist does not understand is just the unity of the world of ideas. He does not see that the world of ideas working in me is no other than the one working in my fellow man. A moral misunderstanding, a clash, is impossible between men who are morally free. To live in love towards our actions, and to let live in the understanding of the other person's will, is the fundamental maxim of free men."( Steiner, R. Philosophy of Freedom: Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. The Basis for a Modern World Conception. Some Results of Introspective Observation Following the Methods of Natural Science. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1970 139)

Traditional concept of 'values'... in the paradigm of moralism In the paradigm of American moralism, the word 'values' is used to refer to the values which were 'taught' by Christian religions. The values of moralism are derived from Protestantism. The search for morals is based on the notion that goodness results from the suppression and repression of the immoral instincts of human nature. The basis of the moralistic attitude towards human problems is the mistrust of human nature which stems from the Fall/ Redemption myth of orthodox Christianity which was adopted by the Protestant Calvinist and Puritan movements. According to the myth of the 'Fall/Redemption' theology of orthodox Protestant Christianity, the 'original sin' of Adam and Eve - their disobedience of God's command not to 'eat of the tree of knowledge' - resulted in their 'fall' from God's grace and was inherited by all human beings who were born after them. Each human infant brought into the world is tainted with sin and is therefore inherently 'evil'. As a 'child of sin' each individual must suffer in this life and depends on God's 'redemption' for an afterlife without suffering. The evil impulses of human nature cannot be trusted and must necessarily be restrained. Each individual is morally responsible for restraining and controlling his own evil impulses and those of other people as well. He must depend on the authority of strict codes of civil law, social mores and ethical standards. Those individuals who abide by the codes are considered to be 'moral' and can teach and preach the moral life. Those individuals who are unable to restrain the evil part of their nature must be 'punished.' People have been taught that the inner life is a natural consequence of the evil which is inherent in human nature and they must look outside of themselves for the guiding values of a 'good life'. Theologians attribute the human values to a source outside of human nature - some sort of god, sacred book, ruling elite, or ruling individual. Attempts to make moral what is believed to be immoral have produced the dogma of moralism.

Theology is overdependent on dogma, revelation and supernaturalism. Philosophy denies the authorities of dogma, revelation and supernaturalism. Philosophers have no authorities. In their search for values, philosophers build a philosophical system which is built on a premise. In the traditional paradigm of philosophy, philosophical debate has been concerned with the struggle to discover and to live the good and virtuous life. The best example of this quest is Socrates

 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 as 'moralism'.

The immature mind The mistrust of human nature has placed severe limitations on the faith in human growth and the human potential. The result is production of thwarted human development... arrested development... adult immaturity...

The ego-centered mental process and incomplete cognition of the immature mind results in the perception of dichotomies. Making a judgment about human nature creates problems. The perception of social problems in the framework of this false premise results in failed attempts to resolve them. Problems arising from the same dichotomies can be resolved in the wholistic paradigm in which the concern for the 'good life' becomes an issue of morality and is based in biology and psychobiology of the human organism. The so-called 'animal nature' of human nature is a false notion. No single set of moral standards or uniform code can be applied to all people. The imposition of moral codes only creates complex, intractable moral dilemmas.

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'.

The question remains: "which premise?" One of the most basic problems of philosophical thought is concerned with the formulation of a premise of a philosophical system of values i.e. whether human nature is basically evil and corrupt or basically good and perfectable? If human nature is basically evil and corrupt then the problem is 'how to make people virtuous'. For centuries the attempts to formulate philosophical systems of ethics have been based on the mutually exclusive contrast between 'what is' and 'what ought to be.' As a consequence, many cultural institutions are set up for the express purpose of controlling, inhibiting, suppressing and repressing this original human nature. The individual is expected to rely on external authorities of strict codes of civil law and 'ethics' for the guiding moral principles and the values of moralism. In the context of American society and moralism with its profound mistrust of human nature, individuals are unable to trust their own human nature and their own humanity as well as the humanity of others. The life of the intellect and the quest for self-realization are not valued. The natural development of moral and spiritual self-reliance is discouraged. The life of contemplation and meditation is misunderstood and devalued. The spontaneous and self-expressive behaviour of the natural human being is repressed. The impulsive, intuitive and emotional aspects of human nature are restrained. True spiritual freedom is considered undisciplined and punishable. Social problems are perceived in terms of the individual's personal moral failure. They are resolved by discipline and the rule of law. They are not understood in terms of inherent deficiencies of fundamental institutional practices. Social reforms are perceived in terms of the individual's moral responsibility. They are not understood in the context of necessary institutional changes. This dichotamous perception of social problems results from ego-centered mental processes of the 'incomplete cognition' of a distorted neurotic perception of reality derived from conflicts which are inherent in the culture...and which inhibit growth for complete personality integration and spiritual independence of maturity.

    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'.

 Human nature is basically good and perfectable. The intelligent resolution of social problems is derived from a non-judgemental premise which is based on the scientific understanding of the biological basis of human nature. Human nature and human needs and values are biologically based. But traditionally people have ignored the validity of the instinctive needs for growth - the spiritual needs or 'metaneeds' - as well as the basic psychological needs. Throughout human history theologians, political philosophers, economic theorists and even behavioural psychologists have conceived of strategies to deny and avoid peoples' needs. They have considered peoples' happiness in terms of improving their conditions with a view to eliminating their human needs because they were thought to be annoying or threatening. But it is recognition and respect for basic human needs which leads to the resolution of human social problems. Social mores evolved in accordance with inborn biological necessity and environmental contingencies by a process of natural selection. As survival oriented values, the guiding values which have been sought and prescribed by religions and philosophies - the values of truth, goodness, beauty, justice honesty and so on - are found within a person's consciousness... they are part of the individual's natural sense of moral responsibility to lead their own lives according to the same values.

In the holistic paradigm, value education is education for morality as a function of 'moral development'... 'moral education'. Moral education like intellectual education is based on the stimulation of the child's active thinking about moral issues and decisions. The basic modes of organizing experience are not the direct result of adult 'teaching'. The child's behaviour has a cognitive structure or organizational pattern which can be described independently of adult culture. During growth and development, the child goes through qualitatively different modes of thought, thought-organizations or 'cognitive structures'. Cognitive structures provide the framework for the individual's interpretation of affective experiences. Each affective response represents an underlying cognitive structure. Although this notion is as old as Rousseau, it is only recently that it has been incorporated into the actual study of cognitive development. Cognitive developmentalists describe cognitive development in terms of the successive elaboration of simpler cognitive structures into more complicated and differentiated ones.

The different cognitive structures are known as 'sociocognitive stages'.

 "The cognitive-developmental approach was fully stated for the first time by John Dewey. The approach is called 'cognitive' because it recognizes that moral education, like intellectual education, has its basis in stimulating the active thinking of the child about moral issues and decisions. It is called 'developmental' because it sees the aims of moral education as movement through moral stages." (Lawrence Kohlberg "The Cognitive Developmental Approach to Moral Education" chapter 12 in Moral Education...It Comes With the Territory (Ed) David Purpel and Kevin Ryan, Berkeley,CA: McCutchen Publishing Co. 1976, 176-195)

 Cognitive-developmental approach to moral education: 'socio-cognitive stages' of character development  Sociocognitive stages are structural age-changes. There are structural age-changes in cognitive development and in the personality development or 'socialisation'. The structural age-changes or 'stages' of socialization are the same as those involved in the development of morality. Age-changes in moral development have a formal structural base which is parallel to the structural base of cognitive development. This is known as 'cognitive-affective parallelism'.

 Both cognitive and affective development and functioning represent different perspectives and contexts of 'character development'.

 Affective functioning which involves the emotional force behind motivation is largely mediated by changes in thought patterns. Both cognitive development and moral development involve basic transformations of cognitive structure which can be described in terms of organizational wholes or 'systems' of internal relations.

 The internal development of human character involves 'cognitive structures' which are generated as a result of interactions between the organism and the social environment. The organism/environment interaction stimulates both affective and cognitive functioning giving rise to changes in modes of thought and subsequent structures of action. Development of structures of action tends in the direction of greater equilibrium in the organism/environment interaction i.e. towards 'adaptation'. This equilibrium in its generalized form is the defining of the human social values, morals principles of 'morality' i.e. justice, truth, logic, knowledge, compassion loving-kindness and so on.

What is morality? Morality is a natural product of the universal tendency toward empathy or role taking, toward putting oneself in the shoes of other conscious beings. It is a product of the universal human concern for reciprocity or equality in the relation of one person to another.

Social development The direction of social or 'ego' development is always towards an equilibrium or reciprocity between one's actions and those of others toward one's self. 'Social cognition' involves the awareness that the other is in some way like the self and social 'development' involves the restructuring of the concept of self as it relates to concepts of other people. In this view the natural development of morality is directly connected with the process of natural learning. This is the 'cognitive-develomental theory of learning' and the 'cognitive-developmental theory of moral development'.

The core of the cognitive-developmental theory is the doctrine of sociocognitive stages - the modes of thought or cognitive modes which represent the basic structural nature of moral development.

The different stages represent distinct and qualitative differences in modes of thinking about the same problem at different ages. Each of the different stages forms a structured whole and the different stages form an invariant sequence, order, or succession in the individual's development. The stages can be speeded up, slowed down or stopped by cultural factors but their sequence does not change.

There are three levels of moral development, each comprising two sociocognitive stages (Piaget and Kohlberg). The first level is the 'premoral' or 'preconventional' level in which the individual is motivated by biological and social impulses with no sense of obligation to rules. The second level is the 'conventional' level in which the individual is motivated by an uncritical acceptance of the standards of the group with respect for conventional rules. The third level is the 'autonomous' level in which the individual is motivated by critical reflection with a sense of guidance by ethical principles of a developed conscience.

Cognitive-developmental approach to moral education...

"Moral education should not be aimed at teaching some specific set of morals but should be concerned with developing the organizational structures by which one analyzes, interprets and makes decisions about social problems" (James Rest. 'Developmental Psychology as a Guide to Value Education: A Review of 'Kohlbergian' Programs'. in Moral Education: It Comes With the Territory David Purpel & Kevin Ryan (eds.) Berkeley CA: McCutchan Publishing Co. 1976 254)   

  Implications for education

 In the cognitive-developmental view, the aim of education is conceived in terms of cognitive development and cognitive 'structures'. The school's function is to promote the individual's development of social intelligence or morality or 'socialization'. The school is involved in the most important of all constructions and that is the building of a free and mature character of a developed conscience. The aim of education is growth and development... the intellectual and moral capabilities for responsible decision making and problem solving. Education for morality requires a curriculum based on knowledge of developmental stages in moral development. Education is the work of supplying the conditions which will enable the psychological functions to mature in the freest and fullest manner so as to stimulate development step by step through the stages towards the maturity of conscience... 'holistic education'. l

 In the wholistic paradigm of education, the individual strives not only for complete psychological, emotional, intellectual development but for complete moral development and personality integration as well. The aim of education is growth in the context of spiritual freedom based on trust of the individual to develop a personal sense of moral responsibility. The integrated individual is responsible to him/herself and to the society of which she/he is a member. In the context of growth for spiritual freedom, dichotomies disappear. It becomes possible for the individual to be 'free' and to be socially responsibile as well. Social responsibility is not possible without inner spiritual freedom.. 'freedom'


 Environmental conditions required for development of conscience... The proper development of conscience depends on a social environment which provides for the psychological needs for growth or 'social needs' i.e. 'human needs'. Each human individual is born with the biological potential for development of a rational conscience. For that potential to be actualized during growth and development, the proper conditions for growth are required.

Recognition of human needs is the basis for education for human growth and development towards the realisation of human potential...  personality integration and realisation of the self in a process of 'mature growth' i.e. self-realisation or 'self-actualisation'.

 "The cognitive-developmental approach was fully stated for the first time by John Dewey. The approach is called 'cognitive' because it recognizes that moral education, like intellectual education, has its basis in stimulating the active thinking of the child about moral issues and decisions. It is called 'developmental' because it sees the aims of moral education as movement through moral stages." (Lawrence Kohlberg "The Cognitive Developmental Approach to Moral Education" chapter 12 in Moral Education...It Comes With the Territory (Ed) David Purpel and Kevin Ryan, Berkeley,CA: McCutchen Publishing Co. 1976, 176-195)

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