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Article

David Ian Walker and Stephen J. Thoma

At core, moral and character education aims to develop the moral person. How this end state develops has been hindered by interest from different theoretical positions, differences between practitioners and theoreticians, different assumptions about how far character is educable, and associated measurement problems. Traditionally, moral education is concerned with the interpretation and strategies one uses to understand moral phenomenon and defines the moral person as a predominantly thinking entity, whereas character education emphasizes the development of habits and dispositions as a precondition for the moral person. Current interest is in finding commonalities across these traditions towards the achievement of human flourishing. These points of intersection have often been overlooked, but current work is demonstrating the importance of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches for practitioners, researchers and policymakers.

Article

As a highly developed religion, Buddhism has very rich ideas related to ethics and morality. Buddhism itself is a way of education. It guides the method and action of cultivating one’s moral character. These practices can be applied in thinking about education, especially specific to education’s ethical and moral implications. In the early 21st century, Buddhist theory has multiple applications in the field such as applied psychology, counseling, and meditation. Though it is an ancient wisdom, its viewpoint can be used to solve contemporary social problems and human crises caused by the process of modernization. Mahāyāna Buddhism believes that this world is constituted by emptiness, which is the perspective on essence-absent ontology. Everything is in its becoming, which is dependent on everything else, following the law of cause and effect. When an important aspect of one’s daily behavior is to cultivate goodwill, the desirable consequences will be returned to them later. That is, one good turn deserves another. On the contrary, bad will receives ill effects back. This is the basis of the Buddhist moral concept. In this way, human beings are active agents who can decide their own conduct and the result of their life. Buddhism encourages an individual to perform practices of precepts, meditation, and wisdom all the time to rid oneself of craving, hatred, and delusion. The latter are origins of human suffering. Humans cannot reach the ultimate spiritual realm of Nirvāṇa until these three poisons are given up. As an approach to self-education, Buddhist ethical thoughts allow learners to search for their self-nature. Buddhist moral claims of compassion and equality can contribute to the thinking of modern educational issues, such as peace education, ecological education, and equality in education.

Article

Guðmundur Heiðar Frímannsson

Virtues are conditions for education, a part of education, and a result of it. Virtues are stable, desirable traits of persons. For a person to be virtuous, these traits of character must be regularly expressed in action. Choosing rationally to perform good actions is not sufficient for virtue; even though it may be a necessary condition for an action to be good, performing is necessary as well to exercise virtue. It is sometimes claimed that moral theory along utilitarian and deontological lines neglected or forgot the virtues in its theoretical work in the 20th century. This is true about much of 20th-century moral theory. Aristotelian moral theory has grown in influence since the early 1970s and it can be reasonably said that it is now just as influential as deontology and utilitarianism if not more so. Naturalism is a part of Aristotelian moral theory and has proved a much stronger base for moral action and moral argument than 20th-century moral theory was willing to accept with its fundamental distinction between facts and values. Values are just as fundamental to our understanding of the world as facts. Arguments in moral theory move easily from facts to values and values to facts. The relation between facts and values is more complicated than much of 20th-century moral theory allowed for. Immanuel Kant is often taken as an example of a philosopher who neglected the virtues. Yet Kant wrote a work, The Metaphysics of Morals, half of which was devoted to virtues. Education is a normative endeavor aiming at well-rounded individuals capable of fulfilling those functions that modern society requires from them, such as being a citizen, entering working life with valuable complex skills, or governing one’s own life. It is not possible to fulfill these functions without mastering the moral and intellectual virtues.

Article

Paul Farber and Dini Metro-Roland

Moral education and technology seem to represent two fundamentally different kinds of concern and domains of inquiry. But these domains are fused in educational practice. Teaching as a fundamental human endeavor and form of activity has been a central component of human cultural evolution and regeneration from the earliest human social groupings. As a distinctive form of activity, teaching braids together ethical and instrumental norms and values. The modern, global institution of schooling has added layers of institutional support, constraint, and governance on the teaching it structures as well as increased scrutiny of the ethical and instrumental values in play; schooling is in effect a kind of moral technology for advancing certain norms and values in an efficient way. At present, technological developments with modern society make possible new forms of teaching and learning that likewise warrant scrutiny as they impact the ethical and instrumental ends of teaching and instructional practices today.

Article

Susan Verducci

Open-mindedness disposes us to value and seek truth, knowledge, and understanding by taking a particular stance toward ourselves, what we know, new information, and experience. It aims to improve our epistemic standing, both individually and socially. Widely accepted as a valuable educational aim, scholarship on the nature and extent of open-mindedness’ epistemological and civic value is growing. Epistemological conceptions range from its role in rational inquiry to thinking of it as an attitude toward one’s self as a knower, or as an attitude toward individual beliefs. Conversations on its status as an intellectual virtue, its associations with personal transformation, and its role in aesthetic experiences are also on the rise. Of particular note for schooling are its connections to democratic citizenship. Theorists argue that open-mindedness operates in respecting others, tolerating differences in pluralistic contexts, and exercising autonomy. Central challenges to its value, however, abound. They include the difficulty of pinpointing the line between open-mindedness and gullibility, and the ways that human cognitive limitations make open-mindedness more aspirational than possible. Its incompatibility with holding strong commitments serve as some of the most relevant challenges to its value. Are there any ideas or beliefs that we ought not be open-minded about? And if (and when) there are, can open-mindedness support structures of power and/or oppressive forces? Additional challenges come from those who explore how open-mindedness fares in posttruth and postfact conditions. The educational discourse on open-mindedness shows that its objects, occasions, and processes have expanded over time and in response to new understandings of historical, social, and cultural conditions. In this light, educational philosophers may no longer be theorizing about a singular phenomenon with a set of agreed upon characteristics. Instead, open-mindedness may have become a constellation of related and overlapping epistemological phenomena with similar features, much like what Ludwig Wittgenstein calls family resemblances. If so, this constellation requires a conceptual framework, such as the one Jürgen Habermas laid out in Knowledge and Human Interests, to provide open-mindedness with theoretical and educational coherence. Despite the growing incoherence of thinking about open-mindedness as a singular phenomenon, most educational theorists maintain a fundamental commitment to open-mindedness as an educational aim. Regardless of whether one considers open-mindedness to have essential characteristics, to be a constellation of epistemic phenomena with Wittgensteinian family resemblances, and/or a concept in search of a singular framework (such as Habermas’s), much of the educational discourse on open-mindedness will likely continue to be maintained as it improves our epistemic, moral, and civic standing. This line of thinking assumes and suggests that we simply need to educate for the right orientation, the right attitude, the right sort of openness, and the right skills to attain these goods. However, increasing exploration of the political nature of open-mindedness and emerging perspectives from critical theory seem to be coalescing into a second strand of counterdialogue. Examination of “the goodness” of open-mindedness in contexts of oppression, intolerance, closed-mindedness, and posttruth/postfact conditions provide increasingly serious challenges to open-mindedness’ secure status as an educational aim.

Article

Educational research on how children and adolescents make sense of the social world and how this social–cognitive ability develops across time and cultural contexts remains in its infancy. An important question for psychoeducators and developmentalists is how to best measure the diverse multidimensional and interconnected social–cognitive skills among children and youth. Research that explores social–cognitive skills such as theory of mind (ToM), self-regulation, and moral reasoning such as deception within the context of education explores this question. ToM refers to the ability to understand others’ mental states to explain behavior, and self-regulation refers to the ability to regulate or control one’s thoughts, emotions, and actions. The measurement of multidimensional topics such as self-regulation and ToM is important for educators to help students learn important life skills such as perspective-taking and empathy. Such social reasoning skills will help students navigate the complex social landscape of the school. Multidisciplinary, transcultural, and mixed-method longitudinal studies provide fruitful investigations into the development of social–cognitive abilities and how this plays a role in children and adolescents developing a sense of self, relationships, and their understanding of others as intentional beings. Further systematic research is needed to explore the role of social–cognitive and metacognitive processes within young people’s personal, social, and educational worlds. In summary, future research needs to explore new interdisciplinary and dynamic developmental frameworks that aim to ignite new theories and empirical tests that build on extant models of neurobiological susceptibility and child and adolescent brain development. To advance research in applied developmental social neuroscience, interdisciplinary collaboration among developmental cognitive neuroscientists, educators, and clinicians must increase. For example, developmental scientists who work with cross-cultural, longitudinal samples could be recruited for scanning, whereas neuroscientists’ extant data sets could be made accessible to developmental scientists and educators. Such shared research could then be applied to the educational setting and provide opportunities for prevention and intervention models and assessment tools aimed to foster young people’s social–cognitive development.