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According to Schuitema, Dam and Veugelers (2008, p. 70), “moral education refers to the deliberate teaching of particular values, attitudes, and dispositions to stimulate the prosocial and moral development of students.” This is a broad account, aiming to develop various dimensions of ethical competence. Moral education often involves creating a school climate that encourages moral behavior and socializing students into ethical practices. Some argue that students should, for example, engage in dialogue with each other about disagreements, treating each other with respect and care. Schools should not be organized around competition for grades, but instead around cooperation and care. On this view, models of caring, ethical individuals should be provided throughout the curriculum. Whether focused on virtues and moral dispositions, on moral reasoning or on caring relationships and practices, advocates presuppose visions of how humans ideally act with respect to others. Advocates of moral education believe that humans and their societies inherently presuppose certain principles, dispositions and practices. Humans flourish when they embody virtues, reason ethically and act with care for others.
A holistic ecological perspective is needed in education (Bateson, 1972; Bowers, 2011). Most children today are undercared for in light of our species-normal developmental system. Instead, they are often exposed to vicious role models and antisocial pressures, and even immersed in traumatizing families and communities. As a result, many children come to school psychically wounded and physiologically under- or mis-developed. When students act out or withdraw, they are using ways they have learned to regulate themselves. To help children heal, reconnect and grow in moral virtue, educators need to be intentional about moral character education. A person must feel connected to others, like they belong and are appreciated. Social remediation is needed that includes multiple ways to practice social cooperation and, particularly, social joy in order to grow cooperative capacities. Educators can help expand imagination to perceive being part of the web of life with immersion in the natural world, evidence from science and guidance from native stories about the interconnections of living things. Overall, it is important to help students develop not just the intellect but also to educate intuition through immersion and coaching about relationships, connections and self-understanding. In order to do moral education, teachers should focus on relationships (relational realms: classroom, wider community, nature), apprenticeship (modeling, guidance), a “virtuous village” and stories, ethical skills (sensitivity, judgment, focus, action), and self-authorship (Narvaez, Bock, Endicott, & Lies, 2004; Narvaez, 2016).