Conflict, Contradiction, and Contrarian Elements in Moral Development and Education

By Larry Nucci | Go to book overview

Preface

There has been a surge in interest over the past two decades in issues of moral development and what is referred to as character education. That interest in the topic of moral development and character formation has not abated. A quick search on Amazon.com, for example, turned up 1,026 results for “moral education. ” Nearly all of these books present a picture of moral growth and education that conforms to the general notion that children should get morally “better” as they develop, and that moral education entails either a process of gradual building up of virtue through socialization into one's cultural norms (Bennett, 1993; Lickona, 1991; Wynne & Ryan 1993), or movement toward more adequate (better) forms of moral reasoning (Lickona, 1991; Nucci, 2001; Power, Higgins, &Kohlberg, 1989). This understandable emphasis on moral education as moral improvement belies the role of resistance, conflict, and contrarian elements in both the course of individual moral development and moral “progress” at a societal level.

The focus of this volume, in contrast, is on the nature and functional value of conflicts and challenges to the dominant moral and social values framework. These challenges emerge in two realms that are not often thought of as relating to one another. On the one hand are the conflicts, challenges, and contradictions that children and adolescents raise in the process of their development. On the other hand are the challenges and contradictions to the dominant social order that occur at the level of society. Both sets of challenges can be viewed as disruptions to normalcy that need to be repaired or suppressed. For example, many social commentators have written about the current period as one of moral decay or decline (Bennett, 1992, Etzioni, 1993). The source of this moral decay is generally traced to the period of social upheaval during the 1960s and the subsequent changes

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