Using Narratives to Enhance Moral Education in Sport: Stories Can Model Integrity, as Well as Teach How to Think through a Dilemma

By Hochstetler, Douglas R. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, April 2006 | Go to article overview
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Using Narratives to Enhance Moral Education in Sport: Stories Can Model Integrity, as Well as Teach How to Think through a Dilemma

Hochstetler, Douglas R., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance

Stories play an integral role in our lives. They provide a context for us, a backdrop against which to measure our efforts. We learn through these stories or narratives--about the world, our ancestors, and our geographic region. We learn about values, beliefs and ideas, good and evil. Stories can also reinforce moral standards important for society, providing models for living congruent with values such as honesty, integrity, and so forth. Narratives, whether read or told, hold an important place within moral education in large part because of their unique characteristics. Lickona (1991) wrote that stories have been used for centuries because they "teach by attraction rather than compulsion; they invite rather than impose. They capture the imagination and touch the heart" (p. 79).

The purpose of this article is to explore the use of narrative as means for moral education in sport. It is assumed that sport is a viable means for promoting moral education, even though, at times, individuals and groups involved with sport act in unethical ways. There are, of course, many forms of stories: fictional and factual, short stories, and extended novels. This article focuses on published accounts of sport participants and their actions at various levels of competition and on the possibilities of sharing these types of stories with athletes (primarily in youth sports and high school) as a way to develop and preserve the moral culture in sport. As a means of examining the theory behind the moral life, this article refers to R. M. Hare (1981) who wrote extensively on moral issues and identified two levels of moral thinking. Because these levels help explain how people come to grips with moral issues in their lives, Hare's levels are used as a paradigm for examining sport stories and their place in moral education.

Since stories are so central to this analysis, it is important to share two sporting narratives in the first section. The second section introduces and explains Hare's levels of moral thinking as well as their relationship with narratives. The final section addresses the educators' role in using stories for the purpose of moral education, in addition to applications for physical educators.

Narratives in Sport

During the 1996 PGA season, Jeff Sluman finished the second round of the Bay Hill Invitational at five under par, two strokes behind the leaders. However, in a bizarre move 30 minutes before the third round, Sluman disqualified himself from the remainder of the tournament. During the second round of play, Sluman had hit his ball into the water on hole 17. Following procedure, he took his drop and continued play. After finishing the round, Sluman re-read the rule book and then on the following day went back to hole 17 to consult with a Tour rules official. Before the official even arrived, however, Sluman decided to disqualify himself. Sluman realized he should have dropped his ball at the point it crossed the water, and then hit the ball across the hazard; since he had signed his scorecard incorrectly, he disqualified himself. When questioned about the move, Sluman remarked, "Nobody's got the responsibility but me ... the rule is there, it's your responsibility to know what it is. It's just how the game has to be played" (Shapiro, 1996, p. D4). Writers in the press held up Sluman's act as an example of golf's history of fair play, "an oasis of integrity in a sports desert of mendacity" (Dorman, 1996, p. B11).


The next story occurred during a 2002 high school football game, in southern Ohio, between Northwest and Waverly. One of the Northwest players, senior Jake Porter, had a disorder called "Chromosomal Fragile-X," a common cause of mental retardation. Porter was a committed member of the team all season despite not having played in a game. His coach, Dave Frantz, wanted to ensure that Porter would indeed play in a game. Frantz contacted the Waverly coach during the week before the game and asked that if the game was not on the line for the final play, that Porter come into the game and "take a knee.

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Using Narratives to Enhance Moral Education in Sport: Stories Can Model Integrity, as Well as Teach How to Think through a Dilemma


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