Changing Childhood Prejudice: The Caring Work of the Schools

By Miriam M. Davidson; Florence H. Davidson | Go to book overview

3
Prejudice Tied to Moral Judgment: A Study

The stories of Sal, Beth, Roy, and the other children illustrate the ways in which unique events and family constellations sometimes foster and sometimes inhibit personality and moral development. Personality emerges in the narrative each child inwardly recounts about ongoing experiences and adventures that star the self. The child's limited interpretive ability colors the story but expands with the support of others as the narrative continues.

Sal's history shows that cognitive problems, even when severe, can be overcome with the help of a warm and supportive family. He moved past the confusion of his hospital stay, and structural changes in his moral reasoning took place. Beth was critical of her mother, yet internalized many of her suburban attitudes of superiority. Paradoxically, she began to overcome these copied attitudes because of the stimulus to think morally that she received at home. Roy, so alive and struggling to find his place in the world, showed promise despite his father's death and the hardships of his background. His moral growth seemed to derive from his alertness and will to constantly test and think about his environment.

Like Roy, each of the case-study children was part of a long-term study of 22 fifth-grade classmates tested repeatedly through junior high school and high school. This study sought to correlate the children's prejudices and moral development with I.Q., achievement, and Tasks of Emotional Development (T.E.D.) test scores, as well as the protocols of child, mother, and teacher interviews. Although small, the long-term study helps us to better understand how a child's family, culture, experiences, and emotions influence moral stage progress.

A second study of 154 children in second, fifth, and seventh grades in several city and suburban schools also hypothesized that there would be an inverse correlation between moral stage and prejudice. It was not possible to meet these children's mothers or teachers or to obtain I.Q. and achievement scores. They were tested over two weeks only. Both

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