Education in the Moral Domain

Education in the Moral Domain

Education in the Moral Domain

Education in the Moral Domain


This two-part book presents theory and research demonstrating that morality forms a domain of social values that is distinct from matters of societal convention. It presents practical suggestions for teachers on how to establish a moral classroom climate, deal with student discipline, integrate moral and social values education into the curriculum, and contribute to students' development of the moral self. The author tackles controversial issues--such as the relation between morality and religious rules, and the nature of cultural variation in moral value--with research and theory, rather than ideology.


Engaging in education in the moral domain is hard to fault. Almost everyone agrees that it should be done, that it must be done. Most everyone wants the children of their society to be, at least, guided in the process of becoming less aggressive, less violent, more altruistic, more fair, more charitable, more civil, and much more. To be sure, some have argued that education in the moral domain is not appropriate for schools because it should be left to the family and/or religious training. Regardless of where it occurs, educating children morally is generally considered good, virtuous, and a necessity.

Beyond the general agreement that children should be educated morally, there has been, and continues to be, a great deal of controversy and debate over how it should be conducted. These debates are often intense and emotional, to the point that it is argued that certain types of moral education should not occur at all because, it is thought, they can do more harm than good. In the early part of the twentieth century, the debate included two very influential social-scientific thinkers, Emile Durkheim and Jean Piaget. Each presented elaborate and well-articulated views representing two sides of the issue.

For Durkheim, an eminent sociologist, moral education occurs most effectively in schools where children can participate in groups more formal and less flexible than the family. Through participation in group life, children form an emotional attachment to society, coming to respect its rules, norms, and authority. Children also form what Durkheim referred to as a spirit of discipline, needed to control behavior and channel it into societal expectations.

For Piaget, an eminent psychologist, Durkheim's approach was lacking in two key ways. One was that he failed to recognize that morality involves respect for persons and judgments of justice and equality. The sec-

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