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

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

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

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

Synopsis

The premise of this book is that individuals and societies have an inexorable urge to morally develop by challenging the assumptions of the previous generation in terms of what is right and wrong. The focus is on the nature and functional value of conflicts and challenges to the dominant moral and social values framework. Through this analysis, individuals develop moral character through conflict with their local authority figures, including parents. The moral structure of societies evolves through intergenerational challenges to and contradictions with the dominant social order. The book is divided into three parts to help frame this discussion: *Part I directly takes up the issue of resistance as it occurs at a cultural level, and the implications of such resistance for moral education and socialization. *Part II explores the normative forms of adolescent resistance and contrarian behavior that vex parents and teachers alike. *Part III brings back the issue of societal structure and culture to illustrate how negative features of society--such as racial discrimination and economic disparity--can feed into the construction of negative moral identity in youth posing challenges to moral education. Taken together, this collection presents a rich counterpoint to the pictures of moral growth as the progressive sophistication of moral reasoning or the gradual accretion of moral virtues and cultural values. It will benefit those in developmental, social, and cognitive psychology, as well as sociology, political science, and education.

Excerpt

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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