Academic journal article Education

Values Education and Self-Esteem

Academic journal article Education

Values Education and Self-Esteem

Article excerpt

Much is spoken today about a decline in the values orientation of our society and the consequent need to marshall resources for the encouragement of values development by strengthening the family unit, all levels of the academic curriculum, and professional codes of ethics. A concurrent and seemingly related lament is that our children do not have an adequate sense of their own self-esteem. Hence the national rush to provide school programming for the encouragement of self-esteem. This situation is indeed unsettling. It is all the more compelling since we live in a society where sensitivity to issues of self-development and self-fulfillment is unprecedented. The paradox is that the self-development movement has unwittingly contributed to the creation of "ME" centered environments which have led to more and more self-alienation. It seems reasonable that a significant portion of the dilemma may be attributed to the possibility that people in their individual understanding of themselves are insufficiently aware, that in their foundational structure as human beings, they have been constituted with the capacity to be authentic knowers of reality and value with the concomitant capacity to be authentic decision makers and doers consistent with their knowledge and value. Nor do people seem to have a sufficient awareness that it is they themselves who have it within their power to create a values regulated world through their personal ongoing commitment to the fulfillment of these self-constituting capacities. It further seems reasonable that it is in the recognition of these self-constituting capacities and responsible attention to their fulfillment that we may reveal to ourselves the foundational basis and criterion for making positive judgments with regard to our own self-esteem.

Stated more succinctly my premise is that if individuals have an objectified firm understanding of themselves as subjects who exist within a basic self-constituting process for knowing and valuing, they will discover that their authenticity as human beings exists in fulfilling the requirements through which this self-constituting process effectively expresses itself. My further premise is that in committing themselves responsibly to the fulfillment of these uniquely human capacities, people are being humanly authentic and therein experience the fundamental data which demands a personalized judgment of positive self-esteem.

There would appear to be a common sense wisdom in this formulation. But what evidence exists in its support? One might infer that at least implicitly this formulation has guided the development and behavior of good men and women down through the ages. Yet we live in times that doubt and taunt the wisdom of the past. We demand "scientific proof ". We demand to know that our formulations are really accurate and not just subject to the conventions and biases of the times soon due for revision as we experience change in the social, moral and political climates of the day. And so the question arises: Is there reasonable support for the formulation I have proposed? Can it be objectified in terms of the naturally occurring constitutional structure of the human organism?

Generalized Empirical Method

I believe the answer is in the affirmative. The esteemed 20th century philosopher/theologian, Bernard Lonergan, S.J. (1958, 1972), has provided us with the means for incredible insight into the existence of our self-constituting knowing and valuing processes and their implications for effective human living. He has done so through his explication on generalized empirical method (GEM) and its self-appropriation. GEM is the label Lonergan gave to the sequence of patterned interrelated cognitive operations through which we are constituted as knowers, valuers, and subsequent decision-makers and doers consistent with our knowledge and values. Self-appropriation refers to the process of discovering and objectifying GEM for ourselves as we bring our attention to bear on the cognitive functioning of our own consciousness. …

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