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

By Larry Nucci | Go to book overview

7
Negative Morality and the
Goals of Moral Education
Fritz K. Oser
Institute of Pedagogy
University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland

When she had been “clean and sober” for 15 years, a 36-year-old alcoholic in our study of how alcoholics and addicts recover integrity explained to us how she had finally learned from her mistakes. She was a very clever child, and had always been able to get away with things. Her parents, busy professionals, encouraged her creativity and independence. “I thought I had them fooled. I didn't understand how I hurt them, ” she said. “I just kept heading down the wrong road until I finally hit a wall. ” The wall was named Officer McMurray. “When he pulled me over and told me to step out of the car, I finally understood where the line was. I'd been pulled over lots of times before, but somehow, this time, even before I got out of the car, I had a flash … Everything before that was wrong. I knew he was right to lock me up. I was too ashamed to call my parents to bail me out. I knew from then on where the edge of the cliff was. ” She went on to describe her daily struggles with “the edge of the cliff, ” but she felt sure, after her awareness of the difference between right and wrong, that she now knew better, and that “the people in the village below that cliff, my parents and all—they're safe now. I'm not a disaster waiting to happen anymore. I'm not rolling down that cliff. ” On the 15th anniversary of her sobriety, now an art therapist and mother of two, she honored Officer McMurray because, she said, he “showed me the line. ”

This story from the work of the Blakeneys (R. Blakeney, Blakeney, & Reich, 2003) illustrates how negative moral experience may lead to a posi-

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