Moral Education and Pluralism

By Mal Leicester; Celia Modgil et al. | Go to book overview

12

Personal, Social and Moral Education in Latvia: Problems and Prospects *
KRISTA BURANE, AUGUSTS MILTS, IEVA ROCENA AND JANIS VALBIS
The need of a system of personal, social and moral education (PSME) in Latvia-a state in transition

Special role of PSME for a state in transition
In Latvia as in many Central and East European countries the historically unprecedented transition from the so-called socialist system to a free and democratic society is taking place. Transition like this involves essential changes in the consciousness of the people-their views, systems of values, attitudes and relations. For this transition to proceed faster and more successfully a purposeful education of the members of society is necessary, beginning at school level. It requires a radical transformation of the education system, especially in the PSME field.Although the official communist propaganda advocated the basic principles of humanity-freedom, fraternity, equality, human dignity-in reality a double morality existed-one for the ordinary people and another for the privileged party elite. Education was dominated by indoctrination in official communist dogmas within a strictly authoritarian system. The 'communistic upbringing' of young people blindly believing in the rightness of the socialist system as the only just social system was considered the main task of education.After the restoration of independence in Latvia reformation processes started in the education system, aimed at bringing it into line with the democratic education systems of other free countries. The most radical changes were and still are needed in the PSME field, but at the same time this is the most difficult part of the education system to change. Radical transformations are necessary in the contents of education and it is a difficult task to change teaching styles and approaches formed in the long years of occupation. In fact, a new system of PSME is needed and its formation must be preceded by analysis of the existing situation in society and in the education system.
Factors influencing the values of the population of Latvia
Unfortunately at present we cannot speak about a unified system of shared basic values in the society of Latvia, for a number of reasons.
1 The older generation of Latvians still have recollections, probably idealised ones, about democracy and its values in the years of independent Latvia (1918-40). During the subsequent long years of soviet occupation many Latvians identified these values with the national values of Latvian people.
2 The double morality of the soviet system has remnants in the consciousness of the people, who heard and viewed on the TV screen official communist ideology propagating the principles of freedom, human rights and equality, but suffered from the manifestations of totalitarism in their real everyday life. This promoted the devaluation of normative moral values and a decline in the role of general humanistic values.
3 The influx of Western ideology based significantly on pragmatic and utilitarian values and bringing in many features of democracy and market economy, together with popular culture which sometimes indirectly propagates violence, crime and cruelty.
4 The weak influence of religion on the values system of society. Although Christianity was
* This chapter was originally written in 1996.

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