Moral Values and Civic Education: An Essay on The Interrelation of Aims


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At different developmental stages, students face different challenges and pressure. This enables students to be more interested in reflecting on their own values and attitudes and learning how to overcome the difficulties and challenges in their growth. Teachers can make use of topics in daily life and current affairs of public concern to enable students to think from different perspectives, clarify the related values and make thoughtful and reasonable judgements.

Students can also learn how to face and deal with various difficulties and challenges in their life with positive values and attitudes. Childhood and adolescence are crucial stages in cognitive development and the establishment of self-image, values and attitudes. Encouraging students to discuss and reflect on life events can enhance their abilities to analyse and make judgement. This enables them to learn to identify different value orientations or potential conflicts of values and make rational and objective judgement and choices in complicated social situations.

In response to the ever-changing society, how does your school review and revise the learning contents of MCE? How does your school encourage students to make good use of different channels and information platforms to acquire better understanding of the development and contemporary situations of our Nation from different perspectives? When implementing MCE, schools should adopt holistic and balanced curriculum planning.

They should design relevant learning experiences and conduct evaluation with reference to the learning objectives, and refine the curriculum contents continuously. Curriculum planning should cover the following:. Make reference to resources including the press, magazines, books, electronic media, the Internet, etc. Make good use of learning resources and support services provided by the EDB and related government departments, tertiary institutions and non-governmental organisations, etc.

Schools should continue to adopt the following diversified modes of learning to sustain the development of MCE:. Introducing the learning resources provided by school sponsoring bodies, tertiary institutions, government departments, non-governmental organisations etc. Making reference to or participating in related whole-person development programmes for children and teenagers organised by tertiary institutions, government departments, non-governmental organisations, etc.

Schools can organise life-wide learning activities, such as field visits, voluntary services, overseas exchange programmes, etc. Students can also master different life skills in the activities. Senior students can even be responsible for organising the activities so that their organisation skills, leadership skills and sense of responsibility and commitment can be developed. A primary school has adopted the recommendations in the Basic Law Learning Package Upper Primary in the subject-based and the school-based activities to help students to master knowledge of the Basic Law, respect the rule of law, and become good citizens with a sense of responsibility and commitment through the use of stories, anecdotes and social issues, etc.

Students agree that they need to exercise civil rights in a lawful and reasonable manner on the basis of mutual respect. To enable students to know that the Basic Law states the authority and functions of the Legislative Council and the methods for its formation, to care about social affairs, and to know the responsibilities of both voters and candidates in Legislative Council elections. Teachers of various subjects are encouraged to systematically incorporate the elements of moral and affective education into the learning and teaching activities.

Chapter 9. Moral Education

At the same time, cross-curricular learning activities are held over a span of two years. Cross-curricular learning is conducted in primary 2 to 5 in each school term. Through the introduction of different themes, moral education is reinforced. School culture, environment and learning atmosphere have subtle influence on students. Therefore, schools should provide students with a learning environment that upholds fairness, harmony and care for others, and encourages students to put these positive values and attitudes into practice. Apart from classroom learning, the daily interaction between teachers and students, the implementation of school policies, extra-curricular activities, guidance and discipline programmes and so on can also provide opportunities for students to understand, reflect on and apply their positive values and attitudes.

Schools should organise different types of activities, such as talks for parents, school sharing sessions, fun days, to develop partnership among different stakeholders, such as parents, alumni, community members so as to create a learning and living environment conducive to cultivating positive values and attitudes for students and to make concerted efforts to promote MCE. How should schools evaluate and introduce different external resources to support the implementation of MCE?

To promulgate the importance of MCE to teachers and students of the school, build consensus, and provide concrete and consistent action and support in the planning, decision-making and implementation of MCE. To lead the teachers, students and other stakeholders, and mobilise all parties to work collaboratively and support one another in the setting of the whole-school objectives pertaining to MCE and the relevant development plan. To appoint a coordinator to take charge of reviewing, planning and developing the MCE curriculum and regularly evaluate the effectiveness of its implementation.

To keep in close contact with parents, alumni, other schools, community organisations, government departments, non-government organisations, etc. To plan the MCE curriculum and select appropriate life events as learning contents, and to adopt diversified learning and teaching strategies to promote MCE holistically. To provide teachers with information of professional development programmes for MCE, and to encourage teachers to actively participate in them and arrange sharing with peers to enhance the professionalism. To discuss with teachers the learning and teaching strategies that can help students develop their positive values and attitudes at subject panel meetings and sharing sessions, etc.

To act as a role model for students in respect of values, attitudes and behaviours by walking the talk, and to give students timely positive feedback or advice and encourage students to conduct self-reflection. To provide learning opportunities, such as group activities and project learning, to enable students to translate positive values and attitudes into practice. To encourage students to participate in MCE activities organised inside school and outside to consolidate their learning through post-activity discussions and sharing. To create a good learning environment for their children at home, discuss with their children what they have encountered in their daily life, share their own values and attitudes and encourage their children to be reflective and express their personal opinions.

To mind their words and deeds, and to act as a role model for their children. To encourage children to actively participate in the MCE activities organised by schools or outside school. To actively take part in MCE classroom activities, think from multiple perspectives, discuss and express ideas, as well as to listen attentively and respect the views of others.

Training and Education

To pay attention to current affairs concerning society, the nation and the world in order to deepen their understanding of different events and issues, widen their horizons and learn to make judgement and decisions rationally and objectively. To make good use of leisure time to participate in the learning activities, such as exchange tours, voluntary services and uniform groups organised by schools, government departments and non-governmental organisations to practise a positive and healthy lifestyle. To love their families, actively help the needy and show concern about current affairs in their everyday life, to uphold positive values and attitudes; to set life goals and plans for future development, and to make contribution to their families, society, nation and the world.

The assessments of MCE should have the following functions:. To provide positive and specific feedback for students to understand what improvement they should make and to highlight their learning outcomes in order to help them to develop positive values and attitudes.

Civic Education

To encourage students to deepen their understanding of positive values and attitudes through discussion, sharing and application and to reflect on self-enhancement and the direction in which they may improve. Provide positive and explicit feedback to students, show them their MCE learning outcomes and facilitate their reflection on what improvement they can make. Avoid assessing whether the values held by students meet expected standards or comparing the performances of different students.

When planning MCE assessments, the following three areas should be covered:. Encouraging students to reflect more to deepen their self-understanding and enhance their ability to make judgement. How can schools avoid the labeling effect on students when conducting MCE assessments? The EDB has been providing diversified curriculum resources, including learning materials, learning resources websites, professional development programmes, etc. The EDB has been providing learning materials, like teaching plans and worksheets, which clearly state the teaching objectives, teaching procedures, reference materials, extended activities, etc.

The EDB has been creating learning resources websites on different themes, which cover current affairs and various cross-curricular domains in values education such as life education, sex education, moral education, Basic Law education, and education for sustainable development. These websites provide suggestions on teaching strategies, learning activities, practical school experiences, etc. The EDB regularly provides a series of professional development programmes, including seminars, workshops, etc.

For details of the professional development programmes, please visit: The EDB also provides school-based support services. Assisting schools in developing plans for implementing MCE. Establishing partnership with tertiary institutions to keep teachers abreast of the latest development of MCE. Collaborating with schools to pilot new pedagogical approaches and disseminating the findings and experience to schools. New Directions in Character and Values Education. Keeping Track of Teaching: Assessment in the Modern Classroom.

Values Education for Citizens in the New Century. Teaching Responsibility, Interaction, and Group Dynamics. Character and Moral Education: Citizenship Pedagogies in Asia and the Pacific. Educators have devised a variety of approaches to values and morality embodied in self-esteem, community service, civic education, sex education, drug education, Holocaust education, multicultural education, values clarification, and character education programs—to name but a few.

We might consider two of the most influential of these approaches briefly. For the past several decades values clarification programs have been widely used in public schools. Values are ultimately personal; indeed, the implicit message is that there are no right or wrong values. Needless to say, this is a deeply controversial approach—and is now widely rejected. The character education movement of the last decade has been a response, in part, to the perceived relativism of values clarification. Finally, we note what is conspicuous by its absence: Unlike either values clarification or character education programs, the major purpose of ethics courses is usually to provide students with intellectual resources drawn from a variety of traditions and schools of thought that might orient them in the world and help them think through difficult moral problems.

As important as we all agree morality to be, it is striking that schools do not consider ethics courses an option worth offering. In Chapter 2 we distinguished between socialization, training, and indoctrination on the one hand,and education on the other. Socialzation, we suggested, is the uncritical initiation of students into a tradition, a way of thinking and acting.

Education, by contrast, requires critical distance from tradition, exposure to alternatives, informed and reflective deliberation about how to think and live. Not all, but much character education might better be called character training or socialization , for the point is not so much to teach virtue and values by way of critical reflection on contending points of view, but to structure the moral ethos of schooling to nurturing the development of those moral habits and virtues that we agree to be good and important, that are part of our moral consensus.

This is not a criticism of character education. Children must be morally trained. Character education does appeal, as the Manifesto makes clear, to a heritage of stories, literature, art, and biography to inform and deepen students' understanding of, and appreciation for, moral virtue. Often such literature will reveal the moral ambiguities of life, and discussion of it will encourage critical reflection on what is right and wrong.

But if the literature is chosen to nurture the development of the right virtues and values, it may not be well suited to nurture an appreciation of moral ambiguity or informed and critical thinking about contending values and ways of thinking and living. Of course, character education programs often nurture the virtues of tolerance, respect, and civility that play major roles in enabling educational discussion of controversial issues. One of the supposed virtues of the values clarification movement, by contrast, was its use of moral dilemmas and divisive issues; moreover, in asking students to consider the consequences of their actions, it required them to think critically about them.

But the values clarification movement never required students to develop an educated understanding of moral frameworks of thought that could inform their thinking and provide them with critical distance on their personal desires and moral intuitions; it left them to their own inner resources which might be meager.

A conceptual exploration of values education in the context of schooling in South Africa

Let us put it this way. Of course, one of these issues is the nature of morality itself; after all, we disagree about how to justify and ground those values and virtues that the character education movement nurtures. If students are to be morally educated—and educated about morality—they must have some understanding of the moral frameworks civilization provides for making sense of the moral dimension of life.

After all, morality is not intellectually free-floating, a matter of arbitrary choices and merely personal values. Morality is bound up with our place in a community or tradition, our understanding of nature and human nature, our convictions about the afterlife, our experiences of the sacred, our assumptions about what the mind can know, and our understanding of what makes life meaningful. We make sense of what we ought to do, of what kind of a person we should be, in light of all of these aspects of life—at least if we are reflective.

We have space here to offer only the briefest sketch of a theory of moral education. For any society or school to exist, its members students, teachers, and administrators must share a number of moral virtues: We agree about this. Public schools have a vital role to play in nurturing these consensus virtues and values, as the character education movement rightly emphasizes; indeed, a major purpose of schooling is to help develop good persons.

If we are to live together peacefully in a pluralistic society, we must also nurture those civic virtues and values that are part of our constitutional tradition: A major purpose of schooling is to nurture good citizenship. But when we disagree about important moral and civic issues, including the nature of morality itself, then, for both the civic and educational reasons we discussed in Chapter 2, students must learn about the alternatives, and teachers and schools should not take official positions on where the truth lies.

The purpose of a liberal education should be to nurture an informed and reflective understanding of the conflicts. What shape moral education should take depends on the maturity of students. We might think of a K—12 continuum in which character education begins immediately with the socialization of children into those consensus values and virtues that sustain our communities. As children grow older and more mature they should gradually be initiated into a liberal education in which they are taught to think in informed and reflective ways about important, but controversial, moral issues.

Character education and liberal education cannot be isolated in single courses but should be integrated into the curriculum as a whole. We also believe, however, that the curriculum should include room for a moral capstone course that high school seniors might take, in which they learn about the most important moral frameworks of thought—secular and religious, historical and contemporary—and how such frameworks might shape their thinking about the most urgent moral controversies they face.

This is, of course, the inevitable question: If we are going to teach values, whose values are we going to teach? The answer is simple, at least in principle: We teach everyone's values. When we agree with each other we teach the importance and rightness of those consensus values. When we disagree, we teach about the alternatives and withhold judgment.

For example, we agree about democracy; it is proper, indeed important, to convey to students the value of democracy and the democratic virtues. We disagree deeply about the values of the Republican and Democratic parties, however. We can't leave politics out of the curriculum simply because it is controversial. If students are to be educated , if they are to make informed political decisions, they must learn something about the values and policies of the two parties. In public schools, teachers and texts should not take sides when the public is deeply divided; there should be no established political party.

Schools should teach students about the alternatives fairly. And so it should be with every other major moral or civic issue that divides us—including religion. A good liberal education will provide students with a basic cultural literacy about those aspects of the human condition sufficiently important to warrant a place in the curriculum. We have argued in earlier chapters that a major purpose for studying history and literature is the understanding and insight they provide into the human condition.

History is a record of social, political, moral, and religious experiments; it provides interpretations of the suffering and flourishing of humankind. The study of literature gives students imaginative insights into how people have thought and felt about the world in different times and places. History and literature provide students with a multitude of vicarious experiences so that they are not at the mercy of their limited and inevitably inadequate personal insights and experiences.

So, for example, it is impossible to understand matters of racial justice and so specific a policy issue as affirmative action without understanding a good deal of history, and the insights gained from imaginative literature art, drama, and film will be immensely valuable in making that history come alive. Indeed, one major criterion for choosing the history and literature we teach should be its relevance to deepening students' understanding of what is central to the suffering and flourishing of humankind.

As we suggested in Chapter 2, a liberal education has both conservative and liberating aspects. A good liberal education will initiate students into cultural traditions, shaping their moral identities in the process. We are not social atoms, but inheritors of languages, cultures, institutions, and moral traditions. From the beginning it has been a purpose of public education to make students into good citizens, good Americans.

In teaching history we provide students with a past, a sense of identity, a role in developing stories, a set of obligations. But a good liberal education will also teach students that disagreements among us run deep: We often disagree about the justice and goodness of different cultures and subcultures.

We disagree about how to make sense of the world, about how to interpret it. Indeed, we often disagree about what the relevant facts are—or, even more basically, what counts as a fact, as evidence, as a good argument. We have quite different worldviews. A good liberal education will initiate students into a discussion of the major ways civilization has devised for talking about morality and the human condition.

Most proposals for moral education are alike in employing vocabularies sterilized of religious language. The net effect, yet again, is the marginalization of religion. The implicit message is that religion is irrelevant to the development of virtue, moral judgment, and the search for moral truth. But if students are to be liberally educated and not just trained or socialized, if schools are not to disenfranchise religious subcultures, and if they are to be neutral in matters of religion, then we must include religious voices in the discussion.

The character education movement is grounded in the conviction that there are consensus virtues and values. The consensus must be local, but it may also be broader; indeed, its advocates sometimes claim rightly that virtues such as honesty and integrity are universal and are found in all the world's religions. Nonetheless, because religion can't be practiced in public schools and because it is often controversial, the character education movement avoids it.

Clearly the moral ethos of public schools must be secular rather than religious; character education cannot use religious exercises to nurture the development of character. But character education cannot implicitly convey the idea that religion is irrelevant to morality. We have noted that character education employs literature and history to convey moral messages. Some of those stories and some of that history should make clear that people's moral convictions are often grounded in religious traditions.

When teachers and students in the higher grades discuss controversial moral issues—abortion, sexuality, and social justice, for example—they must include religious perspectives on them in the discussion. For constitutional reasons those religious interpretations cannot be disparaged or advocated. As we've noted many times, one reason we disagree in our moral judgments is that we are committed to strikingly different worldviews. Some of us ground our moral judgments in Scripture, others in cost-benefit analyses, yet others in conscience and there are many other alternatives.

Even when we agree—about honesty, for example—we may disagree about why we should be honest. Long-term self-interest and love of humanity may both prescribe honesty as the best policy—though one's attitude and motivation, the kind of person one is, may be quite different; and, of course, there will be occasions when the requirements of love and even long-term self-interest will diverge.

Just as in math, it is not enough that we agree about the right answer but we must get it in the right way , so in any domain of the curriculum a good education requires more than a shallow agreement about conclusions. To be educated requires an understanding of the deep reasons for belief and values. Historically, religions have provided the categories, the narratives, the worldviews, that provided the deep justifications for morality. From within almost any religious worldview, conservative or liberal, people must set themselves right with God, reconciling themselves to the basic moral structure of reality.

Education as a Moral Enterprise

They are to act in love and justice and community, being mindful of those less fortunate than themselves. The conventional wisdom now, however, is that we can teach morality without reference to religion. Indeed, the deep justifications have changed and often become more shallow in the process. Health and home economics texts often ground their account of values in Abraham Maslow's humanistic psychology, whereas the economics standards and texts appeal to neoclassical economic theory and modern social science. Modern science at least implicitly teaches students there is no moral structure to nature.

Our whole moral vocabulary has changed: Indeed, students may learn that there are no right or wrong answers when moral judgments are the issue. The problem is not just that educators ignore religious accounts of morality; it is that the secular worldview that pervades modern education renders religion suspect. How do we make sense of religious accounts of morality?

A yearlong course in religious studies will help more. We also find merit in the idea of a senior capstone course in ethics in which students would study various secular and religious ways of understanding morality and several of the most pressing moral problems of our time.

Conservative religious parents sometimes ask that Bible courses be offered in public schools as a way of addressing the moral development of children. As we have seen, the courts have made it clear that public schools cannot teach students that the Bible is true, or that children should act in accord with Biblical morality. Nonetheless, there is a constitutional way in which study of the Bible is relevant to moral education. By studying the Bible or any religious text , students will encounter a vocabulary and framework for thinking about morality and the human condition that will quite properly provide them with critical distance on the secular ideas and ideals they acquire from elsewhere in the curriculum—and from popular culture.

Morality is at the heart of all religion, and, as we've argued, one important reason for studying religion is to acquire some sense of the answers that have been given to the fundamental existential questions of life. Teachers and texts can't endorse religious answers to those questions, but they can and should expose students to them fairly as part of a good liberal—and moral—education.

Students may find those answers compelling even if their teachers and texts don't require them to. It may be helpful to sketch the relevance of religion to one particularly troublesome part of the curriculum: It is important for students at some age to understand the biology of sexuality; but, of course, the purpose of sex education has always been something more than simple science education.

Its primary purpose has been to guide students' behavior, addressing major social problems such as unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases STDs. One way to address these problems is to teach students sexual abstinence. Another is to provide them with a little technological know-how regarding birth control and condoms.

Whichever position we take requires that we give students reasons for using condoms or foregoing the pleasures of sexuality. Three kinds of answers are common. First, it can be argued that either approach is in one's long-term self-interest, and much sex education focuses on the unhappy consequences of unplanned pregnancies and STDs. Some students will recognize the risks and alter their behavior accordingly—though adolescents are not typically strong on long-term self-interest and deferred gratification. Perhaps more important, if it is to be truly educational , sex education must make students aware of the fact that sexual behavior is universally held to be subject to moral as well as prudential judgments.

To be ignorant of this is to be uneducated. So, how do we introduce morality into sex education? A second approach—that taken in each of the four high school health texts we reviewed—is a variation on values clarification. Students should act responsibly: Each of the health texts concludes that responsible individuals will practice abstinence. The problem, of course, is that this conclusion requires a considerable act of faith, for what students value most is up to them.

The books offer no grounds for assessing the values of students as morally right or wrong; values are ultimately personal. Health, home economics, and sex education texts and materials often use the language of values rather than that of morality. But, of course, this is an extraordinarily narrow view of morality. We suspect that the deeper problem is that much ocial science can't make sense of morality and so must translate it into talk of choices and personal values.

Virtually all the health and home economics texts we reviewed start from the position of humanistic psychology. But if the authors can't cast their conceptual nets wider than this, it is not surprising that they don't catch morality in them. One irony in all of this is that virtually everyone still believes that some actions are morally right and other actions are morally wrong.

Aims of Education

Pedophilia is morally wrong. Not telling the person with whom one proposes to have sex that he or she has an STD is morally wrong. Honesty isn't just a matter of cost-benefit analysis and personal values; it is morally binding. If people don't understand this, they are ignorant, and if we don't teach students this, we are irresponsible. As we have argued, the character education movement has been a widely accepted and much needed antidote to the relativistic tendencies of values clarification, and it offers another approach to sex education.

Sexual relationships, like all relationships, should be characterized by honesty, loyalty, and respect for the feelings, privacy, and well-being of others—and broad consensus supports this.

Prudence, self-control, and a willingness to defer gratification are virtues of unquestionable importance in all aspects of life, but particularly in matters of sexuality. Whereas the values clarification approach typically highlights dilemmas and choices, character education emphasizes habit; self-control can't just be the result of decisions made as we go along. We agree that it is wrong for children to have sexual relationships.

We might even agree that sexual modesty in dress and demeanor is an important virtue, at least for children. The moral consensus on sexuality is, no doubt, limited and fragile. Still, because there is a consensus, schools should constantly emphasize these moral virtues and principles by means of their ethos, dress codes, stories told and read, and, of course, in health, home economics, and sex education courses. Sex education must also be moral education. We have argued that character education cannot implicitly give the impression that religion is irrelevant to morality.

Children's stories about love and romance and marriage and the family should include religious literature. Character education builds on moral consensus, but obviously there is also a good deal of often strong disagreement on matters relating to sexuality—abstinence and birth control, abortion and homosexuality, for example.


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Not surprisingly, we also disagree about what to teach students about these things; indeed, we often disagree about whether to teach about such things. Our claim is this: Given the importance of religion in our culture, to remain ignorant of religious ways of thinking about sexuality is to remain uneducated.


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Older students should learn about religious as well as secular arguments for abstinence, and they should learn how different religious traditions regard birth control. Although all of the health books we reviewed discussed condoms, none mentioned that Roman Catholic teaching forbids artificial birth control. Indeed, they should learn something about the relevant Scriptural sources in different traditions for sexual morality, marriage, and the family.

Moral Values and Civic Education: An Essay on The Interrelation of Aims Moral Values and Civic Education: An Essay on The Interrelation of Aims
Moral Values and Civic Education: An Essay on The Interrelation of Aims Moral Values and Civic Education: An Essay on The Interrelation of Aims
Moral Values and Civic Education: An Essay on The Interrelation of Aims Moral Values and Civic Education: An Essay on The Interrelation of Aims
Moral Values and Civic Education: An Essay on The Interrelation of Aims Moral Values and Civic Education: An Essay on The Interrelation of Aims
Moral Values and Civic Education: An Essay on The Interrelation of Aims Moral Values and Civic Education: An Essay on The Interrelation of Aims

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