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Nurturing an ethics and morality of discovery

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Nurturing an ethics and morality of discovery an educator's perspective
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Gómez, Clay Petty
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English
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136 leaves : ; 28 cm

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Ethics -- Study and teaching ( lcsh )
Education -- Moral and ethical aspects ( lcsh )
Moral education ( lcsh )
Education -- Moral and ethical aspects ( fast )
Ethics -- Study and teaching ( fast )
Moral education ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 128-136).
General Note:
School of Education and Human Development
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by Clay Petty Gómez.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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ocm49630697
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Full Text
NURTURING AN ETHICS
AND MORALITY OF DISCOVERY:
AN EDUCATORS PERSPECTIVE
by
Clay Petty Gomez
B.A., Texas A&M University, 1984
M.A., University of Texas at San Antonio, 1993
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
2001


2001 by Clay P. Gomez
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Clay P. Gomez
has been approved
by


Gomez, Clay Petty (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Nurturing an Ethics and Morality of Discovery: An Educators Perspective
Thesis directed by Professor Nadyne Guzman
ABSTRACT
This philosophic inquiry examines the roots of moral thought and reasoning
while noting the manner in which ethical development has been addressed by
academicians and educators alike. Particular attention is paid to the character
education movement, both historical and modem. This movement primarily focused
upon teaching students certain agreed-upon values, the assumption being that moral
instruction can proceed in the same manner as one might teach algebra or science.
The dearth of longitudinal studies focusing on the long-term effects of such programs
is addressed.
Child and adult development issues are also addressed with particular focus
on assertions made in the context of both social and moral development that one stage
of development naturally precedes the next, much in the same way as the human body
develops. This linear progression is challenged with the support of other scholars
who have also studied this process.
The role of the community as a whole in the ethical development of students
is considered. While each part of the larger society is viewed as making an influential
contribution, each part is incomplete in and of itself. The individual is highlighted as
the key, and the individuals affect upon the larger system is stressed.
Any attempt to pinpoint or identify a definitive morality that should be taught
or focused upon in the school is rejected, with the focus instead being on an ethics
and morality of discovery. This is defined as a process whereby the individual is
enabled to structure and validate her or his own ethical development with the school
serving as the common uniting factor and facilitator for this developmental process.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.
Signed
IV


DEDICATION
This dissertation is dedicated to my daughters, Rebekah and Sarah, for all they have
brought into my life. Special appreciation to Irene, my parents, and my brother,
Bob: Yes, I know, youre STILL the oldest.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Heartfelt thanks are expressed to the following individuals:
Dr. Nadyne Guzman, advisor, fellow drifter, and panic-attack guru, without
whom the study at hand would not have been possible.
Dr. Cherie Lyons, who sees with the heart and soul.
Dr. Rodney Muth.. parsimony, parsimony, parsimony.
Dr. Dallas Strawn, for his encouragement to remain in reality when
fantasy beckoned.
My compatriots in Becoming the Change.
And last, my friends and colleagues who supported me through
the process in ways too numerous to count


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION AND HISTORY OF MORAL THOUGHT..................1
Ethics..................................................5
Ethics in Education.....................................8
The Argument for Character Education....................9
Histoiy of Character Education in the United States....12
Educating for Ethics: Purpose..........................15
Moral Development......................................17
Qualitative Design.....................................25
A Personal Note.......................................26
2. METHOD TO MY MADNESS.....................................28
Heuristic Research Methodology........................32
Initial Engagement.....................................32
Immersion.............................................35
Incubation............................................37
Illumination..........................................38
Explication...........................................39
Creative Synthesis....................................41
Grounded Theory Research Methodology..................43


3. FOUNDATIONS....................................50
4. MORAL AND ETHICAL DEVELOPMENT..................63
5. ROLE OF THE SCHOOLS............................74
Character Education..........................78
6. APPLICATIONS...................................85
Role of the Community........................86
Critique of Communitarianism.................88
A Dynamic Ethics.............................92
A Morality and Ethics of Discovery..........102
7. CONCLUSIONS...................................113
Recommendations.............................116
A Final Note................................123
POSTSCRIPT............................................126
REFERENCES............................................128


CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION AND HISTORY OF MORAL THOUGHT
There is no sun without shadow, and it is essential to know the night.
Albert Camus (1955, p. 123)
Were the limitations of time and space removed from humanity and replaced
with an immortality of sorts, one would find that certain questions persist, without
definitive answer, throughout eons. Such questions might include the presence of a
deity or the purpose and meaning of existence, with many unanswerables lying in
between. Some might debate the utility of investigating such areas of knowledge,
seeing no final resolution in sight and deciding humanity would be better off to deal
with the here and the now, letting such areas of seemingly irresolvable nature alone.
Others would find, and I count myself in this number, that to turn a deaf ear to such
questions, answerable or not, would be to turn our collective backs on much of what
makes us human, as perhaps it is only this striving for sense and meaning in the face
of the nonsensical and the meaningless that separates us from our fellow creatures. I
herein concern myself with the issue of morals, ethics (what distinguishes one from
the other will be addressed shortly), and the role of the public school in addressing
both.
Human nature is often conceived of as something inherent and predetermined
(Kohn, 1990, p. 5), and in that sense, inescapable. In the West, this position is
i
j
1


reinforced by traditional Judeo-Christian thought that views man as a fallen creature
whose salvation can only come from without in the form of a benevolent
creator/savior. From this perspective, no morality exists apart from God. Others
argue, however, that humans have within themselves the potential to map out their
own positive moral development through the manifestation of certain virtues and the
inhibition of particular vices (Norton, 1988, p. 50).
Between these poles lie any number of variations and renditions of what
contributes to and defines the moral makeup of humankind. This debate leads many
to shun the topic of morality in casual conversation, relegating it to the ranks of those
things that are simply matters of personal opinion, with nothing definitive to be
gained from the effort expended. Others would disagree, citing such evasion as futile,
since morality is coterminous with human life itself, affording no nonmoral domain
of refuge (Norton, 1988, p. 55). It is in agreement with this assertion that I will
proceed, providing first a brief history of moral thought and then moving to practical
application of the lessons derived from that history.
Aristotle indicated that every action of man is believed to aim at the good
(McKeon, 1947). The end of the good is happiness (p. 317), and happiness can only
result from the virtuous life (p. 325), which Aristotle defines as one spent in the
appreciation of noble actions (p. 321). These combine and form the state of a
mans character (p. 338). It is important to note, however, that an intellectual grasp
of the above does not make one ethical. It may just make one knowledgeable about
2


the study of ethics or ethical practice. Aristotle insisted that for one to be ethical, the
desire to be so must be present (Gomez-Lobo, 1989). And why should one desire to
be ethical? Briefly stated, it is because people do not and, indeed, cannot exist in
isolation from their fellows, but are and must be part of the communal whole (p. 41).
In other words, one is part of something that extends beyond self (Wheatley, 1988)
and, as such, must consider the welfare of others. Indeed, it is argued that without
consideration of morality, society could not exist (Bowie, 1988).
Though Aristotle mentioned the gods in his writings (McKeon,1947), no
clear attempt to justify a defense of ethics in terms of mans responsibility to the gods
exists. However, with the onset of Augustine and Aquinas, it is clear that such a shift
in thought has taken place, whereby one is no longer moral simply because it is right
so to be, but moreover, it is ones responsibility to God to so act. Augustine
(Losoncy, 1989) stipulated that it is not enough just for man to exist, but that man
needs to exist or live well, and this he saw in terms of mans relationship to God.
Indeed, according to Aquinas, it is only through mans relation to God that he can
hope to be moral, because God had gifted man with synderesis, or the ability to
know intuitively the principles of the practical order (Bourke, 1989, p. 119), order
being defined as the way things ought to be in light of Gods creation. With the
existence of God not a matter of popular debate, such systems of morality suited their
times well.
3


With the advent of the Enlightenment and the publication of works by
Hobbes, Hume, Kant, and others, the moral domain took up ground outside the world
of religion and attempted to stand on its own. For Hobbes (May, 1989), the
sovereignty of the ruler took the place where gods once ruled, and he saw morality
and issues of legality inextricably intertwined. Hume went so far in his disavowal of
the religious influence in the moral lives of man to imply that far from being a
cement for social order, it was a catalyst of social disorder (Norton, 1989). His
point here is that, particularly in monotheistic religions, the nature of the belief
systems theoretically pit believer against infidel, but in reality, man is forced into
conflict with his fellow man by differing versions of the true path to salvation. Kant,
deviating somewhat, acknowledges an infinite being, but postulates that it is the
freedom of man, not his position as a creation of the creator, that binds him to the
moral law (Korsgaard,1989). His theory of the categorical imperative, a law of pure
reason applying to the will (p. 221), holds that a rational will is a will under moral
law (p. 222).
Modem philosophy, as expressed by Nietzsche, Dewey, Sartre, and more
(Cavalier, 1989), stresses the need for man to establish a moral base that has at its core
something other than a divine being to which one can appeal for ultimate justification.
Nietzsche, proclaiming the death of God and the preeminence of herd morality
(Schacht, 1989) in man, argues, for lack of a better term, a higher morality, where the
higher, nobler man is the one characterized by self-overcoming, self-mastery, self-
4


cultivation, and self-direction (p. 299). Dewey, agreeing in part with Nietzsche,
rejects the intellectual bankruptcy of absolutist pretensions (Gouinlock, 1989) and
highlights a democratic instrumentalism, where knowledge of the moral is derived
from knowing how man functions in relation to his fellow man and to the external
world about him (p. 312). Gouinlock, citing Deweys views on democracy in
practical affairs, writes that
Just because we live in societies where there are divergent moral claims, each
wanting to be satisfied, and just because there are irreducibly divergent ethical
theories, each claiming priority, the virtues of democracy as a way of life
present themselves as the best means so far conceived for approaching to
concord in moral affairs, (p. 326)
It is to the practical that I now turn. Countless volumes have been, and will
continue to be, written regarding morality. But what of the application of the
knowledge garnered from efforts of so many? Here are found fertile fields for a
consideration of ethics.
Ethics
Wynne (1990) defines ethics as a refined code of morality, typically adapted
to the needs of some profession or specialized activity. He distinguishes this from a
moral code, which he views as a body of discreet principles that hold a popular
consent and are applicable to every facet of life, such as the Ten Commandments (p.
40). Hosmer (1988) agrees in part, noting that
Morality refers to the standards of behavior by which people are judged, and
particularly to the standards of behavior by which people are judged in their
5


relationships with others ... Ethics, on the other hand, encompasses the
system of beliefs that supports a particular view of morality, (p. 87)
Still others indicate that a discussion of ethics involves a consideration of meaning
and a search for an answer to the why of human life, and a realization of being a
part of something that is larger than ourselves (Wheatley, 1988, p. 141). For my
purposes, I will focus on ethics as defined by Wynne (1990) and Hosmer (1988);
additionally, I will assign to the term moral that belief or beliefs that create our
ethics, which applies to our actions and conduct, be they right or wrong (Ruggiero,
1992). That is, I will use the term morality in reference to an overarching code, be
it religious or secular, that serves the individual as a general pattern .. .ethics is
used in a narrower, more practical sense, to reflect the daily decisions and choices
made in deference to ones moral code. Perhaps an apt analogy would be that of a
chessboard and its component parts: our playing pieces, along with their patterns of
movement, are ethics (the action), which can only be played within the frame of the
chessboard, our moral code.
It is appropriate at this point to make manifest the distinguishing
characteristics of two schools of ethical thought, consequentialism and
inconsequentialism. The former holds that the ethical right or wrong of an action
can only be determined by its consequences (Strike, 1988). Thus, saving Adolph
Hitler from drowning would be adjudged unethical, while pulling Mother Teresa from
a watery doom would be considered most ethical. Inconsequentialism, on the other
6


hand, stresses that the ethics of an action taken can only be viewed in light of the
consideration it gives to the value and dignity of persons (p. 19). Using the same
example, both Hitler and Mother Teresa should be pulled from the waves, based upon
their inherent worth as human beings.
The questions and dilemmas posed by sincere consideration of ethics do not
merely relate to what individuals think or feel on a given subject; indeed, our ethical
position influences every individual and situation we come into contact with both
personally and professionally (Hosmer, 1996). It is precisely for this reason that large
numbers of organizations, corporations, and political entities publish and distribute
copies of ethical standards which they expect employees and members of the group to
abide by. Living in the age of what one writer has termed moral minimalism
(Norton, 1988), when ethical decisions are felt, by many, to be governed by the
circumstances in a given situation, one may rightly question where ethical
expectations come from in the first place.
To be legitimate, a system of ethics must be cognitively obtainable and not
arbitrary, or else we are forced to the conclusion that morality and ethics are little
more than the will of the strongest (Banner, 1981). While it must be granted there is
truth to the claim that the ethical response to one situation may differ from that to
another, perhaps similar situation, it is also argued that though situations may differ,
there exists what may be termed a universal commonality in the consideration of
ethics. This is the belief that the individual members of a group, be it an
7


organization, a community, or a culture, bear some responsibility for the well being of
the group as a whole (Hosmer, 1996).
On the other hand, Hart (1988) argues that it is mans moral freedom and
liberation from the demands of instinct placed upon the rest of the animal kingdom
(p. 85) that makes deviations from ethical expectations possible, and thus the
necessity for an agreed upon system of ethical accountability. However, mere
knowledge of that which is right and that which is wrong makes no one ethical
(Greenfield, 1990). Such things may be known cognitively and yet have no influence
on ones actions in either business or personal life. In reference then to ethics, I speak
of that which is not only recognized as just and proper, but of those actions which
transform mere recognition into its twin and nobler brother, realization.
Ethics in Education
As noted above by Wynne (1990), a number of professions, perhaps most,
develop their own code of ethics to govern conduct and provide direction for the
attainment of the companys vision and mission. What of ethics in education? First,
it can safely be said that education is a moral and ethical endeavor (Strike, 1988), as
is true for any human service organization. Indeed, schools by their very nature are
intensely value-laden (Kohn, 1999). It is equally true that the ethical decisions (or
indecisions) of the educational leader can influence the well being of others as well as
the broader good (Hollander, 1995). Principals deal with issues of ethics as much
8


as they deal with test scores, professional development, parents, and discipline issues
(Strike, 1988).
Leadership necessarily implies followership (Hollander, 1995, p. 55), and the
manner in which ethical dilemmas are resolved by the principal will speak louder to
teachers and students than will any number of pious proclamations emanating from
faculty meetings or the public address system. It will be argued from many quarters
that ethics are subjective and open to interpretation, and, to some extent, this may be
true. However, I am in agreement with Strike (1988) when he states that
sometimes it is possible to decide, as a result of hearing arguments and
weighing evidence, that some actions are right and others wrong. In other
cases that are, perhaps, not so clear, it is still possible to decide that some
choices are morally preferable to others, (p. 16)
Thus, in sum I maintain that the school leader has an obligation to perform
and behave in an ethical manner. The leader also has the obligation to act in such a
way so that those within the school community, be they students, faculty members, or
parents, realize for themselves their own degree of ethical excellence as they bond
together in the common goal of educating the whole person that is the student.
The Argument for Character Education
It should not strike anyone odd to find that issues of ethics and the acquisition
of morals find fertile ground for heated debate in the arena of public education.
Though few would argue against the notion of transmitting a code of ethics from one
generation to the next, there are many who would contend that the public school is
9


not the environment in which such transmission should take place. It is a debate in
which lines have been drawn, stones cast, and sides have been chosen in what often
seems like a war fought over the moral development of the nations youth.
This furor over ethics in relation to the role of schools (White, 1997) is
nothing new; indeed, as noted earlier, as long as pupils have been found at the feet of
masters, it has been a matter of concern to society as a whole and to parents and
educators in particular. It seems, however, that glowing embers have once again been
fanned to full flames by cultural and political agendas (Leming, 1997), so much so
that one may truly question whether it is any longer the ethical development of the
child that matters or if it just an issue of seeing ones own cause advanced simply
because it is ones own cause.
Most hotly contested are those programs designed to enable students to
acquire and internalize an ethical base, popularly known as character education
designs. One such program, the Character Education Curriculum, focuses on twelve
universal values, ranging from honor through equality, and utilizes four primary
teaching strategies, including discussions, grouping, role play, and questioning
techniques (Leming, 1997, p. 17). Discussions, though open, are to be guided by the
teacher to lead students to the correct response among several alternatives.
Those who have studied the subject in detail divide thought on the matter into
one of three categories. Duncan (1997) notes that structured character education
programs stem from two primary schools of thought: direct and indirect
i
!
10
I


transmission of ethics. Direct transmission refers to those programs which clearly
delineate which virtues and character traits are to be desired and which to be
eschewed. Incentives are used to encourage acceptance and, ideally, internalization
of the desired moral norms (p. 121). Alternately, the indirect approach focuses on the
development of individual reason, relying on the schools to provide opportunity to
exercise increasingly higher levels of thoughtful, ethical consideration (White, 1997).
Here, moral behavior is only realized as a result of deliberation and interaction
within a community of students (Duncan, 1997). Whereas rigid structure and
definite rights and wrongs typify the direct approach, the indirect approach
emphasizes the need for a caring and supportive environment in which students can
arrive at their own understanding of that which is considered moral (p.124). More
will be noted on both approaches in Chapter 5 when the role of schools in terms of
ethical development will be dealt with in greater detail.
A final category of thought in regard to ethics in the schools focuses primarily
on questioning the premises implicit in character education programs. Kohn (1999)
notes that, too often, the narrower of two meanings for the term character education
is taken as the sole definition. This definition refers to a certain type of moral
training (p. 176) that emphasizes certain values to the exclusion of others, and
operates under definite assumptions regarding the nature of humans in general and
children in particular. The second, broader meaning refers to programs offered
11


outside the academic curriculum, specifically when the goal of which is to provide
for the moral development of young people (p. 176). Kohn states further that
What goes by the name of character education nowadays is, for the most part,
a collection of exhortations and extrinsic inducements designed to make
children work harder and do what theyre told. Even when other values are
also promotedcaring or fairness, saythe preferred method of instruction is
tantamount to indoctrination, (p. 177)
While not opposed to efforts by the schools to provide for moral instruction
and development of students, Kohn stands in sharp contrast to those fully persuaded
of the benefits of specific character education programs. Lickona (1997) places
character education at the pinnacle of the schooling experience, noting that it must be
considered by all stakeholders in the schools as the primary educational objective.
Every facet of the school community and culture must be driven to support the
student acquisition of a strong, personalized code of ethics (p. 64).
History of Character Education in the United States
Given such diverse perspectives, it is fitting to briefly examine the history of
moral development in the schools. Necessarily, I limit my scope to such development
as it has evolved in the United States, though references to classic thought will be
noted throughout.
Laud (1997) stipulates that, initially, it was the moral growth and development
of the foundling countrys youth that provided the impetus for the institution of the
American educational system. The Massachusetts School Act from 1647 ordered
towns numbering fifty households or more to employ teachers in order to facilitate
12


the learning of the scriptures (p. 2). This was seen as necessary to assure the
salvation of their souls, the primary concern for early colonists, a result of their
beliefs regarding the basic nature of man, which was sinful and in need of subjugation
to the spirit. Schools, therefore, enforced strict adherence to high standards of
conduct rather than seeking to develop the moral reasoning capacities of their young
charges (p. 4).
After the American Revolution, an act was passed in 1787 that, for the first
time, included in the schools mission not only matters of religion and morality, but
the importance of the acquisition of knowledge. Indeed, this new focus on
knowledge began to assume primary importance in schools with the common school
movement of the 1800s (Laud, 1997, p. 3). No longer did religious instruction or, for
that matter, religious texts enjoy free reign in the public schools. Several prominent
thinkers, among them Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, ascribed to human
nature a kinder picture than that presented by the Puritan forebears, one that held out
some hope for the perfection of such nature, even in children. Jefferson went so far
as to imply that humans had an innate sense of the moral, and that the job of schools
was not so much to force upon students a strict code of ethics, but through the use of
reason and deliberation to bring to fruition the seeds of morality that were already
present in each individual at birth (p. 7).
Seen clearly in the preceding paragraphs are the foundation stones for both the
direct and indirect approaches to modem character education programs. What we do
13


not see, however, may be of utmost importance. One of the most adamant supporters
of the direct approach to character education, Lickona (1991) notes, importantly, that
there is no such thing as value-free education (p. 20). I suggest that this is true.
Each day in every classroom across the country, students and staff are presented with
any number of morally charged situations that require action of some sort. Every
individual who adamantly insists that a specific character education program should
be in place in each school throughout each district needs to answer those who, like
Fine (1995, p. 175), feel that it is both foolish and wasteful to try to divorce the
moral issues necessarily imbedded in every aspect of students learning from the
particular subject matter they happen to explore. John Dewey indicated that
Moral education in school is practically hopeless when we set up the
development of character as the supreme end, and at the same time treat the
acquiring of knowledge and the development of understanding, which of
necessity occupy the chief part of school time, as having nothing to do with
character. (Rice, 1996, p. 280)
It should be plain by now that there is no clear cut, right or wrong answer
regarding character education. While many will argue for programs that, on the
surface, do their part to ensure the propagation of future generations of citizens
possessed of sound moral character, others argue that the true agenda of such
programs is not the development of an ethical populace but the continued assurance
of a populace that will do as they are told without question. Those who are fearful of
the latter option argue that it is not the task of children to cooperate; it is their task to
grow (Peck, 1993, p. 283).
14


Educating for Ethics: Purpose
One may look at this issue and ask any number or pertinent questions. What
is the goal of character education programs? How can the outcomes of such programs
be reliably measured? Does one take a multiple-choice test that indicates whether he
or she is a moral person? If an individual contributes volunteer hours to a local
nursing home as part of a service-learning project, does this qualify her or him as an
ethical person? Is the process of becoming ethical or moral one that ends at a certain
point in time, or is it continuous? The school leader is not allowed the option of
leaving such questions unanswered. The principal of the school encounters these
questions on a daily basis from a variety of audiences and must be able to answer not
only the questions, but to sustain a vision held by all within the school community
concerning the direction the school will take in regard to the issue of character
education.
It is imperative that the individual charged with the responsibility for
monitoring, maintaining, and improving the total school environment realizes the
ethical requirements of the position. A principalship is not to be survived; it is to
be part of an arena of fertile growth for the staff, students, and the school community
in general. Greenfield (1990) recommended that five standards of practice be held by
the ethical administrator. One must have a point of view, share that viewpoint with
others and ask that they consider it, be informed about solid educational practices,
develop the habit of reflection, and put students at the center of all decisions
15


(Greenfield, 1990, pp. 33-36). Such an individual will carefully consider the
ramifications of the character education movement and make sure that the staff,
students, and parents within the school community have a firm understanding of the
educational theory, or lack thereof, behind the movement.
Programs focused on character education, though they may at different times
have been called by different names, are nothing new. And yet, year after year,
reports continue to come out, such as one cited by Lickona (1991) and sponsored by
the Josephson Institute of Ethics, which indicate that the nations youth continue in a
downward slide toward amorality. This report, and others like it, show disturbing
trends indicating heightened instances of cheating among students and other examples
of dishonesty in the classroom, even with the proliferation of character education
programs. Perhaps, as one researcher has argued,
If we want to help children grow into compassionate and responsible people,
we have to change the way the classroom works and feels, not just the way
each separate member of that class acts. Our emphasis should not be on
forming individual characters so much as on transforming educational
structures. (Kohn, 1999, p. 188)
This, then, may be the true task the school leader needs to face while seeking,
along with the school community, to cultivate the moral and ethical within the
individuals under their charge. Too often, however, programs designed to focus on
the acquisition of an ethical sense by students assume, incorrectly, that this task can
be completed in isolation and by merely feeding the students a packaged curriculum.
Were this the case, then instruction at any level in the schools would be a matter of
16


supplying the students with a text, scope and sequence, and an adult to monitor
progress. Yet, education is something more than this. In later years, it is rare to hear
someone reminisce about the impact a primer had on ones life, or the profound
stirring of the soul caused by an Introduction to Chemistry text. No. What is
recollected are the names of those who, by something more than mere mastery of an
academic subject, reached into the lives of those under their charge, and fueled the
fire first kindled by wonder at the world that surrounded them. A person of substance
and meaning held the torch that lit the enveloping, shadowy unknowns, and proved a
beacon for those tentatively inching along in the darkness. It is here that any attempt
to address the ethical in the human spirit must start, with an understanding of the
development of those who take on the charge of the educator.
Moral Development
Development of any type is rarely an isolated event (Levinson, 1978). Growth
or decay in one area frequently leads to similar evolvement or degeneration in other
areas. This is particularly true regarding the development of the ethical sense within
the individual. As we age and experience the predictable stages of human
development (Levinson, 1978; Sheehy, 1976), we may find, perhaps to our surprise,
that moral values which once seemed set and certain grow curiously and increasingly
indistinct, and nearly tangible shades of black and white merge into an abstract gray.
Kohn (1990) notes that, contrary to what many hold to be true, a persons general
17


outlook regarding life, including deeply held beliefs, can be sufficiently malleable
(p. 37), dependent upon circumstances surrounding the individual.
An argument frequently (and justifiably) made against any attempt to argue
for the existence of a universal moral code is that what may be designated as moral in
one culture or in one society may be seen as immoral in another. Yet, to use this
relativity of morals as proof that morality is merely a hypothetical concept without
any foundational truth leads, ultimately, to a position so precarious that
Banner (1981) notes:
One must say, then, either that the ethical is a domain of cognition and truth or
that the conduct of human affairs is arbitrary and beyond discussion. And if
the latter, then morality (as justice) is indeed the advantage of the stronger
individual, (p. 8)
To reject as conceivable, then, the concept of a moral dimension in human affairs is
to resign ourselves to accept alternate theories for the government of human social
intercourse. Banners (1981) implied surrogate would be, simply stated, might
makes right, a notion that would make Machiavelli (1513, 1981) proud.
A second option is that of acquiescing to the notion of moral relativity, whose
proponents note the plethora of moral codes throughout the worlds varied cultures
and societies while maintaining that we are solely and forever creatures of our
environment. What is patricide in one culture is pragmatic preservation of the larger
society in another (Freuchen, 1961). Thus, we are rendered incapable of obtaining
l
t
18
1


universal moral or ethical harmony. Futility is the final answer, a symbolic shrug of
the shoulders our answer to the question of the ages.
A third alternative, and perhaps the most popular, is to accept the tenets and
mores of a faith that purports to be established through divine intervention in the
affairs of humans. Typically, this amounts to following set guidelines (the Ten
Commandments, the Buddhist Middle Path, etc.) and proselytization of the
unbelievers: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations ... to observe whatsoever I have
commanded you ... (Matthew 28:19-20).
A fourth and final consideration here would be the behaviorist contention that
morals exist only as a matter of social agreement and order. Nothing is inherently
good or evil, and only becomes so when society assigns an abstract, indefensible
value to one act in deference to another. This is not done as a matter of right or
wrong, but is simply a matter of utility. Schact (1989), summarizing Nietzsche, notes
that
all moralities are of extra-moral origin, and derive whatever force and
standing they may have from factors and considerations which themselves are
quite other than moral in nature; that no actual or possible morality is
absolute, none being anything more than a contingent, conditioned set of
rules of limited applicability; and that there are underivatively moral values,
and no intrinsically moral phenomena, (p. 278)
The purpose of the work at hand, however, is not to argue for the existence of
a moral, ethical order. Indeed, in order to progress further, I herein take for granted
that there does exist a moral base to the actions of humanity and in its relations to
19


others. And what is the nature of this keystone in the edifice that is humanity? Are
we bom with a moral intuition, an inner compass with the needle set on right thought
and action? Or, conversely, are we creatures of the wild, relying on nature and
nurture to pass on the collective wisdom and moral codes learned from immediate
and past human existence, as suggested by Jungs treatment of archetypes (Jung,
1938,1976)? Perhaps neither, perhaps both.
It is my contention throughout the work at hand that there does exist a moral
order, derived not necessarily by divine proclamation from atop Sinai, nor solely from
beneath the bodhi tree, nor from any other particular source of revelation. Rather,
along with Norton (1989), I maintain that morality and the obligations of morality
are facts of the human experience, and facts that derive from nothing more than the
interaction of human beings with the rest of the world, particularly the human world
(p.189). Additionally, I argue that human perception of the moral and ethical is never
static, but rather a work in progress throughout the lifespan of the individual, as one
moves through constant and predictable stages of development, be they biological,
emotional, psychological, or social.
That one can openly and honestly face the challenges of the adult
developmental stages without a change in the way one views society, culture, or even
ones self is a fallacy. Though different in a number of key areas, both Kohlberg
(1981) and Wilson (1993) argue that, as in adult development, there are also stages in
the moral development of the individual. Kohlberg (1981) details six stages: (a)
20


punishment and obedience, (b) instrumental relativist, (c) interpersonal concordance,
(d) society maintaining, (e) social contract, and (f) the universal ethical principle (pp.
17-19). Each stage exhibits more maturity in moral reasoning, with the first level
representing, typically, the infants idea of right and wrong. If it causes punishment
to be inflicted, the behavior was wrong. At the highest level, right is defined by the
decision of conscience in accord with self-chosen ethical principles appealing to
logical comprehensiveness, universality, and consistency (p. 19).
It is important to note that these stages of moral development suggested by
Kohlberg (1981) do not of necessity follow the natural aging process as touched on
by Sheehy (1976) and Levinson (1976). It is possible for a 12-year old to evidence
Stage 6 moral reasoning; it is also possible that a 45-year-old woman may be frozen
at Stage 3. However, all movement is forward in sequence and does not skip steps
(p. 20). That a certain harmony between the two is clear, as the case with adult
development also indicates that no step may be skipped in the developmental process.
It should go without noting that dearly held notions of right and wrong, our
moral perceptions, can be as much a product of our developmental levels as they can
be a product of the time in which we live. Seixas (1994) in a study on historical
revisionism within films, notes that the popular culture of a given era can so dominate
ones moral frames that, even within a generation, concepts of good and evil can
reverse position. Specifically, he notes the reversal in perceptions of Native
Americans and American cowboys, noting that the 1956 release of the film The
I
21


Searchers reflected a definite, anti-Native American stance, while the 1990 release of
the film Dances With Wolves portrays the U.S. Army as malevolence itself and the
Sioux as their victims (p. 263). Popular thought has frequently followed these
same lines.
Given the tenuous state of thought indicated in the preceding material
regarding the place of the moral and ethical in the development of the individual, the
issue of the purpose of the public school in relation to these concepts is complex. I
maintain that, contrary to the premise of most character education programs (students
exposed to character curriculums will become ethical individuals), no significant
strides in the area can be made until all members of the school community, and
perhaps society itself, truly examine and then consciously act upon their own moral
codes.
Prior to this being done, however, a consensus must be reached that the
schools are more than banks of solely academic reserves. Indeed, in the spirit of
Dewey, schools are inherently institutions of moral transmission, charged to produce
not merely scholars but whole persons (Ratner, 1939). Does the school assume the
place of the parent? No, but it does not recoil from the charges leveled against it by
its detractors. Instead, it takes its place alongside Kohlberg, maintaining that
The problems as to the legitimacy of moral education in the public schools
disappear, then, if the proper content of moral education is recognized to be
the values of justice, which themselves prohibit the imposition of beliefs of
one group on another, (p. 296)
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These values of justice must be of primacy not only for the students within the halls
of the school, but for every individual involved in the endeavor to create and
stimulate an environment conducive to the development of an ethical populace.
The above not withstanding, it is necessary at this point to direct the reader to
some flaws in the work of some of the founders of modem moral development
theory. These flaws are not so much sins of commission as they are sins of omission.
Much of what is today essentially embraced as fact when thinking of moral
development is founded upon research that excluded, in large part, half the worlds
population. Though no reason exists to presume this exclusion was intentional, the
results are no less damaging and potentially inaccurate (perhaps incomplete would
be the better term) than had the exclusion been premeditated.
So what, or whom, has suffered from the aforementioned exclusion? Each
and all of us, really, since we have been left with a picture of moral development that,
like Washingtons portrait, lies unfinished by the artists brush, whose hand is now
long dead. I speak not of creed nor culture, though they too play a role; no, I speak
here of gender. It involves but little time to reflect and see that giants in the field
such as Kohlberg (1981) and Piaget (1962) studied, theorized, and worked with
sample populations that were almost entirely male. Perhaps it was felt that, along with
so many other things, what was good for the gander was good for the goose. It
seems that such a glaring omission would have been noted immediately and steps
23


taken to more wisely inform the research in the area. It took several years, however,
for other voices to be heard. This will be expounded upon in Chapter 4.
What, then, given all the above, is the point of the study at hand? Much has
been said (Amundson, 1991; Berkowitz, 1998; Bernardo, 1997; Bouas, 1993; Carr,
1990; DePry, 1995; Greenawalt, 1995; Jackson, 1998; Kohn, 1999; Lickona, 1995)
regarding the place and purpose of ethics education in schools. My purpose is to
undertake a philosophical inquiry which will probe the available literature related to,
first, historical perspectives regarding moral and ethical development, which will be
followed by an examination of the role of public schools in the moral and ethical
development of students.
Given the nature of morals and ethics, let me state explicitly that my ultimate
purpose is not to provide a new, definitive canon whereby, once and for all, certain
acts may be deemed ethical and others deemed reprehensible. Indeed, if this study
shows nothing else, I believe that it will show no such final solution exists as a
miraculous balm that will heal humanity from its varied and numbered ills. Rather,
what I wish to provide is a thorough understanding of ethics and morality as revealed
in the literature in the hopes that the practitioner may give a moments pause in
reflection upon the moral and ethical implications of whatever action one may
undertake. It is my desire that the true value of this study will find itself in that
moment between thought and action and that informed, enlightened practice will be
the end result.
24


Qualitative Design
It will become quickly evident that to accomplish the above, I will turn to
qualitative design in my methodology. What may not be so apparent, however, is my
apparent disregard for what many may consider to be foundational pillars of
qualitative methodology, such as interviews, open-ended surveys, and subject or
situation observation (Eisner, 1998; Patton, 1990). Indeed, little, if any, room will be
found for these qualitative techniques in my study. Rather, I will rely to a great
extent on two, perhaps, less utilized design techniques. Grounded theory (Patton,
1990; Strauss & Corbin, 1994), to a large degree, relies on intensive analysis of and
comparison between what is found in the literature. Additionally, development of
new or additional theory must arise from what is to be found through such in-depth
examination of existing research. Second, heuristic research methods (Lambright,
1999; Moustakas, 1990; Patton, 1990) inevitably come into play due to the nature of
the philosophic inquiry and the ongoing dialogue between self and what is revealed
through the process and search for meaning as reflected in the literature. Further
explication of the methodological design for the study at hand will be found in the
second chapter.
Those who, having read this far, elect to continue onward, will find a logical
structure and progression from one section or chapter to the next. As promised,
further elaboration of methodological techniques will fill the next section. Following
that will be the chapter focusing on the foundations and history of moral and ethical
25


thought. Natural progression will result in a section devoted to moral and ethical
development theory. A consideration of the role of the public schools in the moral
and ethical development of students will come next. This will lead to a chapter
focused on the practical applicability toward informed practice as derived from all
that has preceded. Finally, conclusions and recommendations for further research
will be addressed.
A Personal Note
It is my sincere desire that those who take the time and effort to read and
regard the study at hand will find parts of their lives or practice to be benefited in
some way by the time so expended. The individual who started this study is not the
one who now brings it to its conclusion. Though the name has remained the same,
nothing else is in stasis, and that is as it should be. No study of this nature can be
undertaken without intense self-examination and a willingness to accept what answers
may come, regardless of personal convictions. Indeed, a great many such
convictions have altered as more came to light through analysis of the literature. In
the end, Im sure my most lasting contribution will be more questions and fewer
answers; thus, I have found, is the nature of philosophic inquiry. The lack of the
definitive should not make us shun such research as pointless and trivial; rather, the
opposite seems true. An ever-fading horizon, though eternally elusive, finds itself the
midwife to those who, in its pursuit, bring fresh perspective and bright vision to a
26


world and a humanity ever in need of hope that, somehow, in some way, all that is
has purpose, all that is has meaning, and all that is has significance.
27


CHAPTER TWO
METHOD TO MY MADNESS
To know and understand the nature, meanings, and essences of any human
experience, one depends on the internal frame of reference of the person who has had,
is having, or will have the experience.
Clark Moustakas (1990, p. 26)
As mentioned in my introductory chapter, from the outset of the study it was
clear that qualitative design would best serve to help me achieve the goals of the
research in which I was interested. Matters regarding the essence of human nature
and the manifestations of ethical decision making are not easily measured by a
Pearsons product-moment correlation coefficient or a multiple analysis of variance
(MANOVA) (Krathwohl, 1998; Weinbach, 1998). Where methods of quantitative
design prove wanting, qualitative techniques aptly fill the void.
A word of caution is, at this point, perhaps called for in regard to
methodology. I intend to avoid, at all costs, falling into methodolatry (Janesick,
1994), a term resulting from, obviously, a marriage between the terms methodology
and idolatry. The term is used to describe a situation where the focus of the study
inadvertently shifts from the actual substance of the content itself and becomes
instead an exercise in demonstrating how meticulously and rigorously a methodology
was used; in other words, structure reigns over significance (p. 215). As should be
true in any study, qualitative or quantitative in nature, what matters most is what is
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contributed in terms of new knowledge, in terms of substance. This does not, of
course, give one license to be lackadaisical in methodological design; it merely places
it in proper perspective.
With that proviso, I now detail my reasoning for use of a qualitative design
and note which methodologies I draw from and provide supporting documentation for
each. Several characteristics of qualitative design lend themselves to the study at
hand. First, in contrast to quantitative efforts which focus in large part on the use of
validated instruments for collection of data, the instrument in qualitative design is the
researcher her/himself (Eisner, 1998). It is the self that comes into contact with the
extant research and the self that is charged with establishing coherent meaning (p.
34). Hence, inescapably, the work produced bears the distinct mark of the individual
and is, in that sense, inherently subjective.
Whereas disciples of the quantitative technique may contend that objectivity is
what must be striven for, the reliance on subjective interpretation in the qualitative
design does not preclude objectivity. What it does allow for, however, is the
subjective, unique approach toward and explication of what the objective material
reveals. The value of the individual perspective cannot be underestimated; it allows
for the insight of the physician combating an age-old malady with an untried cure,
just as it allowed an Edison to develop a better way of illuminating a room other than
through reliance upon wax candles.
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Related to such subjectivity is a second characteristic of the qualitative study,
that of its interpretative nature. Not only does the inquirer account for what
information the study has focused upon, but one also attempts to account for what
meaning the study holds for those most impacted by the research (Eisner, 1998, p.
35) . In other words, qualitative inquiry seeks not only to answer What does this tell
us? but also What is the practical, meaningful value of the conclusions presented?
Of the two, the quest for meaning is the more difficult as meaning often proves itself
a will-o-the-wisp, an ever-fading phantom determined to remain obscured. Meaning
hides within meaning, and what first may seem to be the answer is only a veneer,
with true meaning awaiting those patient and determined enough to work through its
multiple layers. As those who, in the middle ages, sought to defeat the plague by
eliminating rodents through use of felines, not seeing the true meaning of the flea
that was equally content on host of rat or cat, so the researcher who arrives at
premature conclusions, taking for meaning what may be only an element thereof.
A final feature of the qualitative design that lends itself well to this study is
the use of expressive language and the presence of voice in text (Eisner, 1998, p.
36) . Whereas the quantitative purist may recoil in horror at the use of the personal
pronoun I in text, the reader will find no such aversion in qualitative works.
Indeed, it is the very presence of the authors voice in such works that lends them
their authenticity. It is the refusal to stand back, unattached and uninvolved in what is
being studied, that lets the reader know clearly that they share with the author the
30


unique human condition, as prone to fallacy as it is to triumph. That which we prize
in the finest literature of the world, that ability to place the reader in the moment, to
be together at the point of both disappointment and discovery, this is the value of
qualitative design. It is vicarious; it is quite nearly tangible.
Within the realm of qualitative design, I chose to focus upon two
methodologies which, when combined, best met the needs of the study at hand. They
revolve, in large part, on the work of Moustakas (1990) in heuristic research and
Strauss and Corbin (1994) in grounded theory.
Elements of heuristic research (Moustakas,1990; Patton, 1990) will comprise
a large portion of the methodology. Heuristics is derived from phenomenology, or
the way in which people describe and experience phenomena through sensual
perception (Patton, 1990). Patton notes the uniqueness of heuristic inquiry is the
extent to which it legitimizes and places at the fore these personal experiences,
reflections, and insights of the researcher (p. 72). For my purposes, nearly all of the
interaction and reflections will take place between me and what is revealed through
the literature.
Additionally, I will draw from grounded theory methodology. Here, the
researcher draws close to the subject matter at hand as it exists in reality so that the
results of the research are grounded in the world of the empirical (Patton, 1990).
Theory arises from the constant interaction between the researcher and data analysis
31


(Strauss, 1994); in essence, this interaction determines the course of the study; you go
where the literature and experience take you.
Heuristic Research Methodology
Moustakas (1990), perhaps the pre-eminent figure in heuristic research, notes
that the term itself is derived from the Greek heuriskein, indicating the act of
discovery (p. 9). It is most clearly represented through the process of an internal
search into a subject matter that leads to mounting self-awareness and knowledge.
Thus, the individual undertaking the research becomes, in a sense, the instrument.
Indeed, it is essential that the person undertaking the research have an
autobiographical experience (p. 14) with the subject matter; it is not possible to
stand on the outside looking in. One must immerse ones self in the process of
discovery.
Six phases to heuristic research are noted by Moustakas (1990): (a) initial
engagement, (b) immersion, (c) incubation, (d) illumination, (e) explication, and (f)
creative synthesis (pp. 27 32). These phases are validated, almost entirely, in a
recent study of the adult mentoring relationship (Lambright, 1999).
Initial Engagement
Initial engagement occurred first for me as a result of an assignment given
during the first semester of coursework on my doctorate. Prior to this assignment, all
students had provided tentative dissertation topics to their professors; mine had been
centered on studying Hispanic male dropouts. However, the assignment, which had
32


to do with finding our passion, quickly forced me to dismiss my original thesis.
Instead, upon reflection, what I isolated as the item of primary importance to me had
to do with the work of the school in the development of an ethical citizenry.
We, as human beings, seem bound in a time when what matters in education is
the bottom line, defined for us by contemporary bureaucrats as increased test scores
and higher academic achievement, no matter the cost. While not denying the
importance of academic excellence, I find that it falls short; we in schools do not
merely aid in the development of the academic self; we work with the total self as
represented by the student. Merely addressing the academic needs of the student
population shortchanges the clientele of the schools; I maintain that the schools have
some responsibility in overseeing the ethical development of students, as well.
Initially as a teacher, and then even more so as an administrator, I quickly
learned that there were, among my charges, those for whom the school community
provided the only source of stability and thus predictability. For every student who
went home to a prepared dinner, structured time for homework, and quality time with
both parents, there were one, perhaps two who went home, reluctantly, to nothing of
the kind. Walking in to a house void of parental presence or support, these children
often shouldered parental responsibility for younger siblings or extended family
relations. It was not a matter of not wanting to do homework, it was an issue of
preparing dinner, giving baths, and seeing that clothes were cleaned for everyone for
the next day at school. Others, not so burdened with responsibility, came home to an
33


atmosphere where parents had finished the eighth grade and saw no reason for
education beyond that point; clearly, both philosophical and practical support for
obtaining a high school diploma went lacking. While it is plainly evident that a
teacher or an administrator can do only so much to alter a childs home environment,
it is equally plain that to throw ones arms up in frustration at the antics such a child
may evidence in the classroom and to further give up on the child is tantamount to
abandonment of ones calling as an educator. While we can never be the biological
parent, we must, for seven or eight hours out of the day, allow ourselves to be the
surrogate and attempt to provide the guidance, structure, support, and care needed in
such circumstances, all the while being mindful not to neglect the needs of those
children not so encumbered with domestic baggage.
And what are the implications of such a responsibility upon the educator?
Primarily ones of awareness, realizing that we are to all our students a teacher and
authority figure, but to many others something more, as well. We are relied upon to
be consistent regardless of circumstance, to accept without condition, to evidence
patience greater than that of Job, and, finally, to hold forth the light of hope in a better
tomorrow, though dim it may be at times. In all these, we fulfill the calling of an
educator, and teach far more than our disciplines encompass. So went my initial
engagement.
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Immersion
Immersion follows and is self-explanatory. The life of the researcher becomes
inextricably bound with the subject matter. Nothing occurs in ones life that is
unrelated, in some way, to the topic under consideration. A casual conversation, a
book read for pleasure, a chance encounter on the highway with an irate motorist; all
can relate in some way to the topic of interest (Moustakas, 1990, p. 28).
My awareness of my own immersion began in the first semester of Ph.D.
coursework, when I was asked by my instructor to identify my passion. Prior to that
point in time, I had chosen a topic for study; however, it was not my passion. As I
reflected upon my career in education, I thought about what I most wanted to instill in
my students, and I discovered it wasnt a love for the English language, nor a
comprehensive understanding of the scope and sequence of human history. This was
somewhat unsettling, given my chosen teaching fields. More unsettling still,
however, was the notion that perhaps that was all I was doing. I realized what I most
wanted to see from the public education experiences of my students was the
development of principled, critical thinkers. I want the schooling experience to aid in
the development of a compassionate, ethical, empathetic populace.
I noted at the beginning of this paragraph my awareness of my own
immersion. Reflecting upon three decades of living, I realized for much of that time,
I was already immersed in what would become my topic. Admittedly, my focus was
not the role of educators and schools in developing critical reasoning skills and an
35


informed, ethical citizenry. However, from my early years, the concepts of good,
evil, right and wrong were matters of great concern. This is certainly not to say that I
was ever poster boy for a Clean and Upright Living campaign. A trip with my
mother back East in my twenty-eighth year produced hushed whispers among
relations of Hes certainly turned out to be a fine young man. As a young child I
apparently made many of the same family members go pale with my casual deviltries.
Indeed, it was my maternal grandmother who wagered that I would be incarcerated by
the dawn of my twenty-first year. She lost the bet (all of $20.00) and never made
good on it, though I was kindly remembered at the settling of her estate. The exploits
that led to such a reputation are not important here and I am mindful of statutes of
limitation, so I will discuss them no further. What is of consequence is despite the
transgressions and turmoil in the spring of life, from then to high summer and now
early fall I have been concerned with matters of rectitude and they continue to be my
familiar demons. What is morality? What is truth? What is my responsibility to the
world, if any exists?
Thus began the immersion, long ago. In time and career choice it has taken
me to the wilderness that is the role of schools in terms of ethical development of
students, be it evidenced in the modem character education movement, which will be
addressed later in this study, or the numerous debates among academicians and
special interest groups as to what, if any, function the school should undertake in such
matters.
36


Incubation
Incubation is more difficult to describe, and for me, has been the more
difficult to experience. As the storm of immersion abates (and it never completely
subsides through the course of the study and perhaps the duration of a lifetime), a
period of apparent stillness arrives in its place. In the same way we are prevented
from seeing the growth of an embryo in an egg, the processes that occur during
incubation are often equally invisible. While no noticeable growth may be taking
place, behind the scenes, often unconsciously, ideas are falling into place and order
replacing the chaos that immersion can become. Lambright (1999) notes that this is a
deliberate act of withdrawal and waiting (p. 31), a preparation for all that follows.
My own incubation, I believe, preceded the point in time when I began
doctoral studies, and indeed, goes back decades. In that light, I see much of my life
as incubation and as yet have been unable to bring to full fruition what years in the
greenhouse of my soul has been cultivating. It seems the more I read and uncover,
the more I have yet to discover. With each new page I write, I find myself farther and
farther away from anything that would present itself as definitive, and perhaps that is
what the incubation period has made me most aware of: the absence of a final
solution. And this is as it should be. It seems to be the fate of human existence that
there lies, just beyond our grasp, an answer for which we long have sought, yet
continually eludes us. I become more convinced that this answer is perhaps the
quest itself, and we do disservice to our selves and our fellow beings if we do lay
37


claim to a final truth, an absolute, which would presume to prevent further inquiry in
another time, another setting, and another world.
At no time is the process of incubation more felt (indeed, in an almost tangible
sense) than in those minutes, hours, days, and months when no words leap forth from
brain to fingers to keyboard. Though the flesh may be willing at such times, the spirit
balks at the task, refusing to commit to words what one wishes to compose, for the
simple reason that the task at hand does not allow one any such luxury of production
without the burden of first experiencing. What one understands and what one knows
are often worlds apart; whereas I am capable of understanding the birthing process, I
shall never know it, the experience being forbidden me by nature. Incubation is not
the mother, therefore, of cognition unto understanding, but rather of that knowledge
which is borne of intimacy. Make no romantic mistake with such intimacy,
presuming to cloak it in flowers and warmth, for true intimacy is of sterner stuff,
forged within the crucible of being. It is found in the blood of the innocents and
martyrs, in the sweat of those who toil in futility, and in the words of those who
speak, not for notoriety or fame, but because there is no other alternative.
Illumination
Illumination is the moment of the Aha! or Eureka! when a sense of
awareness overtakes the investigator and an order to the study at hand suggests itself
and themes fall into place (Moustakas, 1990, p. 29). For some, the moment of
illumination may be immediate, almost like the Zen experience of satori (Suzuki,
38


1956), which has been defined as an intuitive way of looking into things in
contradistinction to the analytical or logical understanding of it. Practically, it means
the unfolding of a new world hitherto unperceived in the confusion of a dualistically-
trained mind. (p. 84). It is a seeing into of what is, not of what we may wish it
to be. In relation to the topic at hand, it is attempting to address the issue of morality
as is, not in association with religions, creeds, or cultures. Seen in such light, it is a
human construct that in some way, shape or form, has proven to be of benefit for the
continued survival of the species, or else there would be no need for it at all.
For others, illumination may be more gradual, a subtle, growing realization
of the themes inherent in the work at hand. My own experience has been one of
restlessness and frustration thus far, for I have only brief islands of daylight in an
ocean of night, and I remain unconvinced that the day will, indeed, ever dawn. My
options in terms of response are to either surrender myself up to the darkness and
cease the journey, or continue to inch my way through the ebony corridors of this
same darkness, one that keeps the next moment ever enshrouded and the traveler
ever wary, in the expectation that there does, at last, exist a partner to all things, a
balance of life, so to speak, and trust that illumination will arrive. For the moment, I
choose the latter.
Explication
Explication follows closely on the heels of illumination, allowing for a
complete examination of what has been revealed. Moustakas (1990) highlights two
39


important facets of explication, focusing and indwelling (p. 31). Focusing involves
careful attention being given to the slightest details in order to reveal subtle nuances
of the topic at hand. Additionally, the information gathered is looked at from a
variety of perspectives so as to unfold various layers of meaning. With a cursory
glance, the answer to the ethical and moral development of students within schools
seems easy enough: the institution of character education programs in public schools.
Who could argue with a curriculum that has as its final goal the development of an
ethical citizenry? Under critical observation, however, the solution is not so facile;
indeed, it is questionable whether an answer exists at all. Why do we want an ethical
citizenry? Why is it important that students do as they are told by their instructors?
What are we really after? The process of focusing forces one into murky waters such
as these.
A curious parallel exists between the operation of the scientific microscope
and the heuristic process of focusing. As each observer needs to adjust the lens of the
microscope to her or his particular strength of vision, the object examined appears,
first fuzzy, then clearer as the instrument aligns to the observer. So too in focusing,
with each bit of information encountered, each book read, the topic, obscure at first,
becomes clearer, each piece of information adding to the strength of vision.
The process of indwelling is somewhat more difficult to describe and, for me,
infinitely more frustrating to experience. I will be aided in description of indwelling
by means of an illustration. Consider our distant, somewhat sluggish cousin, Cro-
40


magnon. Subject as he was to the whims of nature and unschooled (by modem
standards) in the arts of construction, a cave often provided him with a domicile to
indwell. Chances are, in terms of modem conveniences, this domicile was somewhat
lacking. Likely drafty, possibly damp, and even at times already inhabited by bears
or other toothy creatures, it was less than what could be desired, but it was the best
that could be had. So our cousin accepted these limitations and probably spent little
to no time wishing for better. So, too, the poor sap who must come to terms with
heuristic indwelling. We take what we find in the literature, and often, it is not what
we expect nor does it jibe with what we wish it to be. It simply is. Rather than
begrudge it, rail against the muses, or otherwise attempt to make it something it is
not, we must learn to live with what we find. And in this acceptance, when our own
raging has ceased, we find that we are more apt to hear the still, small voice (1
Kings 19:11-12) that comes after the fire, storm, and earthquake. And this voice is
the voice of revelation.
Creative Synthesis
The final phase of heuristic inquiry is that of creative synthesis which includes
that which has come to light through the research with the intuition and tacit
understandings (Patton, 1990, p. 73) of the investigator. Moustakas (1990)
highlights the importance of a period of solitude and meditation (p. 32) focusing on
the acquired knowledge for inspiration prior to entering into creative synthesis. Most
often, this takes the form of narrative description, though depending on the subject
41


matter and the individual researcher, may take on some other creative form of
expression, be it poetry, art, music, or story-telling (p. 32).
When first I attempted to describe my own creative synthesis, I drew a blank,
which was the obvious and only consequence of striving to get something from
nothing. I was cautioned by one of my professors at the beginning of my Ph.D.
program that no one makes it through such a program unchanged, and some of the
changes may not meet our expectations nor be to our liking. I hesitate to say that the
ground I stand upon today is the sole result of my program of study. However, I
would venture that the program and the direction of my study has taken me to places I
did not expect, and has forced me to consider and reflect upon the purpose and point
of nothing less, nor more, than my existence.
As I write this paragraph, I am sitting in a one-bedroom apartment in an older
part of the city, only recently separated from my wife of ten years and two young
daughters. A year ago, I was named principal of the largest middle school in town,
which proved to be the catalyst for a nasty little episode, in common parlance known
as a panic attack. I note the appointment as a catalyst as opposed to a cause, for
the truth is that the cause (or better, causes) has very little to do with my chosen
profession or my office therein. No, the causes lie in the incalculable, decades-old
distances between who I am and who, for years and even now, I think I should be.
And, for all my trying, I am left with the only resolution that has ever been there, and
42


that is no one can slay my demons for me, they are my own to kill or come to terms
with and live in consort.
My research has brought me to the following: those who would seek a final,
definitive answer in terms of the role of the schools in relation to moral and ethical
development of its charges will be disappointed. This represents no dodge or
shrugging off of my own responsibilities as a researcher. Quite to the contrary, such
a dodge would only be effected only if I did prescribe a potion or a treatment that
would boast to be the cure for which all who have entered the field have long sought.
I propose no cure because I have found no illness. I have found only humanity, and
found it not in the thronging crowd but in the realm of the self.
Grounded Theory Research Methodology
The definition for grounded theory methodology seems simple enough at first
glance. It refers to the development of theory that is grounded in data (Strauss &
Corbin, 1994). However, this is somewhat simplistic. It involves rigorous analysis
and comparison of extant information (in text, interview, observation, etc.) with
established theory. New theory may be generated from such analysis, or existent
theory may be modified and expanded upon dependent on the findings of the
researcher (p. 273). Such flexibility of approach allows for constant revision and
revitalization.
The need for conceptual density (Strauss & Corbin, 1994, p. 274) cannot be
overemphasized. A cursory glance and summary of the literature is insufficient to
43


qualify for grounded theory. Not only must a familiarity with existing data be
obtained, the ability to systematically compare the data against all other information
available and a willingness to go where the data lead is also requisite.
One of the strengths of grounded theory is that it is a general methodology
and therefore adaptable to diverse phenomena (Strauss & Corbin, 1994, p. 275).
Practically anything that can be studied, particularly in the social sciences, lends itself
well to grounded theory methodology. Quantitative research, as well as qualitative,
can both reap the benefits from the methodology. As well, through permitting the
study of a variety of sources through different mediums, it allows for theory
triangulation (Patton, 1990, p. 470), an important factor in contributing to the
soundness and validity of any study. Triangulation involves the consultation of a
variety of sources to support initial data findings (Krathwohl,1998). Data
triangulation utilizes numerous data sources collected at different times, locations,
and with different people; investigator triangulation involves utilization of multiple
researchers; and method triangulation focuses on, obviously enough, use of different
methodologies in studying one phenomena (p. 275).
Strauss and Corbin (1994) summarize the important contributions of grounded
theory methodology thusly: (a) the grounding of theory with data through data-theory
interaction, (b) the emphasis upon constant comparison of new data with old and
other, (c) the posing of theoretical questions, and (d) theory development (p. 283).
44


The preceding characteristics, combined with the elements of heuristic research, are
ideally suited to my chosen topic.
The grounding of theory with data through data-theory interaction refers to the
process of either generating new theory as a result of researcher interaction with data
(Strauss, 1994), or elaborating upon existing theory. It is important to note in light of
this that no definitive end point is possible; theory is dynamic and in a constant state
of evolution. While this may not sit well with some in certain areas of the academic
community, especially those who hunger for final answers as defense for positions
and opinions held near and dear, it is truer to the nature of life itself: stasis is not
obtainable. Where it is, stagnation and putrescence finally abound.
The emphasis upon constant comparison of new data with old and other
provides further reinforcement for the above. It is often tempting in the research
process to search for data that supports our theories and either ignore or regard as
insignificant research that supports a contrary perspective. The tendency to do so,
however, can prove to be nothing but deleterious in the final analysis, for any theory
so generated is incomplete, untenable, and possibly dangerous. Grounded theory
methodology, then, demands from its disciples nothing less than complete
acquiescence to what each piece of newly generated data reveals.
The posing of theoretical questions is, quite obviously, the progenitor of
evolving theory. Without the ability and, indeed, the responsibility of the researcher
to ask the what ifs? posed by what is revealed in the existing literature, no new
45


insights would be generated and we would find ourselves in the stagnated, dying
world featured above. Though it is possible that many such theoretical questions may
never produce new theory and new knowledge, it is certain that not asking them will
produce just that: nothing.
Grounded theory proponents also emphasize that theory development in and
of itself, while important, is perhaps secondary to the processes encountered while in
the midst of such development (Strauss & Corbin ,1994). They argue that it is
important to study the reciprocal changes in patterns of action/interaction and in
relationship with changes of conditions either internal or external to the process
itself (p. 278). Through doing so, the researcher can state that where similar
conditions may occur, where certain processes are present, similar results should be
found.
The study at hand benefits from grounded theory methodology in singular
fashion for several reasons. First, the insistence upon consulting multiple
perspectives lends itself well to a study of morality and ethics; indeed, any such study
that failed to consult a multitude of sources in its development would be flawed from
the outset. An overview of my introductory chapter will reveal consultation made
with numerous personalities from classical thought as well as names from
comparatively modem times. So doing renders less possible the likelihood that either
the researcher or the reader will fall victim to the elements of one particular school of
thought or theory and thus present an overly skewed perspective of the topic at hand.
46


As well, adherents to the tenets of grounded theory find, early on, that all
interpretations to which they are exposed in their studies are, in a dual sense,
temporally limited (Strauss & Corbin, 1994, p. 279). First, theory is, by its very
nature, provisional and, as such, never finally fixed. It remains open to minor
modification or complete revolution, dependent on the work and thought of those
coming after, who nevertheless rely upon the earlier work to help stabilize the
theoretical foundation.
Herein lies the second manner in which interpretations are restricted: they, and
we, are limited in time (p. 279). As brilliant and timeless as some theories or
theoreticians may seem, it is imperative to be mindful that we all are but human, and
we are humans of our time. We are necessarily restricted in vision by our era, by the
societies and cultures in which we find ourselves inextricably enmeshed, and
susceptible to the thought and philosophy found therein. This is not to say we need
resign ourselves to our times; however, those who dreamt of voyaging to the moon in
centuries previous to the twentieth were kept from realizing their dream, not for lack
of passion or will, but because they were trapped in their time, as are we all.
Finally, grounded theory methodology lends itself well to adaptation and use
with other methodologies. It is through the combination of both heuristic and
grounded theory methodology that I have accomplished what I have in the study. A
philosophical inquiry, by its nature, requires one to spend a great deal of time in the
literature, analyzing, comparing, contrasting, and synthesizing the data found. Thus,
I
47


the reliance on grounded theory. The intent, of course, was not only to provide a
thorough overview of what has come before, but also to generate new information
with recommendations for practice. This is accomplished, it is hoped, through
uncovering what may be false (or at the very least questionable) assumptions about
the current role and purpose of the public school in the development of an ethical
citizenry. Knowing, then, what does not work or what has not been subjected to the
rigors of careful, longitudinal research, insight can be made regarding possible
alternatives available to the schools and educators that will have an effect on the
moral and ethical development of public school students.
I herein blend the elements of grounded theory research with those of heuristic
research, as, at least in this case, the one seems to require the presence of the other to
form a complete whole. The key element of heuristic research involved here is the
internal quest for self-awareness and understanding. One cannot encounter the
information one does in examining moral and ethical development without going
through the heuristic processes of initial engagement, immersion, incubation,
illumination, explication, and creative synthesis (Moustakas, 1990, p. 27 32). When
we speak of such things, we touch on matters that go deep to the core of human
nature and require intense introspection before recommendations can reasonably be
made to those other than ones self.
From this point, I continue to utilize the tools of heuristic and grounded theory
methodologies as I encounter further data sources in my effort to determine the role
48


of the public school in the ethical development of students. In order to do so, it is
necessary to examine the foundations of ethical and moral thought, to reflect upon
what the historical record indicates of ethical and moral development and instruction
in the schools, and to make informed recommendations for practice. While it is clear
that certain questions and ambiguities regarding the subject will remain in perpetuity,
it is yet my intention that the efforts here proffered will be seen as a not unimportant
step in the pathway leading to an enhanced understanding of the responsibility of the
school community in particular, and the universal community in general, in
contributing to the ethical and moral well being of the individuals serviced by them.
49


CHAPTER THREE
FOUNDATIONS
So the first step is to give up asking for the answer, or the key to life: to give up
imagining that there must be some single magic elixir, or some single principle that
will make everything clear.
John Wilson (1970, p. 5)
I wish to begin with the proposition that no act exists outside the frame of the
moral (Norton, 1988). This is not a novel theory. Millennia ago, that great Greek
intellect, Aristotle, noted every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and
pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been
declared to be that at which all things aim (McKeon, 1947, p. 309). Aristotle and
his near contemporaries, Socrates and Plato, sought answers to the key question: how
ought we to live (Comford, 1945)? Upon this foundation has been constructed much
of Western moral philosophy.
Closely associated with the development of moral thought and philosophy,
particularly in the West, has been the religious notion of humanity as a divine
experiment gone awry, fallen from an idyllic state to the present condition, in need of
a savior in order to restore the former perfection. In this light, human nature is seen
as predetermined (Kohn, 1990, p. 5) and our lot inherited from flawed forebears.
Opposed to this is the contention that the nature of humanity is unbound by such
constraints and the potential present to chart our own course, to choose virtue over
50


vice (Norton, 1988). In other words, as humans, we are free moral agents and
capable of, and indeed, responsible for making moral decisions based on wise and
critical contemplation (Strike, 1988). Though this study touches on religious
perceptions and concepts of morality and ethics, it will do so peripherally and only be
addressed as pertinent to the rest of the work.
The argument is quite frequently made that no universal agreement in regard
to morality and ethics can be reached; what is taboo in one society or culture might be
highly honored in another, be it the sharing of spouses or treatment of the elderly
(Freuchen,1961). Due to this apparent subjectivity, those content to live with such
dilemmas unresolved seem merely to dismiss the argument with a wave of the hand
and no further consideration of the matter is had. So to do, however, is to me a
mistake that no member of the human race can afford to commit. In so doing, we cast
matters of vital import to the wind and subject them to the passing whim or fancy of
whoever may come along. This is dangerous in the extreme, as noted by Banner
(1981):
One must say, then, that the ethical is a domain of cognition and truth or that
the conduct of human affairs is arbitrary and beyond discussion. And if the
latter, then morality (as justice) is indeed the advantage of the stronger
individual, (p. 8)
Though I agree with Banner, it is plain enough that a concise, universal definition of
morals and ethics will simply not do. However, this is not cause for futility and
frustration; rather, it is a beckoning to examine the topic and the history intensely and
51


from a multitude of different perspectives as represented in the literature. It is hoped
that what will arise as a result of such analysis is an understanding of morality and
ethics not as represented through a series of absolutes, but rather as dynamic concepts
that, though variation may occur from society to society and culture to culture, grow
and adapt and serve as keystones upon which to base our decisions and, perhaps more
importantly, our actions.
For Socrates and Plato, true happiness was unobtainable when separated from
the moral context (Carr, 1990). What is of greatest import is that one seeks to live
ones life according to those principles which most reflect a consideration of that
which is right and proper (p. 31). Such an attitude is graphically represented in
Socrates response to the question of whether or not he should fear his impending
death sentence:
You are mistaken, my friend, if you think that a man who is worth anything
ought to spend his time weighing up the prospects of life and death. He has
only one thing to consider in performing any action; that is, whether he is
acting rightly or wrongly, like a good man or a bad one. (Plato, 1959, p. 59)
Failure to act in accordance with such virtues represented to the Greeks a certain
deficiency in willpower, as did the deliberate commission of acts that were plainly
seen (according to the popular culture) as being counter to the general good (Carr,
1990, p.34).
From his foundation in Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle sets forth concepts of
the good and of virtuous behavior (McKeon, 1947). Virtue, he notes, may be
52


divided into both moral and intellectual virtue, intellectual virtue being that which we
receive from our instructors (about which I will have much more to say as the study
proceeds) in the course of teaching and learning. Moral virtue, he notes, is largely the
result of habit that is reinforced through the process of obtaining intellectual virtue (p.
331). However, it is important to note that to the Greeks, the term virtue relates
also to a persons character and the ability to perform well the requisite tasks of a
chosen profession (p. 338). A virtuous blacksmith, then, was not only to be a model
citizen in terms of comportment, but also to exemplify the highest skill in terms of
work quality, or an ethics of industry. This is, to some extent, still present with us
today, in the form of professional codes of ethics.
Aristotle cautions that consideration of moral virtue is not an activity for the
young, as experience comes only upon long reflection on such matters. The path to
wisdom, then, is most truly trod by those whose life experiences have disciplined
their lesser passions and allowed them to focus on weightier issues of virtue and
proper conduct (Carr, 1990, p. 46). Additionally, it is the capacity for such
contemplation that, to Aristotle, sets humans apart from the rest of nature, the ability
to engage in rational thought about ones place in the universe, not merely for
practical or instrumental purposes, but also for its own sake (p. 48). For Aristotle,
then, ethical, virtuous conduct is inseparable from and, indeed, entirely dependent
upon the human capacity for reason (Gomez-Lobo, 1989, p. 46).
53


It has been noted (Dow, 1998) that the Aristotelian good life, the moral life, is
one that will take place in an atmosphere of community; in other words, the
relationships we find within our community are a necessary ingredient to moral
development. This will be discussed at greater length when we turn to modem
communitarian thought. This aspect of community is important for, though Aristotle
argues that the child naturally possesses an inclination toward moral excellence, this
inclination must be developed through the shaping of the childs character and
intellect. This shaping comes through social interaction between the child, the
childs families, and other elements of society (p. 89). Aristotles perception of the
nature of the child is such that moral development is a process of guidance. This
guidance is not a matter of outfitting a child with new abilities or equipping the child
with new desires; rather, it is a matter of shepherding the childs development toward
the ends the child would her or himself naturally adopt (p. 91).
One method of guidance involves assuring that a child has opportunity to
perform excellent acts repeatedly, thus providing them with practical experience.
The more experience they have, and the more guidance provided through the
experiences, the more adept the child becomes at doing those things which are seen as
moral (Dow, 1998, p. 159). The end goal is, of course, that the child becomes so
habituated into doing the things that are excellent that the child will move from
being led by external reason, or the reason of others, to her or his own reason, thus
making the transition into full moral agency (p. 189). The student becomes, then,
54


ultimately responsible for her or his own moral development and, indeed, must desire
for that moral development to continue which Dow, I believe, rather narrowly argues,
is best done through formal study of Aristotles Ethics (p. 197). While it certainly
cant be argued that such study is valuable, to say it completes ones moral
development is to say too much.
Aside from occasional and very general reference to deities, it is interesting to
note that, with the ancient Greeks, little connection is made between a virtuous life
and religion; indeed, in Western philosophy, this connection is made most explicitly
in New Testament writings and later still in the works of Augustine and others
(Cavalier, 1989). Augustine (Losoncy, 1989), while espousing convictions similar to
those put forth by Greeks, carried it a step further and noted that the ability to live
virtuously is absent within humans themselves, and therefore they are dependent upon
an active relationship with God, from whence the power emanates to enable them to
obtain the virtuous existence.
Aquinas (Bourke, 1989, pp. 110-111) echoing both Aristotles separation of
humans from the rest of nature by merit of their reason and the Old Testaments view
of humanity at the top of and lord over the rest of creation (Genesis 1:28), noted that
right action is based not only on elements of logical consideration but also on a
practical, proper understanding of the relations between humans and the other
natures of things in the world. In other words, ethical differences exist between how
people deal with other people and how they may deal with or treat the rest of nature.
55


For example, a human killing a flea would be treated and responded to differently
than one who killed another human.
With the advent of Hobbes and the publication of his Leviathan in 1651,
matters of religion in relation to ethical and moral conduct begin to fade in
importance, at least in terms of philosophic consideration. What rises in preeminence
is the social contract which inalterably binds our interests with the interests of
others and thereby restricts our behavior (May, 1989, p. 139). In the state of nature,
Hobbes argues, we are most driven by that which allows for the greatest opportunity
for self-preservation (p. 136). Left to this alone, the lot of humanity is miserable
indeed, as we would do all that is within our power to assure our continued survival,
without consideration for the moral content (or lack thereof) of our actions. This
being the case, he argues, we must agree as members of the human community to
limit our access to all that nature has placed at our disposal in the interest of well
being of the larger community (p. 139). And what is it that binds us to such a
contract? For Hobbes, it was not the desire to please the gods, nor even willful
subjection of individual desires for the greater good. Rather, law, as incorporated
through civil statutes, is that which will force humanity to act morally in relations
with others (p. 141). This being the case, what we must most fear is the specter of
anarchy, which, for Hobbes, would lead to the dissolution of the social contract, since
no law would exist to bind our will to that of the state.
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In contrast to Hobbes, Hume saw within humans something not entirely
selfish (Norton, 1989, p. 177), a tendency toward altruism, weak though it may be,
that directs humans to prefer right over wrong, to live in such a way as to be a benefit
to humanity rather than a detriment. However, like Hobbes, he rejects religious
notions in relation to morality, arguing that we cannot speak with any clarity
regarding the desires or directives of the deity, as our immediate experience is bound
inextricably with the world in which we find ourselves (p. 169). For Hume, moral
considerations have no other basis than the interaction of human beings with the rest
of the world, particularly the human world (p. 189). He recognizes that moral
experience is not unchanging, and in that sense, evades final definition (p. 169)..
Morality changes as human relations change, from one society to another, from one
historic period to the next.
Kant continues on the same line toward the appeal to human reason, but
carries it a step further, arguing that reason is not only that which differentiates
humans from the rest of nature. It is also that which makes us free and autonomous
(Korsgaard, 1989, p. 201) and therefore unconditionally valuable. Given his time,
this is radical, indeed, the notion of ones inherent worth simply as a member of the
human race and not based upon any particular deeds or merits. In his presentation of
the categorical imperative, Kant maintains that a free will is synonymous with a
rational will. A free, rational will is one which, he argues, is subject to moral law (p.
222). This law, he notes, directs humanity to seek a moral perfection, yet recognizes
57


that it cannot be achieved in a lifetime. What can be obtained, however, is progress
toward the goal (p. 227). Once again granting deity a role in the moral development
of mankind, Kant notes the Infinite Being, to whom the temporal is nothing, sees in
this series, which is for us without end, a whole conformable to the moral law (p.
27). In other words, beyond the sphere of humanitys perception, things are as they
ought to be, and humans need to act only in accordance with the rational will for all to
be well.
Another German philosopher, Nietzsche, added to the philosophic background
of morality in ways somewhat different from his predecessors. Abject in his rejection
of any form of deity, he argued a higher humanity capable of endowing existence
with a human redemption and justification (Schacht, 1989, p. 276). Nietzsche
contended more forcefully than any before him that an absolute morality is a
complete illusion, as all systems of morality have at their root sets of rules that are
contingent upon a particular societys perceptions of right and wrong, and the
application of such rules is limited by time and space (p. 278). What he particularly
despises is herd animal (p. 295) morality, or the law of the majority, noting that
what may be of great benefit to the larger society may be highly detrimental to
others (p. 295). What Nietzsche ultimately seeks is the transcendence of what he sees
as the traditional morality to arrive at a place where the most sharply honed
minds, reminiscent of Socrates and his state governed by philosophers (Comford,
1945), can rise to influence and recognize that morality exists to serve humans in all
58


their differing contexts, and not vice-versa (Schacht,1989, p. 295). What matters
most here is the higher morality arrived at through self mastery and self direction
(p. 299).
Reiterating Nietzsches emphasis on the importance of humanitys
dependence upon humanity in establishing a higher morality, John Dewey notes that
the most significant factor in ones immediate environment is other people, and
hence proper education emphasizes formation of the virtues that permit individuals to
function together in a manner that is at once cooperative and fulfilling (Gouinlock,
1989, p. 308). Our actions and functions intertwine intensively with those of others,
and it is only through this human interaction that we can truly know others and act in
good conscience toward one another (p. 313).
Dewey answers those who would seek a concrete, absolute morality by
highlighting the benefits of a democracy that allows one to interact with others,
possibly of divergent belief and moral systems, as being the best means known to
be available for approaching to concord in moral affairs (p. 326). He also appeals
to others to reject the intellectual bankruptcy of absolutist pretensions (p. 326). He
further maintains that our vices and virtues, whatever they may be, are learned (p.
327). In that light, Dewey argues for the acquisition of such virtues through social
interaction instead of through deliberate instruction (p. 327), a point that I will touch
on in depth later in the work at hand.
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I wish to conclude this section with a consideration of the foundations of
ethics and morality in light of the work of two existentialist philosophers, Sartre and
Camus. Sartre, like Nietzsche, rejects all appeals to deity or otherworldly sources as
a basis for any system of ethics or morals (Barnes, 1989, p. 357). Additionally, he
rejected any notion of an innate morality, as suggested by Hume. Instead, Sartre
held that values are invented, not discovered, authored by individuals, not by
the species. In his view, the first and most important creative act for any
person is in fact the formation of a value system by which one is willing to
live and judge oneself, (p. 357)
In other words, each person must develop her/his own set of values and then act upon
the ethical system that results from these values (p. 340). This is a grand departure
from much of what preceded Sartre, arguing not only that we are not responsible to a
deity in terms of the formation of moral codes, but also that we are not beholden to
one another. Here, we stand alone and accept full and total responsibility for what we
are, how we pattern our lives and upon what basis (p. 344).
Camus (1955), in his landmark essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, notes only one
true philosophic question, that of suicide, and builds his moral philosophy around its
answer. In agreement with his contemporary, Sartre, he offers no deity to direct
humans as to what course of action should be taken in times of moral confusion.
Indeed, more evidently so than Sartre, Camus admits no appeal to outside influences
or authorities in the development of ones moral self, but rather details his philosophy
60


of the absurd, noting that
... in a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien,
a stranger. His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of
a lost home or the hope of a promised land. This divorce between man and
his life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity, (p. 6)
It is precisely this notion of the absurd that provides, for Camus, a reason for
existence apart from the oversight of gods and governments, without desire for their
proffered rewards, nor fear of their threatened perditions. Instead, he touts the moral
value of lucidity (p. 135), that which comes to the person whose eyes are wide open
and who realizes her or his place in, and total subjection to, time. All moral systems,
he notes, are based on actions, the consequences which serve either to legitimize or
negate the action (p.67). The moral task for the individual given over to the absurdity
of life, the lucid individual, is to weigh those consequences and act, accepting
whatever comes as a result. Lifes value (and indeed, values) are found in the revolt
against its absurdity (p. 55). More will be noted on the philosophy of Camus and its
implications for moral and ethical development later.
Taken in light of this brief historical overview of morality and ethics, it
should be abundantly clear to the reader that, though matters of ethics and morality
have long weighed heavily upon the philosophic mind, there is little that can be stated
definitively. What can be noted is the ongoing dialogue, in both spoken and written
forums. Despite the absence of a conclusive morality where one can say the last
word on the subject has been spoken, the topic itself continues to intrigue, stimulate,
61


mystify, perplex, and defy attempts at resignation. In the next section, I address
developmental theories in hope of shedding some light on how we ultimately acquire
a moral and ethical framework.
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CHAPTER FOUR
MORAL AND ETHICAL DEVELOPMENT
The students are alive, and the purpose of education is to stimulate and guide their
self-development.
Alfred North Whitehead (1929, p. xi)
The preceding section, devoted to the historical foundations of moral and
ethical thought, here gives way to a consideration of the process through which moral
and ethical systems are acquired and become a part of the lives of human beings. We
focus now on moral and ethical development. Numerous authors have noted the
lifelong developmental processes of the individual in terms of physical, emotional,
psychological, and moral growth (Colarusso & Nemiroff, 1981; Levinson, 1978;
Sheehy, 1976). In particular, Colarusso and Nemiroff (1981) note we see in the
adult, as we do the child ... a constant state of dynamic flux (p. 64). Nature itself
bears witness to this truism with each passing season, each river that changes course,
and each glacier that carves new canyons where before stood high plains. The song
of all creation, not just of human experience, is the clarion call of timeless mutability.
It is held, in common parlance, that we are all, to some degree, products of our
environment and our culture (Kay, 1975; Kohn, 1990; Lickona, 1991; Wilson, 1993).
Factors of geographic location, socio-economic status, education levels, ethnic
membership, and more contribute in some way, shape, or form to who and what we
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are. Wilson (1993) wisely cautions, however, that two errors arise in attempting to
understand the human condition. One is to assume that culture is everything, the
other is to assume that it is nothing (p. 6). Were culture and environment all, we
would be automatons incapable of free will and forced to act as conditions stipulate.
Were culture nothing of which to take account, no anchor exists upon which a boat on
seas of uncertainty could rely to hold fast in times of tempest.
All of the above is true regarding questions of morality and ethics.
Development in these areas takes place within and between the social units of the
culture in which we find ourselves. Family, church, school, and community all have
a role to play in the moral and ethical development of the citizenry they serve (Bouas,
1993; Rich, 1993; Wilson, 1993). To indicate that these all have a role or a part to
play is to address only part of the problem. The manner in which the individual
acquires a moral sense which informs her or his ethics completes the query.
An appropriate question to ask at this point, in light of the above information,
may be: This is all very well and good, but what is there in humans that initially
prompts a consideration of morals, and consequently to desire that this moral, ethical
sense develop in the first place? It has been argued that in the basic, fundamental
make up of the human animal, there exists a moral nature (Wilson, 1993, pp. vii-viii).
Kohn (1990) echoes this sentiment in his contention for the existence of a primarily
altruistic nature to humanity. Whether or not this is actually the case, strong criticism
presents itself immediately due to the fact that a moral, ethical, or altruistic nature
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cannot be subjected to objective scientific inquiry. Its existence has no more hope of
being proven, concretely, than does that of poltergeists. What we can see of a moral
nature is the same evidence we can see of the wind; not the wind itself, but those
things that are moved by the breezes. In like manner, the only witness we have of a
moral nature in humans are those actions and attitudes which can bear testimony to its
presence.
Regardless of difficulties faced in attempting to prove the existence of an
inherent moral nature in humans, Piaget (1962) and others have worked to understand
how the moral sense develops in individuals and for what purpose. In his classic
work The Moral Judgment of the Child, he provides a detailed look at the
development of morals in children. He notes that all morality consists in a system of
rules, and the essence of all morality is to be sought for in the respect which the
individual acquires for these rules (p. 13).
Piaget (1962) drew many of his conclusions from observations of French
infants and school children as they initially encountered and then played the game of
marbles. In terns of rules acquisition, Piaget notes four successive stages, the first
being of a strictly motor and individual nature (p. 26). At this stage, the child plays
with the marbles at the dictates of his motor senses. The tendency of the child at this
point is toward repetition and the development of certain patterns. An infant may
gather a bunch of marbles and drop them, one by one, from a certain height. The
same child may then gather them together and place them in a certain formation (all
65


together in a nest-like construction, or perhaps all lined up, one after the other). The
next time the child plays with the marbles, the same behaviors are observed, and it is
theorized that the child has developed, on its own, a certain schema in its mind when
encountering marbles. Piaget notes that this initial stage lays the foundation for the
later establishment of codified rules. He notes also that in this first stage, rules are
not yet coercive, received as they are either directly through sensual contact with the
exterior world or through the unconscious.
The egocentric stage follows and is one at which point the child receives its
first exposure to codified rules in some form or fashion (Piaget, 1962, p. 27),
generally at a point between the ages of two and five. It is called egocentric
because even though the child may play in concord with others, the child still plays as
an individual, for her or himself. In other words, the game of marbles may have
multiple winners at this stage, with participants caring only for their own individual
progress within the common game and reflecting no concern for the progress (or lack
of progress) made by others.
The third stage, manifesting itself around the age of seven to eight, is
characterized by cooperation. The players of the game of marbles each try to win and
want to ensure the defeat of the other participants. No longer can any and all
members win. The individuals perception of the rules governing the game may still
be somewhat obscure, as reflected through separate interviews with subjects resulting
in entirely different accounts of the rules of the game. However, what is important
I
66


here is the concern taken with mutual control and unification of the rules (Piaget,
1962, p. 27).
Between the ages of eleven and twelve, the fourth stage appears and
represents the codification of rules. The dominating factor in this stage is interest in
the rules themselves (Piaget, 1962, p. 50). Ambiguities no longer exist about how the
game is played and in accordance with what rules; this is all set and known to the
entire participating society. Infractions of the rules result either in exclusion from the
game or penalties assessed through the course of the game itself.
These four stages, in turn, pass through a three-stage consciousness of rules
(Piaget, 1962, p. 28) progression: (a) motor rules, (b) rules due to unilateral respect,
and (c) rules due to mutual respect. The first stage refers to the period of time when
rules, rather than being coercive, are either purely instinctual or unconscious in
character. For instance, the rule of gravity is demonstrated to the infant when, each
time an object is dropped, it invariably falls downward. The child understands the
rule through direct, sensual contact, not through deliberation. Rules due to unilateral
respect, or those which come from adults and older children, are respected as
inviolable due to their source. Any alteration of the rules, in these circumstances,
would be tantamount to blasphemy. Finally, the law of mutual respect enters the
picture. At this stage, rules form an agreed-upon perception of a given reality, with
the added proviso that rules may be changed to fit the circumstances of a particular
situation, provided that all involved agree to the alterations. These rules, in turn,
i
67


correspond to three types of behavior: (a) motor behavior, (b) egocentric behavior,
and (c) cooperation (p. 86), with each stage dependent upon the existence of the
other. Here, then, according to Piaget, we have a foundation for understanding the
acquisition of a moral self.
One of the most respected names in the field of moral development theory,
Kohlberg (1981) has, through his work, noted three moral levels (preconventional,
conventional, and postconventional) and six moral stages: (a) punishment and
obedience orientation, (b) instrumental relativist orientation, (c) interpersonal
concordance orientation, (d) society maintaining orientation, (e) social contract
orientation, and (0 the universal ethical principle orientation, (Kohlberg,1981). The
stages advance from most primitive to most refined. Moreover, Kohlberg, like Piaget
(1962), maintains that the stages are chronological and each must be passed through
before transition can be made to the next level. No stage may be skipped; however, it
is possible that growth may end at a premature level, and all subsequent actions of the
individual are based on ones incomplete moral development. Growth typically
occurs when earlier, more simplistic stages no longer enable the individual to
successfully address the moral dilemmas one may confront in any given situation.
At the initial level, the immediate, physical consequences of any action dictate
to the actor the rightness or wrongness of the action undertaken (Kohlberg, 1981,
p. 17). Hitting a sibling is wrong at this level not because of pain caused to another
human being in the action, but of the pain brought upon ones self in terms of a
i
68


consequence, be it a spanking or a period of time in time out. This level is
completely centered on the self. At the second stage (instrumental relativist),
conditions of reciprocity and fairness exist in which are incorporated some idea of the
needs of others, but only in so far as they are represented in an immediate, tangible
sense. These two stages comprise the preconventional level.
At the level of conventional morality (also divided into two stages) is the
interpersonal concordance stage, which is where approval from others becomes
important. This is the notion that the goodness or badness of our actions is dependent
upon the judgment of others. The second stage of this level is the society maintaining
orientation, where the larger, more established social order becomes the focus.
Actions are approved or disapproved of on the basis of the resulting benefit or
detriment to society as a whole, regardless of what the individual actor may feel to be
the case.
The highest stages of moral development are found at the postconventional
level. At the society maintaining orientation, we find the official morality of the
American Government and Constitution (Kohlberg, 1981, pp. 18-19). Obviously,
this official morality would change from society to society, culture to culture;
Kohlberg was not saying that only Americans are gifted with morality. At this level,
good is determined by not only respect of individual rights but also by those standards
agreed upon by the whole of society. In addition to what is agreed upon
democratically, personal opinions and values are also of import. At the highest stage
69


(universal ethical principle orientation), the good is prescribed as being the decision
of conscience in accord with self-chosen ethical principles appealing to logical
comprehensiveness, universality, and consistency (p. 19). In other words, it is not
the standards set in the stone of Sinai that represent the highest stage, but instead an
overarching respect of and care for both corporate and individual humanity.
Kohlberg (1981) goes on to argue that the manner in which stage growth may
be stimulated is through exposure to dilemmas, be they hypothetical or real, that
arouse uncertainty as to what the right course of action may be in the circumstances
under consideration (p. 27). Through consideration and debate of what the good
and bad may be, growth is engendered. Kohlberg, then, sees a logical, scientific
progression from one stage of moral awareness and action to another, through which
a person moves, ideally reaching the highest level of moral cognition.
It is pertinent to here insert a brief word regarding some notable gaps in the
research of Kohlberg (1981) and others in the field of moral development theory. In
studying changes in adolescent development theory (in all its aspects, i.e. moral,
cognitive, developmental, etc.), Gilligan (1988) notes that the inattention to girls has
been noted as a lacuna in the literature on adolescent development, which raises the
question: What has been missed by not studying girls? (p. x). The answer, according
to Gilligan and others, is a good deal.
Kohlberg (1981) equates the term morality with justice, and notes that the
school properly engaged in moral education is devoted to the teaching of justice
70


(p. 37). At the core of this perspective are the rights of the individual and respect and
deference to these rights. Together, they form what Lyons (1988) refers to as a
morality of rights and justice (p. 23). In her essay on the matter, however, Lyons
notes that this morality is only representative of one perspective and that another
exists, one which has largely been ignored and one which is predominantly
representative of the female perspective, that being the morality of response and
care (p. 23). She, in turn, based her research on earlier work by Gilligan (1977),
which noted that two discrete forms of moral judgment exist, those of justice and
care, and that these are related to gender. Additionally, she hypothesized that these
moral perspectives were possibly tied to ways of self-definition.
As noted in numerous studies (Bardige,1988; Gilligan,1977,1988; Johnston,
1985; Lyons, 1988), the morality of care focuses on problems of detachment of the
self from others. As opposed to the largely male ideal or morality as a system of
reciprocity and respect for rights, the ideal in the care system is that of attention and
response to need (Gilligan & Atanucci, 1988). Factors of relationship are
preeminent here, whereby what matters most is that all sides are heard, all feelings
taken into consideration, and decisions arrived at that seek to preserve those bonds of
attachment so necessary for social beings. While studies have shown that both
perspectives are accessible to males and females alike, they have also shown that by
and large, males tend to rely heavily on the justice perspective while females rely on
the morality of care (Johnston, 1985).
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It is important to note that no one has sought to present an argument for
favoring the male perspective over that of the female, nor vice-versa. However, the
long-ignored female perspective is only now coming into its own as a viable
alternative. Indeed, the ideal would allow for an individual to adopt either
perspective as the situation merited, or perhaps better still, would allow for elements
of both perspectives to be put into use in determining moral choice. What is
bemoaned is the fact that for so long, the field neglected the perspective so closely
tied to the female gender, and only now is granting it its rightful place in the literature
of ethics and morals.
Other critics of the philosophies and moral development theories of both Kant
(Korsgaard,1989) and Kohlberg (1981) indicate that they are based upon the
assumption that there exists broad agreement as to what comprises the relevant
universe within which a rule is to operate (Wilson, 1993, p. 193). Clearly, this is not
the case. What is relevant in the world of an Inuit Eskimo may prove entirely
irrelevant and possibly even taboo in that of the average American (Freuchen, 1961).
Wilson uses this argument to support his theory of the existence of an innate moral
sense in human beings that allows them to adapt to the prevailing cultures or
societys norms and values. Indeed, Wilson takes on a Darwinian perspective in
arguing for the evolutionary value of a moral sense, indicating that were it not
present, natural selection would long ago have eliminated those who demonstrated
72


unwarranted compassion for other, mutual sympathy, or elements of self-control (p.
23).
Regardless, Wilson (1993) faces the same criticism that many before have
faced and found insurmountable. Absent any loyalties to a religious code or
fundamental dogma or blind insistence upon the rightness of ones personal views or
perceptions, there exist no moral absolutes. In light of this, Wilson shrugs his
shoulders and insists upon the existence of a core, moral self, though no solid proof
can be provided of such a self within humans (p. 11). This is not to say that Wilson is
wrong; it is merely to say, at this point in the paper, that I will be unable to prove
anymore conclusively than those who have come before that a universal moral code
exists upon which to base conclusive theories of moral and ethical development in
humankind. What I have attempted to do here is present, as objectively as possible,
an overview of the theories that have been postulated. It is not my goal to argue for
irrefutable evidence of a universal morality or an innate moral core in humanity.
From the beginning, my goal has been to examine and detail the role of the public
school in development of a moral and ethical self, and this can be done independently
from arguing for an absolute morality or an externally verifiable moral nature in
humans.
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CHAPTER FIVE
ROLE OF THE SCHOOLS
What is perhaps the most fundamental consequence to the development of the child,
reaching into his personality and his relation with the world, is the most difficult to
establish and interpret. It concerns the process of the childs entry into society.
Bernard Bailyn (1960, p. 25)
The argument over the role of the public school in moral education is long-
standing; indeed, it would be safe to say the dispute has existed from the time master
first stood before pupil and took it upon ones self to pass on a body of knowledge
from one generation to the next. At stake are matters no weightier than life or death;
for those who think I exaggerate, look only as far as Socrates and his hemlock tea
party for proof; condemned for corrupting the youth of Athens through his teaching,
the penalty was no less than capital punishment (Plato, 1959), one reserved in modem
times for murderers, rapists, and brigands.
On a more contemporary note, a close examination of Maos revolution in
China or the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge in Southeast Asia reveal that the
intellectuals and educators are among the first to die or face intensive re-education
in such conflicts. That this is the case should come as no surprise to any sociologist
or student of history. Children throughout the ages have borne the torches of their
fathers and mothers into the land where their parents could not tread, as it was beyond
the grasp of their mortality. To assure, then, the survival of their culture, their
74


society, and, in a real sense, of themselves, members of the human race have utilized
a number of resources in passing on shared norms, values, and expectations from one
generation to the next. One of the greatest of these has been the school.
As noted in the introductory chapter, I limit my consideration herein to an
examination of the role of schools in moral and ethical development and its pattern of
development in the United States. Certainly, this is not to deny that schools
throughout the world, regardless of location, play an important part in the moral
development of those in their charge. Indeed, it is my hope that some of the general
principles that will be here expressed will prove applicable within and beyond the
United States; I focus on my native country because it is that system of education
with which I am most acquainted.
From the start, it may be argued that the drive for a system of nationwide,
compulsory education had as its primary goal the moral development of the countrys
youth (Laud, 1997). In colonial America, the path taken toward this goal differed in
accordance with one of three religious temperaments, identified by Greven (1977)
and expanded upon by McClellan (1992): the evangelical temperament, the moderate
temperament, and the genteel temperament (pp. 4-5).
The evangelical temperament, operating from the premise of man as a fallen,
corrupt creation, stressed adherence to the demands of a stem, wrathful God. The top
priority was mastery and domination over the willfulness of the child. Obedience to
parents and other authorities was demanded, denial of self expected, and
75


unconditional acceptance of God and his precepts as the first and final authority in
any and all situations mandated (McClellan, 1992, p. 4). Though the family and home
was still seen as the primary environment in which moral instruction was to take
place (and this was true of all three temperaments, as we shall see), those of the
evangelical temperament sought to extend their influence into the just nascent drive to
establish a system of schools.
In accordance with this temperament, in 1647, the Massachusetts School Act
directed that towns numbering fifty households or more were to employ teachers in
order to facilitate the learning of the scriptures (Laud, 1997, p.2). This was of prime
importance to the early, evangelical colonists, often religious refugees from Europe,
as they perceived the basic nature of man as being sinful and in need of salvation
from without. What was stressed was close adherence to stringent standards of
conduct; this was not to be questioned, but rather accepted as so because the elders of
the society so stipulated. Nurturing or development of the moral reasoning capacities
of the young went undone (p. 4).
The moderate temperament (McClellan, 1992, p. 4) was, as the name implies,
a more balanced view of and approach toward child rearing. Though the home was
still the primary locus of moral development, the moderates fostered an environment
in which servants, extended family members, and outside agencies had influence, as
well (p. 5). Though as demanding of obedience from their children as were the
evangelicals, they viewed the deity as eminently more approachable and sought to
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combine affection with discipline and instruction in their attempts to instill moral
character into their children. Rather than stem, unbending self-denial, they sought a
moderate approach based on the cultivation of reason (p. 4).
A much smaller population stressed the genteel temperament; this tended to
be prevalent in those powerful, wealthier families that exerted no small control over
the early colonial American landscape (McClellan, 1992, p. 5). God was distant,
though benevolent, and seen as much less demanding than was true of those held
under the sway of the evangelical or moderate temperaments. What was important
here was the cultivation of virtue and decency in an environment of love and
acceptance. Parents were often indulgent and encouraged a certain amount of self-
assertiveness; indeed, when discipline of the child became needful, the task was often
assigned to servants so that cordial bonds would still exist between parent and child
(p. 5). With the genteel temperament one found present the desire to marry morality
with reason, and this, in part, led in the eighteenth century toward a school movement
where the development of the intellect became primary.
In 1787, the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake became part of the
schools mission, alongside matters of religion and morality. Indeed, this began to be
of primary importance with the common school movement of the 1800s (Laud, 1997,
p. 3). Prominent thinkers of the time, including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas
Jefferson, began to ascribe to human nature a kinder picture than that presented by
Puritan forebears. Indeed, like Wilson (1993) centuries later, Jefferson went so far as
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to imply that humans had an innate sense of the moral. In light of that, the task of the
school was to cultivate the use of reason and deliberation to bring to fruition the seeds
of morality that were already present in each individual at birth (Laud, 1997, p. 7).
Perhaps one of the most ludicrous notions extant is that the process of public
education is, or can take place in a moral vacuum. Thomas Lickona, (1991) notes,
importantly, that there is no such thing as value-free education (Lickona, 1991, p.
20). Students are confronted each day with any number of morally-charged situations
that require action and deliberation of some sort. It has been noted it is both foolish
and wasteful to try to divorce the moral issues necessarily imbedded in every aspect
of students learning from the particular subject matter they happen to explore (Fine,
1995, p. 175). Going further, John Dewey, notes that
Moral education in school is practically hopeless when we set up the
development of character as the supreme end, and at the same time treat the
acquiring of knowledge and the development of understanding, which of
necessity occupy the chief part of school time, as having nothing to do with
character. (Rice, 1996, p. 280)
In light of this, it is necessary now to focus on the character education movement.
Character Education
Character education programs are typically divided into two categories, those
utilizing the direct approach method and those favoring an indirect approach
(Duncan, 1997). The direct approach is exactly that, emphasizing the acquisition of
clearly defined sets of certain character traits. This is done through direct instruction
(It is always wrong to tell a lie) as well as through the sharing of works of literature
78


that focus on the nobility of those traits (p. 121). Here, students are the passive
recipients of an approved curriculum and it is assumed that after passing through the
assigned course of study, certain character traits will be present in the lives of those
who have been exposed to the instruction.
In my career in education, I have participated in two such programs, one
being Skills for Adolescence (SFA), sponsored by Lions Quest International, and the
other an advisory program in a middle school where certain virtues were highlighted
at particular times of the year during an advisory or homeroom period. In both,
among other methods utilized, students were exposed to short vignettes touting the
virtuous and decrying the base in the characters involved. Assessment took place in
the form of class discussion and, at times, ungraded written response to scenarios
posed in class.
The indirect approach, in contrast, encourages the development of moral
reasoning in students through helping them define their own values and those of
others through interaction (Duncan, 1997, p. 124). Specific scenarios may be used as
a base from which to launch a discussion, but what conclusions are reached and
opinions formed is dependent upon the direction in which the group takes it.
Frequently, the focus may be upon actual conflicts that occur in the school setting; for
instance, a disagreement about school dress code policies may be used as an
opportunity to further develop the moral reasoning abilities of students affected by the
policy. The emphasis here is that the development takes place as a result of
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interaction with others, within a community of learners (p. 124). This is seen as
reflecting the environment in which the learner will eventually take full membership
in, the larger human community.
The terminal goal of any character education program, supposedly, is the
development of a responsible citizenry through the systematic teaching of prosocial
conduct (DePry, 1995, p. 72), whether it takes the form of a direct or indirect
approach. I say supposedly because not all agree that this is the true goal. Kohn
(1999) notes that
What goes by the name of character education nowadays is, for the most part,
a collection of exhortations and extrinsic inducements designed to make
children work harder and do what theyre told. Even when other values are
also promoted caring or fairness, say the preferred method of instruction is
tantamount to indoctrination, (p. 177)
In other words, what is sought is a passive, easily controlled populace so as not to
upset the status quo or challenge the established authority. Kohn also argues that the
perspective taken by most character education programs is one of a fix-the-kids
approach (p. 179). This hales back to the Puritan days of emphasis on the fallen
nature of humanity, with the race being morally bankrupt and beyond the help of
anything but divine mercy and intervention.
In Habits of Mind (Fine, 1995), the point is raised that what passes as
character education and what passes as moral education are two different things. Fine
argues that in moral education, what is sought is the development of the students
ethical self; in character education, she argues that what is sought is the acquisition,
80


from the teacher and by the students, of a prescribed set of values, that may or may
not seem relevant to the students concerned. This corresponds closely with the
notions previously maintained that note the differences between the direct and
indirect approach to moral and character education.
The literature suffers from a dearth of longitudinal studies on the effectiveness
of character education programs. This is understandable, as it is difficult, if not
impossible, to accurately measure the moral and ethical developmental level of an
individual. Even if it were possible, a greater difficulty still presents itself in
correlating the presence of certain character traits to what direct instruction may have
been provided during the schooling experiences of a person. It can easily be argued
that virtues are more a product of familial or religious influence. Indeed, it is difficult
to draw a line between that which influences an individual in terms of character
development and that which does not. An argument can be made that there is no
profession or, indeed, action of the human race that is without moral influence.
Radest (1989) notes that everything we study has its ethics. Neutrality is, in other
words, an illusion (p. 63).
What literature exists to support the link between character education
programs and true, positive change in those receiving instruction in such a curriculum
is questionable (Crawford, 1999). This is not because such studies are totally lacking;
rather, it is due to the fact that what studies do exist often rely largely on testimonial
information from adult stakeholders (parents, teachers, school board members,
81


administrators) who are not effected by the application of such a curriculum in the
same way as are the students who receive the instruction. Crawford notes the
pervasive and clear absence from the literature is the student voice (p. 7).
In one article where student voice was considered, Veugelers (2000) noted
that students saw teachers expressing value-laden instruction in one of four ways: (a)
the teacher tries not to express own values; (b) the teacher makes clear which values
are important; (c) the teacher highlights differences in values without expressing
which ones he/she finds important; and (d) the teacher notes differences in values and
expresses which ones he/she finds important (pp. 5 6). Of these four, students
identify with and appreciate most those teachers who not only express different
viewpoints in terms of value-laden instruction, but also communicate to them which
values they find important. However, a delicate balancing act is suggested, as
Veugelers also found that though it is the preferred style, students do not want
teachers to stress their own values too strongly, to the point where students feel they
are being forced to adhere to the teachers value system and not one they have made
their own.
What, then, is to be the role of the schools? Perhaps we would be better
served by first considering what first transpired to make us think that a discreet course
of study devoted to character development should be part of the curriculum in the first
place. Kohn (1997), among others, argues that, especially today, character education
programs have as a true goal not the construction of character but the creation of
82


quiet, docile classrooms in which instruction in the discipline at hand may proceed,
unimpeded by delinquents and neer do wells who have as their only goal classroom
mayhem. At its heart, it is an issue of control, and Kohn (1993) notes that control
breeds the need for more control, which then is used to justify the use of control (p.
33). Our nations prisons are populated by those who have been subjected to control
all their lives and now cannot function in society without it, and are therefore
confined to cells instead of communities.
Kohn (1997) notes Etzionis (1993) definition of the word character,
meaning the ability to control impulses and defer gratification (p. 91). With this in
mind, he posits that
... at least three assumptions seem to be at work when the need for self
control is stressed: first, that we are all at war not only with others but with
ourselves, tom between our desires and our reason (or social norms); second,
that these desires are fundamentally selfish, aggressive, or otherwise
unpleasant; and third, that these desires are very strong, constantly threatening
to overpower us if we dont rein them in. Collectively, these statements
describe religious dogma, not scientific fact. Indeed, the evidence from
several disciplines converges to cast doubt on this sour view of human beings
and, instead, supports the idea that it is as natural for children to help as to
hurt. (p. 431)
I would argue that there exists a responsibility in the professional lives of all
educators to address the needs of the complete individual. In the United States today,
there exists greater pressure than ever before to raise academic standards so that our
students are competitive with others worldwide. Fine (1995) notes that much of this
pressure comes from critics from the far right of the political spectrum. What they
83


seek in a unified, homogenous nation where everyone is held to the same standards
and differences are not to be confronted and dealt with; they are to be transcended (p.
9). Intentionally or not, this has focused attention primarily on academic achievement
and ability, and our students are more than that. The drive toward focusing on the
academic basics, maintains Fine, is essentially a dodge. What conservative critics
of moral education programs object to is not that some would seek to impart certain
values to students or seek to enhance their moral development; what they object to is
any program that would impart values that they feel are wrong or un-American.
in some presumed, classical sense (Fine, p. 9).
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CHAPTER SIX
APPLICATIONS
I believe that the moral education centers upon this conception of the school as a
mode of social life, that the best and deepest moral training is precisely that which
one gets through having to enter into proper relations with others in a unity of work
and thought.
John Dewey (1897, p. 80)
It has been my goal throughout to establish that the moral and ethical
development of students should have a place within the public schools. I have
attempted to provide, in brief overview, a summary of the history of moral thought,
theories regarding factors of moral and ethical development, and what attempts at
addressing these issues within the public school environment have already taken
place. My purpose now is to present those practical applications that my research has
informed.
To begin, character education programs, in their current form, are sadly
lacking in substantive, research-based support in terms of their effectiveness. I
believe the primary error that has been made is to assume that we can (and should)
study and promote moral and ethical development as a separate part of the overall
school curriculum. So to do implies that there are areas where issues of morality and
ethics do not apply, a fallacy I hope I have, by this point, exposed. That we can
separate the self and address its development in piecemeal fashion, one moment
i
I
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focusing on academic achievement, the next moment on psychomotor skills, and the
moment after that on the moral schema of the developing young person is ludicrous.
To attempt to do so and believe that such an end is obtainable is to label all of
humanity as schizophrenics, capable of turning on and shutting off certain elements
of selfhood in the same way lights are flipped at a switch. Though it may seem
plausible enough, humans are not automatons; the parts relate to and affect the whole.
Role of the Community
In this light, then, I suggest later in this chapter that a consideration of ethics
and morality infuse the entire school curriculum and community, but not in the guise
of character education programs which seem condemned to treat the matter as a
subject separate and apart from the rest of the business of schooling. I will argue,
instead, that the role of discovery needs once more to become preeminent in the
schools mission.
The role of the community cannot be underemphasized when it comes to the
moral development of the individual. Peck (1993) defines community as a way of
being together with both individual authenticity and interpersonal harmony so that
people become able to function with a collective energy even greater than the sum of
their individual energies (p. 272). From this, it should be clear that the greater
community cannot stand apart from issues of ethical development of the young. It has
been argued that morality rests on the interplay among individual conscience, the
moral voice of the community, and the state (Etzioni, 1993, p. 48). There is, then,
86


the self, the immediate social environment, and the universal context within which
both operate. The role the community plays has much to do with the communal
approbation of individual actions. Seen as societal coercion by some, Etzioni
disagrees, as coercion implies the use of force or restraint. Instead, he speaks of (and
encourages the use of) moral suasion (p. 38), which relies more on exclusion than
enforcement. Should individuals act otherwise than their community demands,
ostracism may result, with the intent being that the individual will ultimately accede
to the expectations of the community. Etzioni further supports his argument by
maintaining that while the ultimate foundation of morality may be commitments of
individual conscience, it is communities that help introduce and sustain these
commitments (p. 267). Underlying this contention is the belief that a commitment to
the common good of all results naturally from the experience of being loved and
accepted by others, a primary function of the community (Daloz, 1996, p. 26).
This philosophy of communitarianism, as espoused by Etizioni (1993),
while not insignificant, is one in light of which I wish to stop short of endorsement;
indeed, I harbor severe doubts that, as presented in full, the recommendations of
communitarianism could, or should, ever be realized. However, the researcher learns,
early on, to take what wheat another may offer while rejecting the chaff.
In a statement of truths that form the foundation for communitarian
philosophy, Etzioni (1993) notes that We hold that school can provide essential
moral education without indoctrinating young people (p. 1). Proposing a platform
87


that will bring moral revival to the United States without allowing puritanism or
oppression (p. 2), Etzioni and other communitarians lay the blame for what they feel
to be the current malaise of American society at the foot of a system that has provided
too many individual rights and too few individual and group responsibilities. This
glut of personal rights has created a massive inflation of rights that devalues their
moral claims (p. 5). In simpler terms, our proliferation of individual rights have left
us insensate to the moral claims that are presumed to accompany them. Herein enters
the community, and the true root of the problem, as seen by adherents to
communitarian ideals. Through the preeminence placed on individual rights over
those of the group, the voice of the community no longer is viewed as a potent factor
in regulating the lives of its members. This leaves us all the poorer, as Etzioni goes
on to note we are thereby robbed of the two most important functions of community:
as a supplier of opportunity for the individual to satisfy deep, personal needs that can
only be met in a communal setting, and the social coercion a community can bring to
bear on detracting or straying members.
Critique of Communitarianism
My disagreements with the communitarian philosophy must begin here:
though I do not oppose the idea that the community lacks the voice and role it once
had in the life of the individual, I cannot lay blame for this at the door of individual
rights. The community has grown weaker as technology has grown stronger, with
each innovation making humankind less and less reliant upon others, each luxury
88


making us ore oblivious to the plight of others and indeed, to our own plight. We can
control our climate with a flip of a switch and need no longer wait for the sun to go
down, windows and doors to open to the comparative coolness of the summer nights,
before we can find relief from the heat. Therefore, chance meetings with other
neighbors seeking the cool of the outside in the evening hours are largely things of
the past. Internet connections and chat rooms have all but eliminated the need for
forming close bonds with those within physical proximity of ones home, with other
forms of telecommunications increasing our ability to stay in touch while growing
ever further apart. In my own family background, I can remember the last time when
I was aware of and knew all my neighbors as being 1977, now nearly 25 years distant.
While I recognize mine as being only a single case, I believe it to be the rule rather
than the exception.
All this is not to say that I disagree with the notion that the community has
lost sway in terms of being a moral influence; undoubtedly, this is the case, but I find
it wrong-headed to fault rights garnered for the individual. I also question just how
valid is the premise that what is needed to shore up the moral foundation of society
is the rebuilding of strong communities (Etzioni, 1993, p. 40). Historically speaking,
in times when the rights of the individual have been subjugated to the rights of the
larger community (be it local, state, national, or international), not only has
community influence been extreme, but so has reaction against it. The Germany of
the 1920s stifled under the oppressive conditions of the Treaty Of Versailles,
89


simmering at a slow boil until a young Adolph Hitler rose to relieve the pressure, only
to then turn and establish his own reign, more oppressive and brutal than what had
come before. And while it is true that Etzioni cautions against the extremes of
oppression or puritanism, it is similarly true that a caged lion, once loose, is coaxed
only with great difficulty back into his cage.
Communitarians sum up the work at hand into four stages, or four areas of
focus where intervention is much needed so that shoring up can occur. First, the
family, which Etzioni and countless others note as the foundation stone for all moral
development that will occur throughout life. Second, the schools, where values
learned at home are to be reinforced or, in the absence of a positive home
environment, where surrogate parenting is to take place. Third are the different social
connections that the local community provides, be they neighborhood organizations,
PTAs, professional or ethnic clubs, and similar groups. Finally, the national society
as a whole is indebted to making sure that local communities do not establish
practices or policies that the larger society finds abhorrent (p. 248).
I purposely neglect to provide detail on each of these separately as they all
suffer from the same weakness: Etzioni covers a wide range of societal ills and
manages to resolve a large body of conflictual issues without revealing a coherent
system of substantive principles. Instead, case after case is settled through a
combination of commonsensical observations and procedural techniques (Bennett,
1998, p. 104). His solutions are based on a foundations of shoulds and needs.
90


Anyone can form an argument based on these two terms: Yes, we need this and
things should be done in that way. What is lacking is the means to get us from
shoulds and needs to can and will. My primary complaint against the
communitarian platform is that is provides us with a diagnosis of what it perceives to
be societys moral malady and yet offers no definitive prescription for a cure. The
current state of affairs is presented, alongside the ideal state, but there is no mode of
transportation offered to take us from the one to the other.
Despite the above objections, the importance of the community working with
the school may be seen by a brief foray into systems and organizational theory.
While I have concentrated in large part upon the ethical development of the
individuals, the effect of such development (or lack thereof) on the overall system,
whether we speak of the school, the district, or the community, is profound. Since all
systems or organizations are composed of an amalgam of individuals, it seems
obvious that the ethical development of the individuals within the system will have an
impact on the direction and purpose of the larger organization. Citing Wheatley
(1992), Vivieros (1999) notes that organizations do not stand alone as a static,
impersonal systems, but rather as conscious entities possessing an
interconnectedness of individuals much like the interconnectedness of organs within
the human body (p. 28). Because the school is a social organization, the individuals
within the system have an inescapable effect upon others both within the school and
outside in the larger community.
91


The importance of noting the inter-relatedness between the individual and the
larger community is highlighted by examining the implications of disconnection
between the two. Gharajedaghi (1999) notes that the more one feels ones
contributions to the system or community as a whole to be of minimal significance,
the greater is ones indifference toward the goals of the organization in question. As
alienation increases, the goals of not only the individual, but those of the larger
system, as well, are unmet, and their very reason for existence is called into question
(p. 66). This line of thinking, followed to its natural conclusion, reveals why neither
the community nor the schools can afford to neglect the ethical development of young
people.
A Dynamic Ethics
The above not withstanding, I would argue that any and all attempts to
pinpoint and detail elements of a universal morality or moral and ethical absolutes
must be forsaken. This is not to say that cultures and societies worldwide do not have
shared common elements; in many cases, they do. Nor is this an attempt to minimize
the beliefs of those who do subscribe to what they would consider moral absolutes, be
they based on religious creed or on personal experience. I do intend to say, though,
that this is a matter of personal conviction and not based on objective, scientific
verifiability.
Instead, what is required is a moral base that informs a dynamic ethics, one
that grows and adapts dependent upon the circumstances unique to a particular
92


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