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An exploration of the school's role in moral development

Resource type
Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Date created
Schools always seem to be under pressure to make moral development a part of their routine responsibilities. Despite much reflection and many proposals, there still seems to be unease with how much our schools actually promote or can or should promote moral development. In this thesis I argue that when moral development is approached from a socio-cultural perspective, and the work of philosophers who consider moral development from this perspective is taken into account, it becomes clear how moral development is inescapably an integral part of schools’ work. Students develop morally through their ongoing interactions with the standards supported by the school, and with the other communities of which they are part. In a socio-cultural approach, moral development is seen as a daily, lived experience that is shared by all members of the community, and created in the richness of the ongoing dialogues that we have with significant others in our lives. These others will include the standards of excellence that our communities support, the community itself, and the inheritance of our cultures that we explore through our curriculum. We develop morally when we interact with significant others in our lives who help us experience and achieve what is good. I argue that all members of the school community need to be familiar with modern theories of socio-cultural moral development, support the standards that the school incorporates, and integrate these standards into all the lessons and other activities in the school. In a manner that parallels Charles Taylor’s “ethic of authenticity”, I argue that, in the process, schools will develop their own authentic identity, and necessarily become a place of moral apprenticeship. Such schools strives to create an ethos of belonging and participation that recognizes the close connection between the development of the self and relationships with significant others in students’ lives. The school thus becomes what Taylor calls a “horizon of significance” that the students strive to reach.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Egan, Kieran
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