Moral Education: An Idea Whose Time Has Gone
Author(s): David E. Purpel
Source: The Clearing House, Vol. 64, No. 5, Values Education (May - Jun., 1991), pp. 309-312 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
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Moral Education: Idea
put, the most important and troubling of all
human tasks (and hence a challenge for educators)
our rationality scorns. Our tragedy is that this predicament not only produces personal existential anguish but takes on the proportion of catastrophein the face of our
currentmassive social and culturalcrises.
Our liberal traditions have led us to respond to social
problems pragmatically, rationally, and sensibly, with
the assumption that careful planning and technical
knowledge can significantly ameliorate if not solve any
problem. Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Cambodia, and the Gulag, as metaphors of this orientation gone mad, not only have shocked and horrified us but have also seriouslyaggravated our despair and paralysis. Indeed, we have come to understand that the destructive forces in our
world are as powerful as ever, and today we find our entire planet and civilization to be at risk. Solutions to crises of this magnitude involve much more than good
ideas and effective programs. What is requiredis a transformation in consciousness from our present one of competition, mastery, personalism, and success to one of cooperation, justice, community, and harmony. This to me constitutes the fundamental challenge for
education and more particularlyfor our profession, and
yet the most painful characteristicof current educational
professional efforts is the puniness of its response to our
currentsocial and culturalcrises. The culture cries out for
the imaginationand courage to avoid the horrorsof war,
pollution, starvation, and disease, and the profession responds with initiatives such as career ladders, assertive discipline, and effective teaching. Alas, this timidity and
blandness even extends to those more daring educators
who have ventured into that troublesome area called
moral education. It is always important to reiteratethat
education has perforce at least implicit moral dimensions, and, in that sense, there has always been and always will be "moral education." Moreover, we have had a history of more explicit efforts at providing direct
moral education. The focus of this article is on the most
recent efforts to conceptualize programs for moral education. As much as I admire the courage, imagination, and seriousness of these efforts, their success and shortcomings tell us much of the weaknesses of the profes-
is to be able to know what it meansto live the virtuous
life. No challenge is more central, more complex, or
more conflictual; for, as history so cruelly shows us, differences in moral orientations have led to deep personal pain and enormous social tragedy. Such issues are inherently of incredible complexity, and they are made even more problematic by our particular historical and cultural traditions. Our democratic roots, our pluralistic society, and our memories of political and ideological
authoritarianismmake us extremely wary of any particular or singular moral code or creed. These traditions leave us in a state of continuous skepticism, if not distrust, ever on guard lest we fall under the...
References: Giroux, H., and D. Purpel. 1983. Moral education and the hidden
EsKohlberg, 1984.Thepsychology humanmoraldevelopment:
Raths, L., H. Merrill,and S. Simon. 1978. Valuesand teaching: Working with values in the classroom. Columbus: Charles Merrill.
Welch,S. 1985.Communities resistance solidarity: feminist
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