The importance of moral education is particularly clear at the junior high level

Topics: Morality, High school, Ethics Pages: 8 (3719 words) Published: September 7, 2014
The importance of moral education is particularly clear at the junior high level (grades 7-9, average age 12-14 years). Fortunately, it is also a stage when most educators and parents are willing to concede time for moral education activities: The "basics" have been taught in some measure, and the pre-college pressure has not yet begun. The field of moral education is, of course, vast. We can here only take up a few issues and make a few practical suggestions. In particular, the focus in the final three sections of this chapter will be on thestudy of moral issues, rather than moral education in general. This narrowing of focus to study activities is because of limitations of space alone, and does not reflect on the importance of the rest of the moral education program of the school. The "integrative model" of the person and of moral education developed in the present volume is one I endorse: all aspects of the person--thoughts, feelings, behavior--must be attended to in moral education.1 The main theme running through the chapter will be that moral education in the junior high school must be grounded in the life needs of the young adolescent students. Accordingly, we will begin with a brief overview of the situation in which these students find themselves. THE WORLD OF JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

These young people, at early adolescence, are being given more responsibility for their lives, facing new questions and having new experiences. They are beginning to choose their way of life, whereas before much of it was chosen for them. Junior high students are thinking about what kind of job they want. This is necessary both so they can select suitable school subjects and job training, and to give them a sense of direction and meaning in life. If they can see the necessity of schooling partly in job terms it helps them to go along with its more difficult aspects. To a degree, also, these students are free to choose other elements of their way of life: sports, friendships and group life, movies, TV, music, reading of different kinds, the clothes they wear. Possibly they can now buy a Walkman or a ten-speed bike with their own money. Perhaps they can give up (or take up) a musical instrument without much adult control. At this age, students are very concerned about their self-image. Rapid changes in bodily size and appearance, together with greater social interest, result in a need to rationalize their changing self and see it as acceptable. Strong feelings, again both internally and externally triggered, lead to questioning about the nature of their personality and the meaning of their life. Health, physical and mental, is also a preoccupation of these young people. Physical and emotional changes make them aware of the possibility of change, and they fear abnormality. They also sense that they may have some control over their health: They are hearing about fitness programs, proper nutrition, dental hygiene, how to overcome stress. And probably their parents are giving them increasing responsibility in health matters. Friendship patterns are changing. Being accepted by their peers takes on much greater importance, and many of their activities are directed toward that end. Sexual relationships become a distinct possibility, requiring a set of attitudes and verbal responses even if only negative ones for the time being. Thoughts of marriage begin to crop up, even (or perhaps especially) when there is as yet little experience of close heterosexual friendship. Access to alcohol and drugs is now a reality. Although it might be difficult, they could if they wished experience such things; and in many cases it would not even be difficult. This accessibility along with the interest in self- image, group life, and health constitutes a new life situation. Family relationships are of pressing interest to young adolescents. Most still have strong emotional ties to their family, but potentially competing relationships are developing. There is...
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