Kohlberg's moralising and its revival - character education

Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B, Aug 17, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Donald Clark uses Lawrence Kohlberg's account of education "as the development of moral judgement and behaviour" as a frame to introduce this commentary on the recent revival of character education (and I would include my least favourite word, 'grit'). Influenced by Piaget, Kohlberg describes six stages of moral development, cumulating in universal ethical principles. " Kohlberg was simply reinforcing stereotypical male character traits," responded Carol Gillighan, and research showed Kohlberg's stages were not in the least accurate. The 21st century equivalent is character education. "In the US the character education movement is often pushed by conservative and religious sources that see the creep of liberal values as equivalent to moral decline," writes Clark. According to the research, however, "school-based character education programs produce no measurable improvements in student behaviour or academic performance." Image: Sperreng Middle School.

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