Making the Case for Moral Development Education

O'Flaherty, Joanne and Doyle, Elaine (2011) Making the Case for Moral Development Education. [Conference Proceedings]


In the context of the numerous scandals and resulting negative publicity that have plagued both the public and private sectors in many jurisdictions across the globe in recent decades, there has been a significantly increased focus on ethical behaviour and the variables that influence it. Examples include reckless and unethical banking systems; top executives displaying discriminatory attitudes towards minorities or the opposite sex; insider trade fraud; environmental misconduct; product safety issues; physical abuse and government officials accepting gifts/donations. The importance of education in developing ethically sensitive individuals who use principled moral reasoning when facing dilemmas has been widely acknowledged (Pascarella and Terenzini, 1991; Rest et al, 1999a). However, ethics is typically omitted from the higher level curriculum and, if raised at all, comprises a very negligible element of the course content of a small minority of modules (see, e.g. Clarkeburn et al, 2002). This paper makes the case for including deliberate moral reasoning interventions within higher education programmes. It draws on the professionalism, citizenship and social capital literature and explains how moral reasoning development would encourage serving the public interest, active citizenship and the development of social capital. The paper focuses on the role of teachers and educational institutions, particularly higher education institutions, in developing professionals with integrity, who are also responsible citizens and contributing members of their communities. To illustrate the critical need for the inclusion of deliberate moral reasoning interventions to be achieved urgently, the paper refers to evidence from two studies carried out in Ireland, demonstrating a clear lack of principled moral reasoning among the respective cohorts tested.

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