by: Gloria Askew

Defining Moral Education

Moral education involves the instruction of values and ethics a society holds dear to ensure the progress and success of others. The success of others breeds community. Community breeds relationships. Relationships within the classroom not only increase instruction, but also contribute to classroom management and school climate, as well as contributing to teacher retention and higher performance in effectiveness measures. All of these factors mold contributing members of society.

The Moral Imperative

Prosperous societies hold one truth: moral education resides in the center of educational foundations. Dolph and Lycan (2008) assert, “Moral reasoning is imperative for schools to incorporate to truly reach this mission: an educated citizenry.” (13) Dolph and Lycan (2008) continue to define moral education through Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development in Oral Reasoning: A Necessary Standard of Learning in Today’s Classroom. From Pericles to Socrates, from Kant to Nietszche, and from Buddha to Jesus Christ, morality remains the center of what drives humanity. Either the lack of morality or the need for morality contributes to societal downfall. According to a study by Vexen Crabtree (2013), Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and New Zealand round out the top five index in morality and good conscious around the world. This index is compiled through data from eighteen different criterion, including but not limited to: The UN Human Development Index, life expectancy, slavery, gay rights and equality, and many more. You can find this complete index here. Not surprisingly, Afghanistan, Sudan, Samalia, and the Congo are at the bottom of this index. The beliefs of the writer of this study shows religion to not be a component of morality. Vexen Crabtree (2014) declares himself, "an explicit atheist and a Humanist." Then if moral education is much more a study of Humanism, can one agree that moral education is in fact, "a system of values and beliefs that is based on the ideas that people are basically good and that problems can be solved using reason instead of religion?"

Moral Education in America
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These findings lead many to question what moral education looks like in America versus countries around The Globe. As our nation becomes more diverse, the room for moral education gets pushed out. However, should it? Are other countries faced with the same question: Does moral education have its place in the classroom? According to Smyth (2009), “The institutional position of religion in schooling is, however, contrasted against a changing societal context” in European countries. This presents the question: Must a moral education contain religion? Nord and Haynes (n.d.) purport, "The character education movement is grounded in the conviction there are consensus virtues and values."
In fact, when searching the word 'moral' in teacher preparation books, many occurrences are present. Glickman (2014) references morals sixty-four times in Supervision and Instructional Leadership. Conducting a Google search of 'moral education' yields 52.8 million results with the first being an article from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Therefore, one can conclude that the issue of moral education is indeed a global issue. Although this timeline of mass killings across the globe would cause one to argue over gun control, a whole other issue is at hand. Moral education. Taku Ikemoto (1996) furthers this notion, "Today, moral education became one of the biggest concern of the public since our society is facing an increasing amount of juvenile crime." Ikemoto goes on to discuss moral education in Japan and the implications for American schools.
However, juvenile crime was not the catalyst for the original indoctrination of moral education in America. From the beginnings of the New World, moral education has been a staple of children's education.
A brief history of moral education can be found here. Narvaez and Lapsley (2006) present moral education as a norm within the classroom, but “The dilemma that faces teacher educators, then, is whether it is acceptable to allow character education to remain part of a school’s hidden curriculum, or whether advocacy for the value commitments immanent to education and teaching should be transparent, intentional, and public.” Given the argument of the Cees Klaasen (2010), "Each form of education is moralistic and paternalistic," one could argue that morality is embedded in all curriculum from early childhood education to that of the postsecondary institutions.

What's the Risk?Christina Hoff Sommers (1998) reflects on her participation in a public television broadcast in which one participant argued, "Too often, we teach students to question principles before they even vaguely understand them." Therefore, imposing moral identity outside of the home could indeed confuse our children into a further moral haze. Would this teaching of morality be seen as "inculcation, imposition, indoctrination, and in its most extreme form, brainwashing" as suggested by Sidney Simon and Howard Kirschenbaum (1973), or could it change a culture and set society on the path to goodness with more security in man? Prinicpals such as Vera White have held assemblies and other programs to focus on values and characters. White has since seen a decline in theft and fighting. (Sommers 1998)
Local and Global Moral Presence
In Columbus, Georgia, Literature/Composition 10 classes focus on a study of world literature. Literature standards contain the language of "...building on other's ideas...exhibiting a mature perspective on diverse cultures" (ELACCGPSSL1) as well as "analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience...drawing on a wide reading of world literature." (ELACCGPSRL6). Also students must be able to understand reason through "character motivation" (ELACCGPSRL3). How can this be done without knowing the basis or moral compass of which one acts upon? If not for a moral compass, then why does this video of a young mind create such a buzz and invitation to the United Nations?

Through studies of The Holocaust, literature such as: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Night by Elie Wiesel, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Lord of The Flies by William Golding as well as many many more, it is inevitable to teach about character, morality, and innate goodness. Through teachings of such works, Jessica Lahey (2013) became aware of "what real character education looks like and what it can do for children." You can read here more about Lahey's awakening as well as why character is the "X factor" to success. Laura Gurley (2011) goes on to assert that "teaching character education can change the world."
I contend moral education within schools would eliminate other trends or issues facing our society today.
Through teaching of morals, values, ethics, or whatever the label, would there be a need to spend dollars on topics such as bullying, truancy, corporal punishment in education, gender bias, or even student on teacher violence?

Where do you fit in all this?uncle-sam-we-want-you.jpg
You decide! To find out more about the framework for a moral education, please visit:


Continuing the Discussion. Give your opinion in the poll below.

For guidance on how to begin a Rally for Morality in your school, please view this proposal.


Crabtree, V. (2013). What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life. Retrieved May 28, 2014, from
This website is hosted by an individual who believes in the goodness of humanity. He has studied various indexes around the world and constructed criterion to measure countries by morality.

Dolph, K., & Lycan, A. Moral Reasoning: A Necessary Standard of Learning in Today's Classroom. Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Education, 1, 13-19. Retrieved May 28, 2014, from
Examining moral education in the classroom, the history and shifts in teaching moral education, Dolph and Lycan conclude a culturally-respectful moral education is necessary and call for professional development of educators.

humanism. (2014). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved May 28, 2014, from
Definition of humanism.

Ikemoto, T. (1996, May 10). Moral Education in Japan; Implications for American Schools. Moral Education in Japan; Implications for American Schools. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from
Value neutrality in America is contrasted with Japan's push for a moral construct in society with a brief history of moral education in Japan.

Lahey, J. (2013, May 6). The Benefits of Character Education. The Atlantic. Retrieved May 28, 2014, from
This article looks at moral education as the element of success in children.

Nord, W. A., & Haynes, C. C. (n.d.). The Relationship of Religion to Moral Education in the Public Schools(1). The Communitarian Network. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from
These authors address the civic and educational principles that govern society, defines liberal education as moral education, studies in sex education and economics education, and suggest reformation.

Puzzanchera, C. (2013). Juvenile Offenders and Victims: National Report Series. . Retrieved May 28, 2014, from
This is a statistical report on the number of youth on youth crimes in America.

Simon, S. B., & Kirschenbaum, H. (1973). Readings in values clarification. Minneapolis: Winston Press.
Examines the skewed views of ethics education.

Smyth, E. (2009). Religious Education in a Multicultural Society: School and Home in Comparative Context. . Retrieved May 28, 2014, from
This article is a study of social cohesion amongst religious and cultural groups.