EDU 6120: Module 6

“Key Idea Identification” Reflection on the EDU 6120 Module 6

“Alternative Ideas” Lecture given by Arthur K. Ellis

“Emile Durkheim in the Context of the American Moral Education Paradigm”, Arthur K. Ellis

Colonial America, as a homogeneous society, was well- positioned to teach morality in the schools in light of the fact that they were relatively “like-minded”—in their homes, schools, and community.  Throughout the ensuing centuries–moving into the 20th Century—as American society became more complex and diverse in its ethnic and religious composition, and along with developing legal restrictions—the hope of teaching morality became further out of reach.

Educators have continued to put forth noble efforts to “rein in” children who seem to becoming less and less moral—through programs such as “character education”, “citizenship education”, and others, with the common thread of focusing on community and democracy.  However, as Ellis states:

Even the most casual observer should realize that American school, and the institutions that prepare teachers, with their emphasis on the technical interests so evident in the form of crowd control, behavioral objectives, disconnected skills, scripted lessons, dumbed-down textbooks, and standardized tests, are far more interested in how than in why, whether the subject is reading, mathematics, or the enhancing of self-esteem (Ellis, p.10).

Ellis suggests that the American education system today is not effective in teaching on the whole. If this is indeed the case, why should the schools be charged with teaching morality? “Others have questioned the right of an institution, school, having failed at its academic mission, even to dare to consider taking on the high calling of moral training” (Ellis, p 17).

As an educator who has spent three decades in the classroom, I continue to observe the decline in moral expectations/standards among many students, and their families, and have felt an increasing helplessness—sensing that I am “swimming upstream”. I find that I am becoming conditioned to the “overlooking” by staff members of lowered standards. I am saddened to realize that I am actually surprised when a student is corrected by a staff member.  My personal hope is that I never lose sight of the importance of being a positive role model as I influence individual students.

Elllis, A. Moral Education for the Young: Three Alternatives (Lecture)

Ellis, A. The Context of Moral Education, 1998.


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