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Good Lives and Moral Education

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Evan Simpson

This book develops a «conservative» conception of morality and its implications for moral education. The argument stresses practices of living over rationalistic theories. At its center is an account of the education of the emotions, in which cultivating reflective imagination is more important than mastering universal principles. The central contrast is with Lawrence Kohlberg and his theory of moral development. Simpson sees extending democratic practices of discussion and argument as best answering the question how, lacking certain standards of judgment, we can decide between competing conceptions of human progress.

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Chapter 4: Education for Choice

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Chapter 4 Education for Choice I Values Clarification. Moral education includes the passing on of complex patterns of approval and disapproval from one generation to the next. In so doing it forms character, developing persons with appropriate virtues and sensitivity to customary relationships and their obli- gations. In this way it exercises an indirect influence on con- duct, but it is not specifically concerned with determining what to do in problematic situations which call for good judgment rather than accurate calculation. It is thus learning how to see emotionally rather than to reason coldly. It occurs in schools and other formal institutions but mainly within families and other intimate spheres of association. There is more to it than this. It also involves the lessons of political relationships, and it may involve acquiring habits of reflection which compete with the needs of conformity. But it is at least these things. Most of these claims are rejected by the main contemporary schools of moral education, which share conceptual foundations in the modem conception of moral philosophy as normative theory. In spite of repeated assertions to the contrary, their points of mutual opposition are less important than this com- mon foundation and the doctrines it supports. Many of the de- tails are starkly apparent in Values Clarification. This school continues to draw heavy criticism for theoretical unclarity and shallowness, but the complaints are often unwarranted. Its doc- trines well articulate many doubts and ideas pervasive in our culture, and they are often identical...

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