Moral development during middle childhood happens along with maturation. School-age children “become increasingly able to think about moral issues that may occur during social interactions” (Blume 2007). Observing this development has led researchers to many different theories. One of the theories mentioned in our textbook was Piaget’s cognitive developmental theory. According to Piaget, school-age children, or children in the concrete operational stage, become “moral relativists” (Blume 2007). This means that those children “now think that an intentional action is worse than an accidental behavior” (Blume 2007). Children in the “concrete reasoning stage of development” are finding out what it means to be an individual within the contexts of their world (I.e. school, peers, family, community, etc.). This theory resonates the most with me and my experiences and observations of moral development. As children grow, I feel their understanding of the world around them and what is expected of them (in this case their behavior) grows, and they grasp an understanding of what is “right and wrong.” The problem with this is that morality differs so vastly amongst families, communities, religious groups, and so on, that no one seems to be able to come to a universal objective moral truth. This leads us to the next topic which is having character education programs in schools.
Character education programs in schools are “programs consisting of techniques for enhancing moral behavior” (Blume 2007). They seek to educate children on “moral values…those values that all people ‘ought’ to uphold no matter what their culture, society, or religion, such as kindness” (Blume 2007). This seems to me like it could be a beautiful thing to implement in schools, but also a difficult thing to implement in schools. Questions I have are, who is deciding what all people ‘ought’ to uphold? How would these ideas be presented and discussed? It may be up to the parents, teachers, and community to decide what kinds of behaviors and characteristics are deemed as moral and immoral. I feel like an easy solution could be integrating more emotional and social awareness in classrooms as school-age children are becoming “moral relativists” and allowing for children to discover on their own (within reason, of course) what feels right/wrong to them. I have seen examples of this, and it has led to intrinsic motivation and ultimately positive self-determination.
Blume, L. B., & Zembar, M. J. (2007). Middle childhood to middle adolescence. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson [Vital Source e-reader].
Piaget’s cognitive development theory states that children are moral realists (Blume & Zembar, 2007). This means that kids know that an intentional act is much worse than something that is done by accident (Blume & Zembar, 2007). Kohlberg, based on Piaget and his approach to development in stages, he said there are six stages of moral reasoning that we go through (Blume & Zembar, 2007). These stages start with punishment and obedience and go on to principled morality. I do believe that we can take steps in learning right from wrong and what behaviors are acceptable. Despite this, not all cultures are the same. What I believe to be morally acceptable may not be the same for someone else. I was taught to treat others how I want to be treated. When I say taught, it means I got pointed in the direction of determining how I want to behave towards others. I wasn’t born knowing I could easily hurt someones feelings. I had to learn and sometimes I had to learn the hard way.
Character education are programs that find ways of promoting moral behavior (Blume & Zembar, 2007). Moral values are the values that we should take part in no matter where we come from, our religious beliefs or the culture we are a part of (Blume & Zembar, 2007). Morality can be instilled in us from a young age, into school years and beyond. Children can be taught in stages if that is how they are able to learn.
Character education programs should be a priority. It shouldn’t just be up to a school district to implement this. Moral standards should start at home. We need to show our kids that compassion and caring for others can go a long ways. Then these things should be a part of the curriculum already set in place at schools. It doesn’t have to be a separate entity. It can be taught in every single class. Parents and teachers, together, can have a zero tolerance for any type of bullying. Parents need to be proactive in making sure their children are not victims of bullying and are not the ones being the bully. We can promote positivity by treating everyone like they matter. It shouldn’t matter where you come from, what you look like or if you are rich or poor. Teaching all of our kids to have respect for others could help in curtailing the bullying epidemic that we are faced with. Maybe it is wishful thinking to break people from learned behaviors. It may not be realistic to get all parents on board in helping their children to become good, kind and caring people. This may be due to generations of people being taught the same way and never being shown moral
Blume & Zembar (2007) Middle Childhood to Middle Adolescence Development from ages 8 to 18: Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ