Moral behavior is expected of children before they are capable of understanding our most complete theories for it. Morality learned incorrectly can lead to two problems. The first is a disconnect between good actions and good emotions, wherein the actor can do something morally right or permissible and still feel emotional damaged as a result. The second problem is children who learn these associations backwards and attribute good emotions to bad actions. As a result of these issues we must find a way to make moral education more effective for children and foster the best possible moral development.
Psychological research into moral education shows that children develop deeper moral understanding as they get older. It also shows that emotions play a key role in developing a mature moral understanding. There are many institutions through which children can develop morality. Some of these are family, religion, sports, and schools. Each of these is a type of community whose members socialize children into their tradition and encourage certain types of behaviors and sentiments. These institutions are responsible for moral education as well as some of the problems associated therein. This paper attempts to show solutions to our moral education that can be achieved through 3 policy changes in Maine public schools.
The first policy change that needs to take place is increased ethical awareness and prerequisites for all new hires of public schools. Children learn morality implicitly by observing their role models and thus all employees of schools are teaching morality, intentionally or not. For this reason, Maine should enact minimum requirements for ethical seminars and acceptable scores on ethical exams to screen applicants for jobs in Maine public schools. The second policy change is that educators need to be aware of the power of narratives in teaching kids about ethics and use them very carefully to for moral development. The final policy is that schools need to increase the opportunities to influence kids in smaller communities through increased funding for after school activities like sports, music, and academic clubs. By applying the same standards to adults working with these programs, schools can encourage kids to become part of more communities and expose themselves to more outstanding moral role models.