I read parts of a book called Kids of Character by David M. Shumaker and Robert V. Heckel. The book is all about the moral development of children, which relates directly to my paper which will deal with the contemporary education of morality in children, the issues we face, and some possible solutions. In particular I believe that we currently teach young children using fables and stories from which can be extracted laws such as “don’t lie” and “don’t cause others harm,” but I believe these rules break down in complex situations and adults, while capable of understanding advance ethical theories, still have emotional ties to the early childhood rules.
In particular I read a chapter of this book about the role of schools in character development. Character development, or any form of ethical education, isn’t typical for most American high schools and yet the authors argue that schools have a role to play nonetheless. They claim that just by virtue of being a community, school have the ability to socialize children into certain ways of ethical reasoning. The authors claim “students… will be feverishly searching for signs of duplicity and hypocrisy in their teachers so as to facilitate the rationalization process that comes with making suboptimal moral choices” (pg 114). In other words, when students perceive their teachers to act inconsistently, they use that as rationale for their own moral shortcomings. I thought this was an interesting point and I have to admit I can imagine children justifying their immoral actions on the grounds that others were doing so, or at least behaving equally inconsistent in their beliefs and actions.
There is also a chapter about the role of sports in character development and it lists 12 positive character traits, or virtues, that can be acquired from sports. The book then goes on to discuss the problems associated with moral development arising from sports. The book highlights issues arising surrounding parents, coaches, fans, leagues and conferences, and school and colleges. Essentially the conclusion is that the moral value of sports has more to do with the people and organizations influencing them, than the underlying activity of the sport itself.
I thought this book was very interesting and provided issues realted to moral development that I had not thought of. The only thing I felt it lacked (perhaps it was better in the parts I didn’t read) was concrete examples of the ideas expressed.