Lawrence Kohlberg’s Concept of Moral EducationJune 27, 2021
Kohlberg’s approach to moral education is not entirely original, it contains some old and new theories.
Besides, it is not static. Over the years, Kohlberg has changed his theory and enriched it with new and practical insights. A distinctive feature of Kohlberg is that, as a modern moral educator, he does not only refer to thinkers like Freud, Skinner or Piaget with whom he is closest, as his contemporaries do; it refers to an ancient thinker, Plato, who questioned what the ideal form of the good is. He also said, “As a result of my studies on the adaptation of moral development steps to moral education, I realized that Plato’s belief in the power of rational good should be reasserted.” explains in words. Therefore, Kohlberg’s educational views are basically based on Plato’s views on the nature of virtue. According to this understanding; Virtue is one and always in the same ideal form, regardless of climate or culture. The name of this ideal form is justice.
Virtue is not only “good”; It is also the knowledge of the “good”. He who knows the good chooses the good. The kind of knowledge of the good that is virtue is not the acceptance of a true idea or traditional beliefs; it is either a philosophical knowledge or an intuition of the ideal form of the good. So well, it can be taught. But his teachers must be to some degree philosophers. The reason the good is teachable is because we know it very vaguely or to a small extent. The reason for our thought that the good cannot be taught is that the same “good” can be known differently at different levels, and therefore an education suitable for all levels is not possible. To teach virtue, then, is to ask questions but point the way without giving answers. Moral education is not instilling new knowledge into the mind; to push the person forward.
Kohlberg was influenced by the views of John Dewey, one of the thinkers close to him. He states that Dewey is “the only modern thinker whose views on education are worth noting” and characterizes his own educational efforts as “reconstructing Dewey’s views”. However, Kohlberg states that Dewey’s views have not been given enough attention in America until him:
“Dewey stated that education should provide the development of moral reasoning steps. However, American educational psychology ignored Dewey’s view for 70 years and instead adopted Edward Lee Thorndike’s approach. According to this approach, moral education is culturally accepted. Dewey tradition, which is an alternative to Thorndike’s approach, first got rich in Switzerland with Piaget and then came to America. Finally, for the last 10 years, I have been continuing Dewey’s cognitive developmental tradition again in America. ”
Dewey’s views, in fact, were first placed on a richer logical and empirical ground in the field of psychology with Piaget. However, American psychology was also very critical of Piaget’s research style and avoided giving due importance to Piaget’s work for a long time. In later times, some American psychologists tried to reconsider Piaget’s discoveries with their own methods. As Piaget’s work gradually became known in America, Kohlberg, following Piaget, tried to embody Dewey’s educational views, which were full of broad philosophical terms, and to apply them in high school programs with his colleagues. Therefore, the common ground of the cognitive-developmental moral education approach developed by Piaget and later by Kohlberg is that it is based on Dewey’s traditional and reflective moral understanding.
Kohlberg developed it by adopting three basic views of Dewey in his studies in the field of education. These are: Dewey’s support for developmental psychology; they think that moral education should be planned in a way that encourages step development and that the school experience should represent real life.
Kohlberg’s perspective on education, especially the just society, was largely shaped by his readings from Durkheim and the collective education systems of Israeli kibbutzim. While examining the kibbutz’s school systems, Kohlberg noticed another element in addition to moral education programs. This was something that the Harvard Graduate School of Education, which he was responsible for running in America, did not have: the active participation of students in community life. This participation is not just about doing activities for the community; it also entailed being responsible for the collective actions of the community. As a result, Kohlberg’s dialogues with the educational leader of the kibbutzim, as well as his own work and observations, fascinated him so much that the kibbutzim served as an important model for him in all his other works to create a just society. For this reason, Kohlberg attached great importance to Israel and went to Israel in 1969,