Sunday, April 17, 2011

Moral support

Helping a kid with her project. She wants me to respond to a qualitative survey about the state of moral education in schools today. Q+A follows:

What is lacking in the system of instruction in the teaching of moral education in S'pore schools and how can we get around this problem?

What's lacking is a common set of standards upon which to clearly determine "right" from "wrong" in specific cases. What we do have is a vague set of general guidelines as to what kind of social behaviour can be tolerated in public, but true moral education would impart what behaviours are self-disciplined, whether in the public eye or in private, knowing and trusting that everyone else in society believes in and adheres to the same standards, likewise.

Why we lack such a clear set of common standards of moral behaviour is because we live in a pluralistic society which accepts differing interpretations and applications of moral behaviour as prescribed by the official religions and followed by their adherents. However, since we live in a secular society, these religions have no basis to enforce their brand of morality on their own adherents, let alone people who follow other faiths. Hence, our society can only enforce a general social code of behaviour which is codified in our laws and statutes that although regulate our social behaviour, do not seek to interfere with our private behaviour, and hence, there is no basis to lay down a standard moral code for all S'poreans to accept and follow.

When it comes to moral education teaching in schools -- especially in secular schools -- we cannot by definition teach moral behaviour since that is under the jurisdiction of whichever religious institution each student belongs in, we can only teach what can be considered pro-social, or socially responsible behaviour and that's as far as we can go. Although schools have no authority to prescribe any particular moral code for our students, we can get around this problem if we teach from an Authority we DO have: our legal framework which is the only standard that applies to all citizens and residents regardless of individual beliefs. That will have to be enough.

How is the teaching of moral education carried out in your school(the school you teach in)? What are the modes by which moral values are transmitted formally?

In the practical sense, 'moral' education at JC level is prescribed by topics of discussion and presented to the students in interactive sessions such as in CT period via various forms of media ranging from printed handouts, to performed morality plays ('live' or on some other form of recorded media), or by a guest speaker with some authority or expertise on the issue in question. As for the modes of transmission, direct discussion of the issues and sharing of stories and personal anecdotes tend to stimulate memory retention the best.

Do you think moral education should be taught within classrooms or are there other methods which may prove more effective?

Moral education belongs to institutions that are most concerned about moral behaviour -- religious orders. They have the backing of an omniscient being who is present and watching a person even in his or her private life, and thus can truly address a person's morally driven self-discipline. Schools can't claim that their Principals have a similar power (although there are some Principals who can be quite scary), so all we can offer is assistance and lessons in making pro-social choices (as opposed to morality which usually offers a Hobson's choice, which is no choice at all) when faced with such dilemmas in life.

1 comment:

masterofboots said...

But this is hardly a survey question! It is a search question in it's own right.