Posted: October 27th, 2022

Ethics and Moral Development

Prepare: Prior to beginning work on this discussion forum, review the Week 2 required resources that focus on ethics and morals. This will assist you in examining your own development of ethical and moral responsibilities.

Read the articles:

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  • A Global Ethics for a Globalized World
  • Virtue Ethics and Modern Society
  • Classical Stoicism and the Birth of a Global Ethics: Cosmopolitan Duties in a World of Local Loyalties
  • Responsibilities of an Educated Person (https://discover.hubpages.com/education/Responsibilities-of-an-educated-person)
  • Moral Education for a Society in Moral Transition (attached.)
  • Decision Procedures for Ethics: DEAL Carrying on Without Resolution (https://www.rit.edu/~w-ethics/resources/manuals/dgae1p7.html)

Reflect: Take a deeper look at your own life and determine which experiences have inspired ethical and moral reasoning. Were there any huge influences in this process?

Write: For this discussion you will address the following prompts:

  • Explain what it means to be ethical as it relates to personal, academic, and professional growth.
  • Provide at least one ethical dilemma you have encountered, and describe how the issue was resolved.
  • Describe how your general education courses have influenced your ethical values.

Your initial post should be at least 250 words in length, which should include a thorough response to each prompt. You are required to provide in-text citations of applicable required reading materials and/or any other outside sources you use to support your claims. Provide full reference entries of all sources cited at the end of your response. Please use correct APA format when writing in-text citations (see

In-Text Citation Helper (Links to an external site.)

) and references (see

Formatting Your References List (Links to an external site.)

).

MORAL EDUCATION
FOR A SOCIETY IN

MORAL TRANSITION

LAWRENCE KOHLBERG*

IN 1969 the Association for Super
vision and Curriculum Development held a
special conference on the hidden or un
studied curriculum of the school. My friend
Philip Jackson organized the session with
papers by Friedenberg, Dreeben, Jackson,
and myself. 1 At the time I claimed Jackson’s
term, the “hidden curriculum,” referred to
the moral atmosphere of the school, and that
the function of the hidden curriculum was
moral education or perhaps miseducation. To
make the point, I took a trivial episode. My
son, then in the second grade, came home
from school one day saving, “I don’t want to
be one of the bad boys at school.” I asked,
“Who are they?” and he answered, “They are
the boys who don’t put their books away,
and they get yelled at.”

Praise, Crowds, and Power
Philip Jackson holds that the guts of the

hidden curriculum are the praise, the teach
er’s use of rewards or punishments; the
crowd or the life in a crowded group; and the
teacher’s power. Our episode of the teacher
blaming kids for not putting their books
away is the natural exercise of teacher
power, the natural use of praise or blame in

1 Norman V. Overly, editor. The Unstudied
Curriculum: Its Impact on Children. Washington,
D.C.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development, 1970. 130 pp.

“Why are decisions based on universal
principles of justice better decisions?
Because they are decisions on which all
moral people could agree…. Truly moral or
just resolutions of conflicts require principles
which are, or can be, universally applicable.”

a crowded setting where order is a necessary
preoccupation. To the teacher it is not moral
education, it is a natural reaction to the
classroom situation. To my son, however, it
was moral education or miseducation. It
defined the good boys and the bad. That is
what I meant by claiming that the school or
teacher’s methods of classroom management,
the unstudied or hidden curriculum, should
be approached from a theory of moral edu
cation. This implies that not only did we
need to study the hidden curriculum, but to
take a moral position on it.

In 1969, Philip Jackson and Robert
Dreeben reported their excellent studies of
the hidden curriculum, done as value-neutral
scientists. I said their sociological view of
the functions of the hidden curriculum was
not really value-neutral, it was conservative.
In the Jackson and Dreeben view, the hidden
curriculum served the function of socializing

* Lawrence Kohlberg, Professor of Education
and Social Psychology, Harvard University,
Cambridge, Massachusetts

46 Educational Leadership

the student into the norms of the American
competitive bureaucratic industrial society.
Our example of putting books away, from
their point of view, would be said to aid the
child to adapt to a bureaucratic society of
crowds, praise, and power at office and fac
tory. Edgar Friedenberg, the radical, im
plicitly showed that Jackson and Dreeben
were not really value-neutral by taking Jack
son’s ideas and turning them upside down.
The function of the hidden curriculum,
Friedenberg stated, was to wipe out indi
viduality and impose the conformity and the
banal values of mass bureaucratic society on
the young.

Having rejected the possibility of value-
neutrality, in 1969 I stated my own value
viewpoint on the hidden curriculum. My
viewpoint was neither radical nor conserva
tive but progressive in John Dewey’s sense.
The conservative thinks that the hidden
curriculum of the bureaucratic academic
achievement school is good, it helps the stu
dent to adapt to a bureaucratic academic
oriented society. The radical thinks it bad,
it stamps out individuality and sensitivity.
“Close down the academic achievement
bureaucractic schools,” say the Friedenbergs,
“and start alternative open schools.” To me,
neither the conservative nor the radical had
understood John Dewey’s progressive view
point, or they would have taken Dewey’s
third position.

According to Dewey, the progressive
educator identifies true progress with devel
opment, the child’s development and the
development of society. If we are to evolve
or progress, we must know what progress or
development is. The development of the
child, the child’s standard of progress, is
something studied by the child psychologist.
We shall show that some of his or her con
clusions are relevant to judging the progress
of the society. In this light we will look to
Watergate. The standard of progress for the
child or the society is not a standard that can
be purely scientific, however. Ultimately, the
standard for the development of the indi
vidual or the society is to a higher level of
moral awareness and action. The funda
mental way in which education helps social

progress is through aiding the moral devel
opment of the individual and the society.

Here is how Dewey stated it:

The aim of education is growth or develop
ment, both intellectual and moral. Ethical and
psychological principles can aid the school in
the greatest of all constructions the building
of a free and powerful character. Only knowl
edge of the order and connection of the stages
in psychological development can insure this.
Education is the work of supplying the condi
tions which will enable the psychological func
tions to mature in the freest and fullest manner. 2

Dewey and Tufts postulated three levels
of moral development which are: (a)
the premoral or preconventional level “of
behavior motivated by biological and social
impulses with results for morals,” (b) the
conventional level of behavior “in which the
individual accepts with little critical reflec
tions the standards of his group,” (c) the
autonomous level of behavior in which
“conduct is guided by the individual thinking
and judging for himself whether a purpose
is good, and does not accept the standard of
his group without reflection.”

Movement Through Moral Levels
Education, said Dewey, is to aid devel

opment through these moral levels, not by
indoctrination but by supplying the condi
tions for movement from stage to stage.
Dewey’s conception of education as move
ment through moral levels makes it clear
that the individual is not born at the autono
mous or self-directing level. Romantics like
Friedenberg or A. S. Neill see children as
born individual, creative, empathic, and as
crushed or limited by school and society.
Autonomy, however, is not born, it develops;
the autonomous level comes after the con
ventional. Autonomy will not develop
through an education of “do your thing,”
but through educational stimulation which
leads first to the level of understanding the
standard of the group and then to autonomy,

2 John Dewey. “What Psychology Can Do for
the Teacher.” In: Reginald Archambault, editor.
John Dewey on Education: Selected Writings. New
York: Random House, Inc., 1964.

October 1975 47

to constructing standards held through re
flection and self-judgment.

Here, let me discuss what I could only
theorize about in 1968, how to make a
school’s hidden curriculum good, that is, how
to make it a vehicle for stimulating moral
development. For the past six months I have
been working with a new small school within
the Cambridge, Massachusetts, public high
school whose unstudied curriculum is democ
racy, and whose purpose is moral as well as
intellectual advance. The school, officially
called the Cluster School, we call a Just
Community school. To explain its working
requires a trip through moral psychology and
philosophy and a review of 20 years of re
search I have done on moral development.

The research started with the concept of
moral stage. In 1955, I started to redefine
and validate (through longitudinal and cross-
cultural study) the Dewey-Piaget levels and
stages. I found two stages at each of Dewey’s
three levels. For instance, at Dewey’s pre-
conventional level there was a Stage 1 of
punishment and obedience and a Stage 2 of
instrumental exchange.

We claim to have not only found but
validated the stages defined in Table 1. The
notion that stages can be validated implies
that stages have definite empirical or re-
searchable characteristics (Kohlberg, 1975,
in press). The concept of stages (as used by
Piaget, 1948, and the writer) implies the fol
lowing characteristics:

1. Stages are “structured wholes,” or
organized systems of thought. This means in
dividuals are consistent in level of moral judg
ment.

2. Stages form an invariant sequence.
Under all conditions except extreme trauma,
movement is always forward, never backward.
Individuals never skip stages, movement is
always to the next stage up. This is true in all
cultures.

3. Stages are “hierarchical integrations.”
Thinking at a higher stage includes or compre
hends within it lower stage thinking. There is
a tendency to function at or prefer the highest
stage available.

Each of these characteristics has been
demonstrated for moral stages. Stages are

defined by responses to a set of verbal moral
dilemmas classified according to an elaborate
scoring scheme. Validating studies include:

a. A 20-year study of 50 Chicago area
boys, middle- and working class. Initially inter
viewed at ages 10-16, they have been reinter-
viewed at three-year intervals thereafter.

b. A small six-year longitudinal study of
Turkish village and city boys of the same age.

c. A variety of cross-sectional longitudinal
studies in Canada, Britain, Israel, Turkey,
Taiwan, Yucatan, Honduras, and India.

With regard to 1., the structured whole
or consistency criterion, we have found more
than 50 percent of an individual’s thinking
is always at one stage with the remainder at
the next adjacent stage (which he or she is
leaving or is moving into).

With regard to 2., invariant sequence,
our longitudinal results indicate that on
every retest individuals were either at
the same stage as three years earlier or
had moved up one stage. This was true in
Turkey as well as in the United States.

With regard to 3., the hierarchical in
tegration criterion, we have found that:
adolescents exposed to statements at each of
the six stages comprehend all statements at
or below their own stage but fail to compre
hend any statements more than one stage
above their own. They prefer (or rank as
best) the highest stage they can comprehend.

To understand moral stages it is impor
tant to clarify their relations to stage of logic
or intelligence on the one hand, and to moral
behavior on the other. Mature moral judg
ment is not highly correlated with I.Q. or
verbal intelligence (correlations are only in
the 30’s, accounting for 10 percent of the
variance). Cognitive development, in the
stage sense, however, is more important for
moral development than such correlations
suggest. Piaget has found that after the child
learns to speak there are three major stages
of reasoning: the intuitive, the concrete
operational, and the formal operational. A
person whose logical stage is only concrete-
operational is limited to the preconventional
moral stages (Stages 1 and 2). A person
whose logical stage is only partially formal

48 Educational Leadership

I. Preconventlonal level *
At this level the child is responsive to cultural

rules and labels of good and bad, right or wrong, but
interprets these labels either in terms of the physical
or the hedonistic consequences of action (punishment,
reward, exchange of favors) or in terms of the physical
power of those who enunciate the rules and labels. The
level is divided into the following two stages:

Stage 1: The punishment-and-obedience orienta
tion. The physical consequences of action determine
its goodness or badness regardless of the human mean
ing or value of these consequences. Avoidance of
punishment and unquestioning deference to power are
valued in their own right, not in terms of respect for an
underlying moral order supported by punishment and
authority (the latter being stage 4).

Stage 2: The instrumental-relativist orientation.
Right action consists of that which instrumentally satis
fies one’s own needs and occasionally the needs of
others. Human relations are viewed in terms like those
of the market place. Elements of fairness, of reci
procity, and of equal sharing are present, but they are
always interpreted in a physical pragmatic way. Reci
procity is a matter of “you scratch my back and I’ll
scratch yours,” not of loyalty, gratitude, or justice.

II. Conventional level
At this level, maintaining the expectations of the

individual’s family, group, or nation is perceived as
valuable in its own right, regardless of immediate and
obvious consequences. The attitude is not only one
of conformity to personal expectations and social order,
but of loyalty to it, of actively maintaining, s upporting,
and justifying the order, and of identifying with the
persons or group involved in it. At this level, there are
the following two stages:

Stage 3: The interpersonal concordance or “good
boy—nice girl” orientation. Good behavior is that
which pleases or helps others and is approved by them.
There is much conformity to stereotypical images of

‘Reprinted from: Lawrence Kohlberg. “The
Claim to Moral Adequacy of a Highest Stage of Moral
Judgment.” The Journal of Philosophy 70 (18): 631-32;
October 25, 1973.

what is majority or “natural” behavior. Behavior is
frequently judged by intention—”he means well” be
comes important for the first time. One earns approval
by being “nice.”

Stage 4: The “law and order” orientation. There
is orientation toward authority, fixed rules, and the
maintenance of the social order. Right behavior con
sists of doing one’s duty, showing respect for authority,
and maintaining the given social order for its own sake.

III. Postconventional, autonomous, or principled level
At this level, there is a clear effort to define moral

values and principles that have validity and application
apart from the authority of the groups or persons hold
ing these principles and apart from the individual’s own
identification with these groups. This level again has
two stages:

Stage 5: The social contract, legalistic orientation.
generally with utilitarian overtones. Right action tends
to be defined in terms of general individual rights, and
standards which have been critically examined and
agreed upon by the whole society. There is a clear
awareness of the relativism of personal values and
opinions and a corresponding emphasis upon proce
dural rules for reaching consensus. Aside from what
is constitutionally and democratically agreed upon, the
right is a matter of personal “values” and “opinion.”
The result is an emphasis upon the “legal point of
view,” but with an emphasis upon the possibility of
changing law in terms of rational considerations of
social utility (rather than freezing it in terms of stage 4
“law and order”). Outside the legal realm, free agree
ment and contract is the binding element of obligation.
This is the “official” morality of the American govern
ment and constitution.

Stage 6: The universal-ethical-principle orienta
tion. Right is defined by the decision of conscience in
accord with self-chosen ethical principles appealing to
logical comprehensiveness, universality, and consis
tency. These principles are abstract and ethical (the
Golden Rule, the categorical imperative); they are not
concrete moral rules like the Ten Commandments. At
heart, these are universal principles of justice, of the
reciprocity and equality of human rights, and of respect
for the dignity of human beings as individual persons
(“From Is to Ought,” pp. 164-65).

Table 1. Definition of Moral Stages

operational is limited to the conventional
moral stages (Stage 3). While logical devel
opment is necessary for moral development
and sets limits to it, most individuals are
higher in logical stage than they are in moral
stage. As an example, over 50 percent of
late adolescents and adults are capable of
full formal reasoning but only 10 percent of
these adults (all formal operational) display
principled (Stages 5 and 6) moral reasoning.

In summary, moral development partly
depends upon the intellectual development
which is the school’s first concern, but

usually lags behind it. If logical reasoning is
a necessary but not sufficient condition for
mature moral judgment, mature moral judg
ment is a necessary but not sufficient condi
tion for mature moral action. On,e cannot
follow moral principles if one does not
understand (or believe in) moral principles.
However, one can reason in terms of prin
ciples and not live up to these principles. As
an example, Krebs and Kohlberg (1974)
found that only 15 percent of students show
ing some principled thinking cheated as com
pared to 55 percent of conventional subjects

October 1975 49

and 70 percent of preconventional subjects.
Thus, mature moral judgment predicts moral
action. Nevertheless, 15 percent of the prin
cipled subjects did cheat, suggesting that
factors additional to moral judgment are
necessary for principled moral reasoning to
be translated into “moral action.”

If maturity of moral reasoning is only
one factor to moral behavior, why does the
progressive approach to moral education
focus so heavily upon moral reasoning? For
the following reasons:

1. Moral judgment, while only one factor
in moral behavior, is the single most important
or influential factor yet discovered in moral
behavior.

2. While other factors influence moral
behavior, moral judgment is the only distinc
tively moral factor in moral behavior. To illus
trate, the Krebs and Kohlberg study indicated
that “strong-willed” conventional stage subjects
resisted cheating more than “weak-willed” sub
jects, only 26 percent of strong-willed subjects
cheated as compared to 76 percent of the weak-
willed. For those at a preconventional level of
moral reasoning, however, “will” had an oppo
site effect. “Strong-willed” Stages 1 and 2 sub
jects cheated more, not less than “weak-willed”
subjects, that is, they had the “courage of their
(amoral) convictions” that it was worthwhile
to cheat. “Will,” then, is an important factor in
moral behavior but it is not distinctively moral,
it becomes moral only when informed by mature
moral judgment.

3. Moral judgment change is long-range
or irreversible, a higher stage is never lost. In
contrast, moral behavior as such is largely
situational and reversible or “loseable” in new
situations.

Psychology finds an invariant sequence
of moral stages. Moral philosophy, however,
must be invoked to answer whether a later
stage is a better stage. The “stage” of
senescence and death follows the “stage of
adulthood,” but that does not mean that the
later “stage” is the better. The tradition of
moral philosophy to which we appeal is the
liberal or rational tradition running from
Kant through Mill and Dewey to John Rawls
(1971). Central to this tradition Is the claim
that an adequate morality is principled, that
is, that it makes judgments in terms of uni

versal principles applicable to all people.
Principles are to be distinguished from rules.
Conventional morality is grounded on rules,
primarily “thou shall nots” such as are repre
sented by the Ten Commandments. Rules are
prescriptions of kinds of actions; principles
are, rather, universal guides to making a
moral decision. An example is Kant’s “cate
gorical imperative,” formulated in two ways.
The first formulation is the maxim of respect
for human personality, “Act always toward
the other as an end, not a means.” The
second is the maxim of universalization,
“Choose only as you would be willing to have
everyone choose in your situation.”

Furthermore, moral principles are ulti
mately principles of justice. In essence,
moral conflicts are conflicts between the
claims of persons and principles for resolving
these claims are principles of justice, “for
giving each his due.” Central to justice are
the demands of liberty, equality, and reci
procity. At every moral stage there is a
concern for justice. The most damning state
ment a school child can make about a teacher
is that the teacher is not “fair.” At each
higher stage, however, the conception of
justice is reorganized. At Stage 1, justice is
punishing the bad in terms of “an eye for
an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” At Stage 2,
it is exchanging favors and goods in an equal
manner. At Stages 3 and 4, it is treating
people as they “deserve” in terms of the con
ventional rules. At Stage 5, it is recognized
that all rules and laws flow from justice,
from a social contract between the governors
and the governed designed to protect the
equal rights of all. At Stage 6, personally
chosen moral principles are also principles
of justice, the principles any member of a
society would choose for that society if the
person did not know what his or her position
was to be in the society and in which he or
she might be the least advantaged (Rawls,
1971).

Why are decisions based on universal
principles of justice better decisions? Be
cause they are decisions on which all moral
people could agree. When decisions are
based on conventional moral rules people
will disagree, since they adhere to conflicting

50 Educational Leadership

systems of rules dependent on culture and
social position. Throughout history people
have killed one another in the name of con
flicting moral rules and values, most recently
in Vietnam and the Middle East. Truly moral
or just resolutions of conflicts require prin
ciples which are, or can be, universally
applicable.

A Concern for Moral Education
If moral development centers on a sense

of individual justice, it becomes apparent
that moral and civic education are much the
same thing. This equation, taken for granted
by the classic philosophers of education from
Plato and Aristotle to Dewey, is basic to
our claim that a concern for moral education
is central to the educational objectives of
social studies.

The term “civic education” is used to
refer to social studies as more than the study
of the facts and concepts of social science,
history, and civics. It is education for the
analytic understanding, value principles, and
motivation necessary for a citizen in a
democracy if democracy is to be an effective
process. To understand and be democratic
is to understand and practice justice. It is
political education. Civic or political educa
tion means the stimulation of development of
more advanced patterns of reasoning about
political and social decisions and their im
plementation. These are largely patterns of
moral reasoning. Our studies show that
reasoning and decision making about politi
cal decisions are directly derivative of broader
patterns of moral reasoning and decision
making. We have interviewed high school
and college students about concrete political
situations involving laws about open housing,
civil disobedience for peace in Vietnam, free
press rights to publish what might disturb
national order, distribution of income through
taxation. We find that reasoning on these
political decisions can be classified according
to moral stage and that an individual’s stage
on political dilemmas is at the same level as
on nonpolitical moral dilemmas.

From a psychological side, then, politi
cal development is part of moral develop

ment. The same is true from the philosophic
side. In historical perspective, America was
the first nation whose government was pub
licly founded on post-conventional principles
of justice and the rights of human beings,
rather than upon the authority central to
conventional moral reasoning. At the time
of our founding, post-conventional or prin
cipled moral and political reasoning was the
possession of the minority, as it still is. Today,
as in the time of our founding, the majority
of our adults are at the conventional level,
particularly the law-and-order fourth moral
stage. (Every few years the Gallup Poll cir
culates the Bill of Rights unidentified and
each time it is turned down.) The founders
of our nation intuitively understood this
without benefit of our elaborate social re
search and constructed a document designing
a government which would maintain prin
ciples of justice and the rights of all even
though principled people were not those in
power. The machinery included checks and
balances, the independent judiciary, freedom
of the press. Most recently, this machinery
found its use at Watergate. The tragedy of
Richard Nixon, as Harry Truman said long
ago, was that he never understood the Con
stitution, a Stage 5 document, but the Consti
tution understood Richard Nixon.3

From Conventional to Principled
Morality

Watergate, then, is not some sign of
moral decay of the nation, but rather, of the
fact that understanding and action in sup
port of justice principles is still the possession
of a minority of our society. Insofar as there
is moral decay today, it represents the weak
ening of conventional morality in the face of
social and value conflict. This can lead the
less fortunate adolescent to fixation at the
preconventional level, the more fortunate to
movement to principles. Watergate, then, I

3 No public or private word or deed of Nixon
ever rose above Stage 4, the law-and-order stage.
His last comments in the White House were of
wonderment that the Republican Congress could
turn on him after so many Stage 2 exchanges of
favors in getting them elected.

October 1975 51

see as part of the slow movement of society
from the conventional to the morally prin
cipled level. I will argue that our society has
been in this transition zone for the 200 years
since its founding. In the lives of youths I
have studied, the transition from conven
tional to principled morality usually takes
10 years. In the life of a nation, a bicenten
nial would not be long. I shall claim our
schools for 200 years have been essentially
Stage 4 law, order, and authority stage insti
tutions though our Constitutional govern
ment aspires to the Stage 5 social contract
democracy and the human rights.

In the high school today, one often hears
both preconventional adolescents and those
moving beyond convention sounding the
same note of disaffection for the traditional
school. This is partly because our schools
have traditionally been Stage 4 institutions
of convention and authority. Today more
than ever democratic schools systematically
engaged in civic and moral education are
required. Our approach to moral education
starts with the cognitive-developmental
theory as to how moral progress is made.
The theory suggests that the conditions for
moral development in homes and schools are
similar, and very different from the psycho
analytic and Skinnerian or learning theory
views of the conditions for moral de
velopment. According to the cognitive-
developmental theory, morality is a natural
product of a universal human tendency
toward empathy or role-taking, toward put
ting oneself in the shoes of other conscious
beings. It is also a product of a universal
human concern for justice, for reciprocity or
equality in the relation of one person to
another.

As an example, when my son was four
he became a morally principled vegetarian
and refused to eat meat, resisting all parental
efforts of persuasion to increase his protein
intake. His reason was, ‘It’s bad to kill ani
mals.” His moral commitment to vegetarian
ism was not taught or acquired from parental
authority, it was the result of the universal
tendency of the child to project his con
sciousness and values into other living things,
other selves. My son’s vegetarianism also

involved a sense of justice, revealed when I
read him a book about Eskimos in which a
seal hunting expedition was described. His
response was to say, “Daddy, there is one
kind of meat I would eat, Eskimo meat. It’s
all right to eat Eskimos because they eat
animals.” This natural sense of justice or
reciprocity was Stage 1, an eye for an eye,
a tooth for a tooth. His sense of the value
of life was also Stage 1 and involved no
differentiation between human personality
and physical life. His morality, though
Stage 1, was, however, natural and internal.

Moral development past Stage 1, then,
is not an internalization, but the reconstruc
tion of tendencies to role-take and concep
tions of justice toward greater adequacy.
These reconstructions occur in order to
achieve a better match between the child’s
own moral structures and the structures of
the social and moral situations he or she
confronts. We divide these conditions into
two kinds, those dealing with moral discus
sion and communication and those dealing
with the total moral environment or at
mosphere in which the child lives.

In terms of moral discussion, the im
portant conditions appear to be:

1. Exposure to the next stage of reasoning
up

2. Exposure to situations posing problems
and contradictions for the child’s current moral
structure, leading to dissatisfaction with his or
her current level

3. An atmosphere of interchange and dia
logue in which the first two conditions obtain,
in which conflicting moral views are compared
in an open manner.

Drawing on this notion of the condi
tions stimulating advance, Blatt (Blatt and
Kohlberg, 1974) conducted classroom dis
cussions and conflict-laden hypothetical
moral dilemmas with four classes of junior
high and high school students for a semester.
In each of these classes, students were to be
found at three stages. Since the children
were not all responding at the same stage,
the arguments they used with each other
were at different levels. In the course of
these discussions among the students, the
teacher first supported and clarified those

52 Educational Leadership

arguments that were one stage above the
lowest stage among the children (for ex
ample, the teacher supported Stage 3 rather
than Stage 2). When it seemed that these
arguments were understood by the students,
the teacher then challenged that stage, using
new situations, and clarified the arguments
one stage above the previous one (Stage 4
rather than Stage 3). At the end of the
semester, all the students were retested; they
showed significant upward change as com
pared to the controls, and maintained the
change one year later. In the various experi
mental classrooms from one-fourth to one-
half of the students moved up a stage, while
there was essentially no change during the
course of the experiment in the control group.

Given the Blatt studies showing that
moral discussion could raise moral stage, we
undertook the next step, to see if teachers
could conduct moral discussions in the course
of teaching high school social studies with
the same results. This step we took in coop
eration with Edwin Fenton, who introduced
moral dilemmas in his ninth and eleventh
grade social studies texts. Twenty-four
teachers in the Boston and Pittsburgh areas
were given some instruction in conducting
moral discussions around the dilemmas and
the text. About half of the teachers stimu
lated significant developmental change in
their classrooms, their discussions leading to
upward stage movement on one-quarter to
one-half a stage. In control classes using the
text but no moral dilemma discussions, the
same teachers failed to stimulate any moral
change in the students. Moral discussion,
then, can be a useable and effective part of
the curriculum at any grade level. Working
with filmstrip dilemmas produced in coopera
tion with Guidance Associates, second grade
teachers conducted moral discussions yield
ing a similar amount of moral stage move
ment. We also have achieved similar results
at the Harvard undergraduate level.

Moral discussion and curriculum, how
ever, is only one portion of the conditions
stimulating moral growth. When we turn to
analyzing the broader life environment, we
turn to a consideration of the moral atmo
sphere of the home, the school, and the

broader society, what we earlier called the
hidden curriculum. Central to this atmo
sphere is, first, the role-taking opportunities
it provides, the extent to which it encourages
the child to take the point of view of others.
The second related condition is the level of
justice of the environment or institution. The
justice structure of an institution refers to
the perceived rules or principles for dis
tributing rewards, punishments, responsibili
ties, and privileges among the members of an
institution. As an example, a study of a
traditional prison revealed that inmates per
ceived it as Stage 1 regardless of their own
level (Kohlberg, Scharf, and Hickey, 1972).
Obedience to arbitrary command by power
figures and punishment for disobedience
were seen as the governing justice norms of
the prison. A behavior-modification prison
using point rewards for conformity was per
ceived as a Stage 2 system of instrumental
exchange. Inmates at Stage 3 or 4 perceived
this institution as more fair than the tradi
tional prison, but not as really fair in their.
Stage 3 terms. These and other studies sug
gest that a higher level of justice in an
environment stimulates development to a
higher stage of a sense of justice.

A “Just Community” High School
One year ago Ted Fenton, Ralph Mosher,

and myself received a three-year grant from
the Danforth Foundation to make r.ioral edu
cation a living matter in two high schools
in the Boston area (Cambridge and Brook-
line) and two in Pittsburgh. The plan had
two components. The first was the intellec
tual or official curriculum. It involved train
ing social studies, English, and counseling
staff in conducting classroom moral discus
sions and making moral discussion an inte
grated part of the curriculum. The second
was addressed to the unstudied curriculum.
Its focus was establishing a just community
school within a public high school.

The theory of the just community high
school postulated a participatory democracy
stressing solving school issues in a commu
nity meeting through moral discussion
process. It assumes that treating real-life

October 1975 53

moral situations and actions as issues of fair
ness and as matters for democratic decision
would stimulate advance in both moral rea
soning and moral action. A participatory
democracy provides more extensive oppor
tunities for role-taking and a higher level of
perceived institutional justice than does any
other social arrangement. Most alternative
schools strive to establish a democratic gov
ernance, but none we have observed has
achieved a vital or viable participatory
democracy.

Our theory suggested reasons why we
might succeed where others failed. First, we
felt participatory democracy had failed be
cause it was not a central commitment of a
school, rather, it was a humanitarian frill.
Democracy as moral education provides that
commitment. Second, democracy in alterna
tive schools often failed because it bored the
students. Students preferred to let teachers
make decisions about staff, courses, sched
ules, than to attend lengthy complicated
meetings. Our theory said that the issues a
democracy should focus on were issues of
morality and fairness. Real issues concerning
drugs, stealing, causing disturbances, grad
ing, are never boring if handled as issues of
fairness. Such moral issues are often evaded
in alternative schools because of the per
vasive “do your thing” ideology. Third, our
theory suggested that if democratic decision-
making meetings were preceded by small-
group moral discussion, higher stage thinking
by students would win out in town meeting
decisions, avoiding the disasters of mob rule.

Our Cambridge just community school
started with a small summer planning ses

sion of volunteer teachers, students, and
parents. At the time the school opened in the
fall, a commitment to democracy and a
skeleton program of English and social stud
ies for the half day given over to the new
school had been decided on. The school
started with six teachers from the regular
school and 60 students. One-third were from
academic/professional homes, one-third from
working-class homes, one-third were drop-
outs and troublemakers in terms of previous
record. The usual mistakes and usual chaos
of a beginning alternative school ensued.
Within a few weeks, however, a successful
democratic community process had been
established. Rules were made around press
ing issues, disturbances, drugs, hooking. A
rotating student discipline committee or jury
was set up. Our democratic system of rules
and enforcement has been relatively effective
and reasonable but we do not see fairness or
reasonableness as an end in itself. Rather,
the democratic process is a vehicle for moral
discussion and the cause of an emerging
sense of community.

Our successes in these ends can be docu
mented as yet only by anecdotes. An example
is Greg, who started in the fall as the greatest
paragon of humor, aggression, light-fingered-
ness, and inability to sit still known to this
writer. From being the principal disturber of
all community meetings, Greg has become an
excellent community meeting participant and
chairman. While ahead in his willingness to
enforce rules on others rather than to observe
them himself, Greg’s commitment to the
school has led to a steady decrease in his
exotic behavior.

References
Moshe Blatt and Lawrence Kohlberg. “Effects

of Classroom Discussions upon Children’s Level of
Moral Judgment.” In: Lawrence Kohlberg, editor.
Recent Research, 1 974.

Lawrence Kohlberg. “Moral Stages and Morali-
zation: The Cognitive-Developmental Approach.”
In: Thomas Lickona, editor. Man, Morality, and
Society. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston,
in press.

Lawrence Kohlberg, Peter Scharf, and Joseph
Hickey. “The Justice Structure of the Prison: A

Theory and an Intervention.” The Prison Journal,
Autumn-Winter, 1972.

Richard Krebs and Lawrence Kohlberg. “Moral
Judgment and Ego Controls as Determinants of
Resistance to Cheating.” In: Lawrence Kohlberg,
editor. Recent Research, 1 974.

Jean Piaget. The Moral Judgment of the
Child. Glencoe, IlUnois: The Free Press, 1948.

John Rawls. A Theory of Justice. C ambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1971. Q

54 Educational Leadership

Copyright © 1975 by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development. All rights reserved.

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