Values in Conflict
VALUES IN CONFLICT
Each day as young people attend school they are bombarded with various moral messages. These messages come in many forms. These differing forms may be categorized in either of two different areas, moral instruction or moral practice (Jackson, Boostrom, and Hansen, 1993). Moral instruction refers to both formal and informal methods. Formal instruction as part of the classroom curriculum is directed and intentional. Sometimes formal moral instruction is not quite so obvious however. Rituals and ceremonies such as pep rallies, graduations, and various assemblies may all be categorized as formal moral instruction. Visual displays with moral content are
also considered as formal instruction, although they are of a more passive approach. One can not walk the hallways of a typical middle school without seeing numerous examples of posters and signs which attempt to convey some sort of moral message. Perhaps the most subtle and least recognizable form of moral instruction is the interjection of moral commentary within an ongoing activity. Public recognition for doing exceptional work is just one example of such commentary.
Moral practice methods may also be either formal or informal. The rules and regulations within the school and classroom would be considered formal forms of moral practice. A more informal method of moral practice would be the expressive morality within the classroom. Expressive morality may be conveyed either intentionally or unintentionally. Everything a teacher does, from facial expression and body language to expressing personal beliefs, can have an effect of influencing the values of an adolescent. Hence teachers should be extremely aware of this possibility.
A Gallup (1980) public survey of attitudes towards schools showed that 79% of the respondents were in favor of some form of instruction which would concentrate on morals and the development of moral behaviors. Along with academic competence, character development is the most desired goal of educators (Wynne and Wahlberg, 1985). Many states actually mandate some form of character education by law. In Nebraska, state statutes 79-214 and 79-215 specifically outline this. Despite this apparent agreement between the public and educators, as well as its legitimacy under law, the teaching of moral behavior and values runs the risk of having a negative impact on the identity formation of the adolescent when the values transmitted to them at school do not mesh with those which are learned at home. Before we can discuss the possible impact of moral
education on the values and character as they relate to the identity formation of the
adolescent, we need to try and understand what character and values are.
Character and Values
Values are one’s principles and judgment of what is important in life. “We
are expected to develop out own opinions, outlook, stances to things, to a...