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Moral Development: A historical perspective

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1 Moral Development: A historical perspective
Lawrence Kohlberg’s Theory

2 The good, the bad Good Focused on morality as an important area of human development Developed a system (moral dilemmas) for measuring reasoning Bad Has definite race, class and gender bias. We had a hard time accepting that middle-class Caucasian males were the most ethical folks on earth Moral reasoning does not predict moral behavior well

3 Okay, now that we got that out of our system!

4 Why study Kohlberg’s theory?
It provides a useful way to analyze our own moral reasoning. How do we decide what is right? It is true that knowing what is right and doing what is right are two very different things, but we believe that if thinking ethically comes first then acting ethically may follow.

5 Harvard psychologist, Lawrence Kohlberg, was one of the first people to seriously study whether or not an older person has the capabilities to learn ethical behavior later on in life. He found the ability to think morally develops in levels and stages.

6 Kohlberg’s Levels Pre-conventional Level Conventional Level
Post-Conventional, Autonomous, or Principled Level

7 Each level has two stages

8 Pre-conventional Level
The first level develops at a very young age. Kohlberg called this stage the pre-conventional level. At this level a person’s view of right and wrong is usually influenced by their family, mainly their parents and older siblings, and the consequences attached to their behavior. If one of these authority figures is morally and ethically corrupt, there is a good chance the child will be to. Right or wrong is identified in terms of what results in rewards and punishments. Some people stay at this level all their lives. The individuals who stay at this level often refuse to believe his/her family member did something wrong, even when the evidence is overwhelming. Parents will defend children, individuals will defend siblings, wife's/ husbands will defend their spouse and children will defend their parent’s unethical behavior. We can think of many examples of this on the reservation.

9 Pre-conventional Level
Stage 0: Egocentric Judgment “The child makes judgments of good on the basis of what he likes and wants or what helps him, and bad on the basis of what he does not like or what hurts him. He has no concept of rules or of obligations to obey or conform independent of his wish.” (Kohlberg, 1971)

10 Pre-conventional Level
Stage 1: The Punishment and Obedience Orientation. The physical consequences of action determine its goodness or badness regardless of the human meaning or value of these consequences. Avoidance of punishment and unquestioning deference to power are values in their own right, not in terms of respect for an underlying moral order supported by punishment and authority (the latter is stage 4).

11 Pre-conventional Level
Stage 2: The Instrumental Relativist Orientation. Right action consists of what instrumentally satisfies one’s own needs and occasionallythe needs of others. Human relations are viewed in terms such as those of the market place. Elements of fairness, reciprocity, and equal sharing are present, but they are always interpreted in a physical, pragmatic way. Reciprocity is a matter of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch your”, not loyalty, gratitude, or justice. (Kohlberg, 1971)

12 Conventional Level Kohlberg calls the second level of moral development the conventional level. Young people have internalized the ethical and moral beliefs of their family and the group they associate with. Kohlberg says this is because of loyalty to these groups. Young people at this stage will often say, “my dad said…” (family) or, “all my friends are doing it” (society) or, “I plan to join the army to defend my country” (patriotic). Many people remain at this level, continuing to define right and wrong in terms of what society believes or what laws require.

13 Conventional Level Children raised in a society where the parents missed work on a weekly basis, where the ones who did work falsified time sheets, where leaders were known to help only their friends and relatives, out of loyalty these children are more than likely to develop these same values.

14 Conventional Level Stage 3: The Interpersonal Concordance or “Good Boy” “Good behavior is what pleases or helps others and is approved by them. There is much conformity to stereotypical images of what is majority or “natural” behavior. Behavior is frequently judged by intention – ‘he means well’ becomes important for the first time. One earns approval by being ‘nice’.” (Kohlberg, 1971)

15 Conventional Level Stage 4: The “Law and Order” Orientation “The individual is oriented toward authority, fixed rules, and the maintenance of the social order. Right behavior consists in doing one’s duty, showing respect for authority, and maintaining the given social order for its own sake.” (Kohlberg, 1971)

16 Post-Conventional Level
To reach Kohlberg’s final level, which he labeled the post-conventional level, a person must continue to develop morally. “A person at [this] level stops defining right and wrong in terms of group loyalties or norms. Instead, the adult at this level develops moral principles that define right and wrong from a universal point of view.” Simply stated, a person at this level makes his/her ethical decisions based on what any reasonable person would know as right or wrong. These decisions are based on universal ideals of justice or human rights or human welfare.

17 Post-Conventional, Autonomous, or Principled Level
Stage 5: The Social-Contract Legalistic Orientation EXAMPLE: We all know and admire these individuals. They are the ones who stand up to tribal council members, program directors, and other tribal members when they are exhibiting questionable behavior. While we admire these people, we often don’t emulate them because of fear.

18 Post-Conventional, Autonomous, or Principled Level
Stage 5: The Social-Contract Legalistic Orientation Right action tends to be defined in terms of general individual rights and standards that have been critically examined and agreed upon by the whole society. ….. Aside from what is constitutionally and democratically agreed upon, right action is a matter of personal values and opinions. The result is an emphasis upon the ‘legal point of view’, but with an additional emphasis upon the possibility of changing the 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 agreement, and contract, is the binding element of obligation. The ‘official’ morality of the American government and Constitution is at this stage. (Kohlberg, 1971)

19 Post-Conventional, Autonomous, or Principled Level
Finally, Kohlberg also found that when his students took courses in ethics that challenged them to look at issues from a universal point of view, they had a more likely chance of changing their moral behavior. Many rez Indians would vehemently disagree with this finding. One elder said to me, "It seems like they go to school just to learn how to steal more.” Indeed, on most Indian reservations I am aware of, having an advanced degree does not make a person more ethical.

20 Post-Conventional, Autonomous, or Principled Level
Stage 6: The Universal Ethical-Principle Orientation Right is defined by the decision of conscience in accord with self-chosen ethical principles that appeal to logical comprehensiveness, universality, and consistency. 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 the human rights, and of respect for the dignity of human beings as individual persons. (Kohlberg, 1971)

21 Which one of Kohlberg’s stages describes you?
Give examples of your own behavior to support that stage.

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