SWG #2: SCHOOLING AS A MORAL ENTERPRISE
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GROUP MEMBERS:

Chris Dunbar
Jessie Lavallee
Dana Lohleit
Stefani Ramsey



Definition: Moral comes from the Latin root mos, moris meaning customs or code of a people.

Historically, one of the major goals of education has been to produce citizens who will ultimately lead moral lives. This task is indeed a daunting one for educators, and this is likely the reason why many educators tend to deny the fact that they are moral agents (Boyd, 19brain.jpg88).
The literature on moral education is vast and due to the philosophical and sometimes abstract nature of the subject, there is no consensus regarding the issue. There are certainly many questions that arise, perhaps more questions than answers, however we aim to explore some important themes involving the subject of moral education and the moral enterprise of schooling. We have explored the balance between the nomothetic (institutional) and the idiographic (personal) that exists in the ever pervasive moral life of schools. Similarly, we have looked into a dilemma many teachers face, which is how to balance their role as teachers with their personal, individual self. Also under consideration is the question of why schools remain ritualistic, as mentioned, historically schools have been based in moral education and indeed, educational institutions have not drastically changed over the years. Why is this the case? Afterall, as Maxine Greene suggests, students should learn break free from norms, but until educators decide to break free from the realities they have constructed, this will not happen.


Teachers Balancing Their Role vs. Person

Teachers must find their own unique balance between teacher and self so it works for not only them, but for their classroom and their school”
A student swears ‘Jesus Christ” when he gets a poor grade back. Another student makes rude comments about another student’s sexuality. These students are not doing anything illegal but could be considered by some, to be walking on the thin line of morality. A teacher may be religious and become frustrated when she hears the Lord’s name used as a swear word or a teacher may hold strong morals about the sanctity of marriage. What do they do when confronted with students who go against their own morals? There are no rules in school about using the Lord’s name or one’s sexuality. How does a teacher separate her own individuality and her role as a teacher?
How a teacher balances their moral role and who they are is hard to do. Teachers must find their own unique balance between teacher and self so it works for not only them, but for their classroom and their school. Just as in teaching, there is not one special recipe that works for everybody but a wide range of strategies and theories. A good teacher will explore and find strategies that work for themselves, their students, and school, just as they do when it comes to their own morals.
"Section 264" of the Education Act states that the duties of a teacher are:
"To teach diligently and faithfully the classes or subjects. . . to encourage the pupils in the pursuit of learning. . . religious and morals: to inculcate by precept and example respect for religion and the principles of Judaeo-Christian morality and the highest regard for truth, justice, loyalty, love of country, humanity, benevolence, sobriety, industry, frugality, purity, temperance and all other virtues." (Education Act)
The Education Act implies that the duties of a teacher are to be a moral agent before being an individual. Of course, the duty of ‘religious and morals’ is tough to do in today’s society that questions the Judaeo-Christian religion and others. Societies understanding of morality have changed since the Education Act was written. Dwight Boyd, who wrote the article “The Teacher as Moral Agent. . .” defines moral as “not just matters of right, but also perspectives on pursuit of the good, and dispositional states that describe praiseworthy persons. (Boyd, pg. 11)” He sees this kind of morality to be instinct in teachers and shown through their lessons. His opinion is similar to Maxine Greene's in “Landscape of Learning” because he agrees morality is something that a teacher teaches along with their lesson, but his opinion differs in that while Greene believes a teacher needs to “wake up” to the responsibility, Boyd asserts that teachers do it whether they want to or not. Once a teacher is ‘awake’ to their moral duty than (s)he does not need to consciously strike a balance since it will already be happening through their lesson and through their own practices. Greene makes a good point that “it is important for teachers, no matter what their speciality, to be clear about how they ground their own values, their own conceptions of good and of the possible (Greene, p. 47)”. Teachers need to have strong values in order to be fair and a good role model for the students, as well as see not ‘good and bad’ but alternatives to their choices. A moral education is not based on “good and bad”, like the Education Act implies, but on making critical choices. Critical thinking is what helps to create this balance between teacher and moral self. If the teacher uses their ‘awakeness’ or critical thinking to analyze a problem than they will know what appropriate action it is that they need to take. Problems that arise in the classroom which make the teacher think critically and use her own moral judgment are a ‘teachable moment’ for the students. This is how the teacher shows the students not only how to think critically, but to use the ‘right’ moral rather than the one that is easier.
Sandra, the teacher who chose to teach her students “the truth” in the case study “Honesty is the Best Policy”, did not balance her two roles but rather let her own morals guide her teaching. She ended up getting a letter from a concerned parent. Sandra was ‘awake’ in Greene’s sense and in teaching her own beliefs, Sandra was doing as Boyd suggests: she was giving a more hopeful and more positive view of humanity. She taught her students how to think critically but about the ‘wrong’ things. She did not do her religious and moral duty but rather had the students question it. The students should be questioning reality but one must be careful not to undo what their parents or community has taught them. It is important to be truthful with the students, and while it might not be appreciated by all sides, it is a necessity for students to recognize the importance of critical thinking and inquiry. Students should be compelled to question what is taken for granted and as long as they have evidence to support their arguments, there is no problem with this type of education.
As long as a teacher is aware and confident in what (s)he believes in and what (s)he teaches, than (s)he shouldn’t have to think about balancing the roles because it should come to her/him naturally.

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Morality: Opportunity vs. Problem
Morality is seen as the tin god of education; parents and teachers alike constantly pay it lip service and desire it in their educational programs, yet it is an attempt to confine the elusive into a small box. Morality is a term quite popular in school mission statements. For example, central Ottawa’s Ahlul-Bayt Islamic School boasts that its work is to “promote the spiritual and moral values consistent with respect and good citizenship within the Canadian society” (Ahlul-Bayt Islmaic School, 2009). The Ottawa Catholic School Board states that it “will promote social and moral responsibility through education on theexternal image socialisation.gif social teachings of the Church and through social justice activities” (Ottawa Catholic School Board, 2008). Barrhaven’s Farley Mowat Public School asserts in its mission statement that its students “have high moral character, achieve personal success in learning, and are actively involved in [their] community” (Farley Mowat Public School, 2008).
The nomothetic/idiographic dichotomy that is inherent in education has an unusual relationship with morality. Schools, whether religious or secular, try to instill it within their students via classes or reward systems (nomothetic), but at the same time are equally dependent upon teachers (the idiographic) to exemplify positive examples of morality in their characters. What is interesting is that many of the writers our group has examined generally agree that the differing, hidden curricula that interact within a school setting subvert the established, larger curricula that students are meant to model themselves after. What then of morality?

In Martin Barlosky's article “Establishing Virtue: Schools and the Genealogy of Morals”, he encourages us to use morality as a means of transitioning from the self to the group, stating “[it] is in this movement from 'me' to 'we' that a virtue may finally be established that can welcome the generative tensions between the private life of the individual and the public institutions through which s/he seeks fulfillment” (p 252, 1999). An imperative factor that allows the “me” to “we” transition to happen is the hidden curriculum. Every student interacts with various hidden curricula, but he develops his own moral framework out of the hodgepodge of information that he witnesses in school (and at home). Once having done this, he can then turn his beliefs from inward to outward, thereby affecting the community for better or worse.

societyinus.gifThis process of development is also seen in Maxine Greene's piece “Landscapes of Learning”. Greene sees morality as something a teacher advocates to her students through expressing her own opinions, beliefs and principles. She frames morality as a critical thinking exercise where one must pick between “two goods” rather than between a “right and wrong” (Greene, 1978). In that way, Greene understands that morals are patterned off of true, individual behaviour (or a hidden curriculum) rather than a façade she might put on. She believes that people need to be “awake” and to have “a sense of agency” (Greene, p. 48, 1978) (or feel ownership over their own lives) before they can be moral beings. Therefore, both teachers and students must be awake in order to control their own moral destinies. This especially comes up against the idea of established curricula, as being awake means disregarding accepted convention and critically thinking about decisions.
In the same way, Dwight Boyd's definition of morality in his article “The Teacher as Moral Agent ...Or, Doing What Comes Necessarily” “includes not just matters of the right, but also perspectives on pursuit of the good, and dispositional states that describe praiseworthy persons” (p.11, 1988). His key concept of “dispositional states” speaks to the same idea of a hidden curriculum; a teacher's disposition gives students invisible clues that will help them piece together their own moral beliefs. Again, we see the distinction that morality is something acquired rather than forcefully accepted.
Richard D. Osguthorpe culiminates these ideas in his article “On the Reasons We Want Teachers of Good Disposition and Moral Character”. He sees teachers in a nomethetic role of the "moral [exemplar] and [model]" (Osguthorpe, p. 288, 2008) that facilitates and influences idiographic development (or moral thought). Osguthorpe touches on reasons why we want teachers of good moral disposition, essentially explaining why both teachers and parents have such a fascination with morality in school. He claims that "we want teachers to both consciously and unconsciously convey good dispositions and moral character", a reason which is "grounded on the premise that what the teacher consciously conveys is an 'idealized' expression of morality, and the more the teacher's idealized expression and [their] 'real' expression … resemble each other, the more apt it is to have some influence on the student" (Osguthorpe, p. 292, 2008). Again, the idea of a hidden curriculum is referenced. Through his actions, the teacher quietly decides good and bad behaviour. He especially characterizes this silent partner of moral education when he reveals that "we want teachers to teach morality programmatically" (Osguthorpe, p. 292, 2008). In this way, teachers have to show as well as teach their moral views.
Osgurthorpe suggests one possibility that teachers can use to balance the role versus the person: "teachers might adopt a persona in the classroom that embodies moral dispositions connected specifically to the activities of teaching--such that teachers' dispositions are made visible only in connection with methods that teachers employ" (Osguthorpe, p. 292, 2008).
Ultimately, school is one of many respositories for moral beliefs and behaviours. It does not directly shape moral behaviour despite of religious classes or character education. Instead, it provides a space for students to acquire “pieces” of morality from these aforementioned sources and fashion their own. Established curricula is significant in moral education, but it is not a determining factor. What is clear is that overt curricula and hidden curricula need to exist alongside each other for moral lessons to be learned. As made obvious by the mission statements mentioned earlier, morals are still very much what North American society values most in its members. Do we allow this unusual dichotomy of role versus individual to continue, or do we somehow discover a way to manipulate hidden curricula to mold model citizens?




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Why Do Schools Remain Ritualistic?
The ritualism of schools refers to the consistent practices, whether right or wrong, and structures that are regularly practiced and entrenched in our present-day school system. These rituals are defined by tradition, developed by outsiders of the classroom and imposed by authority. The issue of power has contributed to the stagnation and ritual of a school’s organization because of the challenges and obstacles to bring about change. The power lies with department heads, administration, superintendents, Board trustees and Ministry policy-makers. The teachers must take up the role of the “change-maker” in their classrooms, coaching sports teams and in extra-curricular activities.

Schools as a whole impose value, focus and knowledge upon students. Teachers cannot avoid having a moral influence on their students, and should not avoid it. Boyd states, “A teacher is not in the relatively simple position of a carpenter who saws boards and hammers nails in order to build houses, but is just using different tools and materials. (Boyd, pg. 6) The unavoidable issue of morality is complicated but intrinsic with education and schools because of necessity.
The issue of pluralism in schools is one of the fundamental reasons that schools remain ritualistic. The need to meet the needs of the majority often sacrifices the needs of the minority. The new Ministry initiatives have sought to eliminate some of the pluralism and address the needs of the struggling students, but schools still continue to serve the majority.
Why do we remain focused on pluralism and not individuality? Though it would be exciting to create an individual learning environment for all classes and schools, the resources do not allow for it. Teachers must take the opportunity to differentiate the learning as much as possible, but accommodate the learning to as much of the student population as possible. Despite the challenges, the teachers make an impact through their morality. “Inherent in any act of teaching, however removed, are moral judgments about what kind of persons we should be.” (Boyd, pg. 7) The morality of the relationship between teacher and student cannot be removed. Education is a constructive tool developed for the betterment of ourselves; a socially constructive phenomenon.
It is known why schools and their structures work the way they do; we know why there are these structures in place. Yet it is often that teachers don’t know what they really do. Teachers are compelled to not question these things.
Educators must teach their students that principles, perspectives and norms can and should be questioned. They must also respect these ideas and the people that hold them. Schools are engines of social reproduction and as a result, they are the playgrounds for morality. This complex and sometimes dangerous playground must be treaded with care, but not avoided.

In schools, teachers are delivering a message within a greater conversation. They are not alone in the development of this message. The Ministry of Education guidelines, textbooks, standardized testing and many other aspects of education impact the development and distribution of the message. (Boyd, pg. 16) With the little room that is still available in schools for maneuvering within this message, teachers must be “awake.” They must embrace the moral message and the promotion of ideas and individual thought. Boyd concludes, “Teachers of moral education are those who accept the obligation to teach students to talk back.” (Boyd, pg. 18)
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Conclusion
It is clear that morals pervade schools and have done so since the inception of modern schooling. It is important for teachers to find the balance between the nomothetic and the ideographic and walk the fine line that exists between the two. While this is not “easy” for teachers and educators, it is necessary that they remain conscious of the dichotomy between the two. It is indeed difficult for anyone to balance themselves across two roles of being, in this case teachers in their professional role as teachers, and that of “self”, or individual. It is likely that schools will continue to remain ritualistic, as most institutions often do, however, it is of the utmost importance that the educators who work in these institutions strive for “Wide-Awakeness” (Greene, 1978) in order to see the alternatives that exist in our man-made constructed reality of the school. While teachers cannot instantly change the ritualistic life of schools, by being wide-awake and conscious, teachers can begin to make small changes in order to dismantle the pre-existing, ritualistic structures of schools and begin to embark on a truly moral life.


Works Cited
Ahlul-Bayt Islamic School. Ahlul-Bayt Islamic School.
Retrieved December 15, 2009, from http://www.abischool.com/.
Barlosky, Martin. (1999). Establishing virtue: schools and the genealogy of morals.
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, 29(2), 235-255.
Boyd, Dwight. (1988). The teacher as moral agent ...or, doing what comes
necessarily. [Paper].
Duties of teacher (from the Ontario Education Act). Charles Sturt University.
Retrieved December 15, 2009, from http://www.csu.edu.au/faculty/educat/pep/placement/documents/forms/canada/Att.10.Duties%20of%20Teachers.pdf.
Greene, Maxine. (1978). Landscapes of learning. New York: Teachers College Press.
Osguthorpe, Richard D. (2008). On the reasons we want teachers of good disposition and
moral character. Journal of Teacher Education, 59(4), 288-299.
Ottawa Catholic School Board - Mission Statement. Ottawa Catholic School Board.
Retrieved December 15, 2009, from http://www.ottawacatholicschools.ca/content.php?doc=11.
School Profile 2008-2008. Farley Mowat Public School.
Retrieved December 15, 2009, from http://www.ocdsb.ca/PDF%20files/profiles/2008_2009/LAUR.pdf.
The Hidden Curriculum. Youtube.
Retrieved December 15, 2009, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyXHoREUY5M.
Worsfold, Adrian. (n.d.). The Hidden Curriculum: AS Sociology. Adrian Worsfold Website.
Retrieved December 15, 2009, from http://www.change.freeuk.com/learning/socthink/hidcurric.html.