A message about moral education…

Yesterday I had the chance to take part in a “values clarification” exercise. This is a system of moral education (more like a therapy) that is used in many classrooms and embedded throughout our curriculum. Our professor labeled three walls in the classroom with “agree,” “disagree,” and “unsure.” After setting out rules and creating a respectful environment, he proceeded to ask us some morally loaded questions and we moved to the wall that represented our answers.

I appreciated the intent of this exercise, and it forced me to critically think about how my value system will effect my students and classroom environment. However, I found it really hard to bite my tongue and not pass judgement on other pre-service teachers for the things they said while defending their positions. Issues surrounding bullying, homophobia, and anti-oppressive education tended to result in the whole class against one or two individuals. Now that I know how these people feel, I cant help but to think that if in the future they were my childs’ teacher, I would be doing everything I could to find a different school for my family.

So as I begin to think about the application of values clarification exercise in the classroom, I can’t help but wonder the consequences it might have. I believe in the importance of risk taking, but an exercise so personal could have devastating effects and cause conflict between students. On the other hand, it holds so many benefits as we are forced to critically examine our selves and our value system….. Just by googling values clarification exercises you will give hundreds of results. But do they have a place in my classroom? I am standing under the “unsure” sign at this point… What about you?

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4 thoughts on “A message about moral education…

  1. I think it is important to remember that people’s positions can change over time – hopefully for the better. Also I feel that some people are not education on topics and that they may have opinions influenced by and perhaps based on stereotypes and what they have seen and heard in the media and around them which often does not adequately reflect issues.

    Using this exercise in the classroom, I think it is important to do so. I think you should be sure to set up the activity by explaining how it works. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and that you are in a safe environment where you should not be judged by what you say. It is not easy to see a person in the same light if they disagree with you on a topic you may be passionate about, so I also think it is important to engage in discussions. It is okay to question someone on their views so that hopefully you can understand where they are coming from, even if you don’t agree.

  2. I think that the biggest factor for me, if I were trying to decide if this is something I would do or not, is to evaluate maturity, openness, etc, already present in my classroom. I think that for SOME senior high school students, this may be an excellent idea and preparation for the real world and its many perspectives. However, it also has the potential to cause many issues regarding bullying, etc, that as the teacher you will likely never even see the full effects of.
    I think my tendency would be to shy away from the full class open participation model, but to still introduce varying opinions. Maybe using a debatable editorial and asking for each student to journal about how and why a person might believe what they do, writing two separate entries, one from EACH perspective and then sharing some entries?
    Definitely no clear answers- I understand why you’re unsure!

  3. If you are wanting to do this type of exercise, the website that Alec showed us where you can text in or email in your answers would be a good idea. If it were a highschool level class you may even be able to turn some of the more heated questions into debates and put people on random sides. That way they will have to do research on the topic and everyone will be more educated without having to have the one person stand out! Just a suggestion! 🙂

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