Teaching as a Moral Activity: listening to teachers in Russia and the United States

Journal of Moral Education 24 (2):143-158 (1995)
Abstract
Abstract In 1992, I conducted a study in two schools, the Scarsdale High Alternative School (SAS) in New York, a Kohlbergian Just Community Program for 16 years, headed by Tony Arenella; and Public School No. 825, a kindergarten to senior high school on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia, an experimental school in Developmental Education following the ideas of Lev Vygotsky, headed by Vladimir Karakovsky. This article presents a narrative comparison of the philosophies and practices of the secondary teachers in each school. The teachers? philosophies seemed to be like Janus, facing in two directions??outward toward the school culture, reflecting each school's shared norms and values, and inward, expressing each person's own values and ways of thinking. It was the influence of each school's culture that created the most striking philosophical differences. Teachers from Russia and the US held only one value in common: community. Other particular norms and values differed almost completely and seem to reflect the larger cultures of the US and Russia: affection and harmony rooted in love of Motherland for the Russians, and for the Americans, a sense of self and responsibility expressing the value of individualism. The paper first focuses on how teachers in each school conceived of the morality of teaching and of the moral authority of teachers. The focus then moves to a discussion of both the common and unique norms and values the teachers desired to transmit to their students, the practices they use and the moral conflicts they face. The article concludes with remarks about what we can learn from these schools for moral education
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