Communitarian Ethics and Work-Based Education: Some African Perspectives

In Paul Gibbs (ed.), Learning, Work and Practice: New Understandings. Springer 191-206 (2012)
I seek to answer questions about work-based education (WBE) that have been rarely posed, ethical ones such as: Is there reason to believe that WBE would tend to make better people (as opposed to make people better off)? That is, can we reasonably expect characteristic WBE learners to exhibit good character to a greater degree relative to non-WBE ones? On a social level, would systematic use of WBE noticeably promote justice, say, by effecting the right sort of reparation to those who have suffered from colonialism or exploitation? I begin to answer these questions first by presenting an overview of traditional black African societies, noting that WBE has been the dominant mode of learning in them. Then, to show that WBE has relevance for contemporary societies, I articulate a communitarian moral theory grounded in mores that have been salient among sub-Saharan peoples, differentiating it from the Western theories more familiar to international readers and motivating them to take it seriously as relevant to moral enquiry in today’s world. Next, I apply this Afro-communitarianism to WBE, enquiring into its prospects for fostering individual character and social justice, particularly in the Global South.
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