Dara Fogel
University of Central Oklahoma
In this age of multiculturalism, global travel and terrorism, it is vital that citizens be inculcated with the fundamental values of democracy and equipped with the cognitive skills to further those values. Plato critiqued the democratic character for its potential selfishness and lack of civic engagement---this was true in ancient Athens and is still true today. Using a primarily philosophical but also an interdisciplinary approach, I discuss the historic and social contexts of moral education in democracies both ancient and modern. My topic contributes to this inquiry about democratic education by discussing Virtue Ethics and Communitarianism, with attention to empirical matters as dealt with in Sociology and Psychology. This dissertation explores the Neutral Liberalism-Communitarian debate about moral education to explicate current social and educational circumstances, both theoretically and practically. I propose a model for teaching morality based on self-knowledge, without a traditional religious grounding, without competing with religious authority, resorting to dogma, or indoctrination. I draw on the works of Plato, Aristotle, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, William James, Charles Taylor and others, supporting my proposals with current research from Social Cognitive Psychology. Research in Psychology has shown that some ways of thinking about the self are more efficacious and functional than others. By grounding moral education in self-knowledge and virtue theory, we can ensure the preservation of our democracy by improving the ability of our citizens to reason well about personal, practical and political matters.
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