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Ellen Feig

Professor, Bergen Community College


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Can one teach young people to be moral? Is morality something that must be taught in the home? Is it innate?

Currently I am working on a professional development platform focused on teaching college students ethics and morality. Young people seem to be incredibly disengaged from others, have little sense of what it means to be moral, gracious or ethical and don't care. How can we teach morality or is it something that is innate?

Topics: ethics morality

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    Jan 24 2013: Most of our fairytale culture is based on the idea to teach moral concepts to young people, yet there is no guarantee that what is taught will be taken. As moral itself is no constant entirety and is constantly changing and mixed by religious, political and social 'belief systems', it is a task on its own for each generation to do their best in trying to hand over what deems right for them in that moment in time.

    If you, as you describe, deal with young people who already 'don't care', your question is without doubt a good one!

    When I look at myself, I got all of my 'moral core values' exclusively within my family and at very young age. And this without being directly taught, like, 'Today my dear we will teach you about 'lieing', 'stealing' and 'envying' .. :o)

    It was the overall 'atmosphere' and exemplary living of all the family members - besides my older brother, of course ... :o), which was carefully guiding into directions I was able to choose from. At times with consequences if my choice wasn't welcome, yet also with understanding and support at times where I had to find my own ways.

    I personally belief, that a positive childhood in love and care is the most influential factor for the development of a strong moral compass and that 'outside' institutions like childcare, kindergarten and schools are hopelessly over-strained to compensate for that.

    If I just look at the increasing number of children in Germany with speech disorders due to a lack of communication within their families, I would not be surprised, if 'their' moral development is lacking enough 'input' too.

    As children and in terms of behavior we are choosing our role-models instinctively. This can be parents, grandparents or close relatives or even friends of the family. Important, I think is, in either case the continuity and closeness of this relationship for 'moral behavior' to transfer, as it comes as a trial and error process as well, which needs 'supervision' and constant 'correction'.

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