VALUES AND MORAL EDUCATION:
AIMS, CONTENT, AND PEDAGOGY
Michael Arthus G. Muega
Associate Professor of History & Philosophy of Education
Division of Curriculum & Instruction
College of Education, U.P. Diliman
Note: M.A.G. Muega will present the content of this paper in case one of the speakers in the Seminar on Values and Moral Education will not make it on 17 November.
In spite of our differences as regards the meaning of education1, we can agree that there are certain requirements that every human being has to meet to be considered educated. This means that someone who counts as a schooled person may not readily qualify as an educated person.
We can further agree that no person is born educated. The popular view seems to be that human beings are born, whereas educated people are made. It is often thought that a person becomes educated with the assistance or direct supervision of the school, church, media, family, and so on. Meaning, no one could possibly avail of education for him-/herself without the aid that may be obtained from such institutions, which, again, are agencies other than the self of the learner. We, therefore, question the meaning of the expression “self-educated person.” For within the context of the modern education for the citizen, the learner has to tap certain resources in order to meet the requirements, whatever those are, that were set by the society so that one can belong to the league of the so-called educated.
The idea of “requirements,” that is the societal criteria, brings us to the question of educational program that could help transform the student from a simple human being to an educated person. Specifically, this leads us to the question, What sort of things must a human being have in order to count as an educated person? We know that a widely accepted answer to this question will give us an idea of the things that a given society prescribes in order to count as an educated person. Unfortunately, this question proved to be difficult as it continuously gives rise to a wide variety of educational programs that had been inspired by different world views.
Let’s now turn back to our first concerns. Am I an educated person? If yes, why yes? What criteria have I satisfied to say that I am predisposed to claim that I am an educated person?
It would be an embarrassment for us, students and teachers of education alike, to say that we are hardly educated. But what sort of criteria have we satisfied to say that we are, indeed, an educated class of humans? If we are not sure about our possible answers to this question, then, perhaps, we are not clear about our notions of education.
So far, in effect, we are also asking the question, What constitutes education? We should like to answer this question so that we could tell, if indeed, we are an educated person, if not universally, at least within the range of the accepted standards of the society in which we belong.
Having an infinite amount of learning in Solid State Physics, Advanced Algebra, and in other such-like sciences is far from enough in order to count as an educated person. A great deal of knowledge and training in all the physical and formal sciences will not suffice to say that a person is educated while he/she could be so dumb when it comes to dealing with his/her own aging parents, siblings, young children, or fellow human beings. I am using the expression “dealing” here in its moral sense as I am suggesting that aside from the learning that one could get in Science and Mathematics, in order to count as an educated person, one must also be morally educated. To put it more poignantly, expressions like Ph.d., M.A., Attorney, Dr., Judge, Justice, Chief Justice, or even Honorable, are mere titles before or after a person’s name; they are not a sure-fire sign that one is educated if any of such titles is attached to his/her name. One could still be considered maleducated despite his/her profession. Does someone come to mind? As you can see, former COMELEC Chair Benjamin Abalos used to be referred as the “Honorable Commissioner.” But you know that “honorable” and “commissioner” could be used at the beginning of the name of a person even if he/she is not conducting him-/herself honorably, or like an educated person. Indeed, there probably are a number of people who would prefer to say, the Dishonorable Commissioner Abalos.
For now, you must be starting to get a grip of my drift. Science and Math education, though they had been tested to be reliable instruments in obtaining higher learning and education, they are by no means sufficient.
Values and Moral Education is a vital component of the concept of education. And it is as important as Math and Science education. From here on, I shall be talking about Values and Moral Education, its problems, and some possible solutions, as it is a necessary part of a process that is aimed at turning out educated people. But before I proceed, allow me to say that I am not suggesting that Art Education is not as important. To my mind, it is an equal of Values, Moral, Mathematics, and Science education, but it is not my place to justify the role of Art Education in the production of an educated person. Just allow me to focus on Values and Moral Education and leave the other task to the specialists in Art Education and Aesthetics.
Now, one who wishes to be considered educated cannot just turn his back on matters of values. Life would be boring—and I doubt if it is worth living--if it is nothing but proving scientific and mathematical claims. The truth is, hardly would we end a day without confronting a number of value-related issues or problems. Should I remain loyal to a friend who is betraying me? If there is such a thing as just punishment, when can I say that a punishment is just? Should I return the extra change that I received from an ill-mannered vendor? Should I also issue defamatory statements against an acquaintance who is spreading slanderous rumors about me? Can I blame a wrongdoer who claims to be a creation of his environment rather than by his own mind? Is death penalty right? How should I regard the Filipino politician and why? Is it wrong to break a promise? If not all the time, when can it be right, if it could be right, to break a promise? And why is it right? What does it take to be a good citizen? When can I say that I am not only a good citizen but also a good individual? Which is nobler, if any, the good of the citizen or the good of the individual? Whose good should we pursue first and foremost—the good of the individual or the good of the citizen? Most of these problems, aside from being important, are as perennial as the grass. It is for these and other similar problems and for the RATIONAL manner with which we should address them that Values and Moral Education should exist.
So, again, the value aspect of our education is evident in Values and Moral Education and I wish to be concerned with this area alone at this point. In sum, what I had been trying to say clearly was that an educational program, without Values and Moral Education, is in no way sufficient.
Values and Moral Education: an independent subject
I must be absolutely clear now about one thing: that Values and Moral Education should be an independent subject like Math and Science. It ought to be as it is a legitimate equal of Math and Science. Unfortunately, many stakeholders in education tend to regard the language of Values and Moral Education as less meaningful than the language of Science and Math. This, I believe, explains why Values and Moral Education in public school has been relegated to the lower rung of academic activities as it is no longer considered an independent subject like Math and Science. There are, of course, those who tend to believe otherwise, but rarely will we hear them laying down their arguments as to why the language of Values and Mroal Education, even if it is non-cognitive, is no less meaningful than the cognitive language of Math and Science. Part of my task, therefore, is to show why the language of Values and Moral Education is no less meaningful than the language of Math and Science.
In the past, I encountered a number of people who are quick to say that there is no more need to do this as what they expect me to say is already self-evident. But when I pressed them to proceed and give a summary of what they believe I am trying to say, their silence, to my mind, is an indication that they know very little, if not absolutely nothing, about what I wanted to say regarding the meaning of the language of Values and Moral Education.
Furthermore, some of my critics have been always quick to ask the question, Why is addressing the issue on meaning so important? It is very important because the non-argumentative or non-rational aspect of the language of Values and Moral Education is the very reason why it continues to be viewed as a lesser subject when compared to Math and Science. TAKE NOTE THAT I DID NOT SAY, ‘IRRATIONAL.’ Today, Values and Moral Education is an inferior area of academic interest, especially in public schools, because it is has no independent existence as a subject. It is an area of study that does not bear equal weight as Math and Science.
What seems to be the problem then? We ask this question. Much of the problem could be traced to our problematic conceptions of Values and Moral Education. NOTE HERE THAT ‘CONCEPTIONS’ IS INTENTIONALLY IN PLURAL AS WE HAVE VARIOUS CONCEPTIONS OF VALUES AND MORAL EDUCATION.
Conceptions of Values and Moral Education
In a separate research that I have yet to conclude, one of my findings is that our school teachers have different conceptions of Values and Moral Education. Of the 201 respondents, 43 % believe that Values and Moral Education is critical thinking about evaluative issues, 32 % believe that its function is to transmit a ready set of non-religious values, and 17 % believed that it is a case of inculcating in the students a ready set of religious values. All in all, 49 % of the respondents believe that Values and Moral Education is basically values transmission, inculcation, or indoctrination. The rest, or the remaining 8 %, thought that their notions of Values and Moral Education are not reflected in any of the given definitions.
You are probably asking now: What does this mean? Should the finding that schoolteachers have different notions of Values and Moral Education be a problem? Yes, it is a problem.
Math and Science education
The lack of uniformity in AIMS, CONTENT, and PEDAGOGY is often raised about Values and Moral Education. It is said to have no stable, singular identity, and this is a problem that cannot be raised about Math and Science as the conduct of education in these areas of study are more or less stable and uniform in the modern schools.
As we all know, Science education has factual claims to offer and examine. Knowledge in Science, furthermore, is generated by way of inductive thinking and reasoning. And we have come to accept that in this area, a sound knowledge claim is grounded in material or observed evidence. So, when you say, for instance, to state the Law of Inertia, “A body will remain in its state unless it is acted upon by an outside force,” you are not saying this as though it is true in itself, as though it is a doctrinal truth. Galileo arrived at this general formulation after gathering first the relevant data from which he based his generalization that is the Law of Inertia. Meanwhile, in Mathematics, one cannot just claim that a mathematical proposition, say, 2+2 is 4, is true for no reason at all. There has to be a reason why such proposition is true. The truth of which is demonstrable by appeal to evidence. Now, the key word in Math and Science is REASON. The use of which is a necessary condition in order for Math and Science to exist the way they do right now. And there simply is no quarrel about this among the teachers of Math and Science. The agreement as to the role of Math and Science in the formal education of the students, which is to develop their critical, inductive, and deductive reasoning abilities remains solid up to this date and there is no sign that there is an impending quarrel as to the meaning of Math and Science education.
Such is not the status of Values and Moral Education as it comes in many forms. Allow me to discuss what I believe to be the most familiar version of Values and Moral Education. This is Values and Moral Education in the form of values transmission, indoctrination, or inculcation. These expressions suggest the kind of aims, content and pedagogy of Values and Moral Education when it is conceived as a formal education component whose purpose is to transmit selected doctrines which are, more or less, thought to be universal or trans-cultural values. The proponents and those who share this version of Values and Moral Education see no problem in transmitting values that are believed to be the requisites of living a good or righteous life. The set of values, despite the belief of many that it is universally accepted, of course, could vary from one school to another. But the endorsers of certain values are, more or less, dominated by the attitude that what they preach, if adopted, will transform a human being into a morally upright person.
An example of a problematic form of Values and Moral Education could be found in the MAKABAYAN, which is ironically called the Revitalized Basic Education Curriculum. This is the educational program for public elementary and high school students. A quick review of the existing books on Values and Moral Education in the Philippines will reveal that MAKABAYAN is very far from being alone in the dark. It enjoys a good deal of support not only from highly placed individuals2, but also from many teachers, as well as school administrators.
The MAKABAYAN curriculum has four main areas of study: Math, Science, Filipino, and English. So, you ask: Where in the world is Values and Moral Education in the MAKABAYAN? Values and Moral Education in the MAKABAYAN curriculum is no longer an independent subject like Math, Science, Filipino, and English. You will find Values and Moral Education in each of these tool subjects. They are tool subjects in that they are used as instruments to transmit a ready-made set of values which, accordingly, should be the defining traits of the good or ideal Filipino today. One may count as a good Filipino, according to MAKABAYAN, if he/she is someone who is “truly” makabayan, makatao, makakalikasan, and maka-Diyos. These are the values that one must learn in the course of studying Math and Science. MAKABAYAN values are further reinforced when the students are asked to go beyond the simple study of the logic of syntax and the rules of grammar in English and Filipino. Clearly, thus, though Values and Moral Education is no longer an independent subject in the MAKABAYAN, the people who are responsible for the creation of this curriculum want to ensure the inculcation of certain values in the students.
Now, what seems to be the problem with values like the MAKABAYAN values? Can they not make a valid subject matter in Values and Moral Education? Is it wrong to tell our students what values to imbibe and to use to guide their actions? If yes, why yes? Are the students not being programmed to behave in a certain definite way with this kind of Values and Moral Education?
Allow me to discuss some problems. Whose meaning or interpretation, for instance, of makabayan, makatao, makakalikasan, and maka-Diyos should the students adopt? Also, should the students adopt all of these values? What if a student refuses, for example, to adapt the value that is devotion to God because the student is a Buddhist? We know that Buddhists don’t worship any god. And what are we to do with students who have atheistic or agnostic convictions? Should they be automatically considered as Filipinos who have a poor standing in society because they are deficient in Values and Moral Education? My point on the maka-Diyos value is that public education should be absolutely secular, non-religious, hence, it should respect even those who do not aspire to piety. Values and Moral Education should not imply that godless people cannot possibly get a complete Values and Moral Education. We could find a lot of godless people from the ranks of scientists, mathematicians, inventors, and philosophers who are more useful compared to some politicians who would appeal to their “Mama” Mary’s clemency and sympathy when what they need is to be stricken by a thunderbolt from God.
Makabayan, makatao, and makakalikasan are likewise highly problematic. I will not discuss this at length but allow me to state my issue on each of the remaining MAKABAYAN values.
First, we are exhorted to become MAKABAYAN. There seems to be nothing wrong about this. But a closer inspection of the concept will show otherwise. In the MAKABAYAN Values and Moral Education, we honor the concept of patriotism, but I am not sure if the teacher dared ask the question, Whose version or concept of patriotism should we endorse? This is a problem as anyone may claim that his/her brand of patriotism is the true or most valid patriotism. Now, we cannot expect anyone to embrace just any form of patriotism. I think we do not share COMELEC Commissioner Abalos’ or (Hello) Garci’s brand of patriotism. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has also her own version of patriotism. So are the communists. And so are the religionists. Which way should we go then? Should we go for the teacher’s idea of MAKABAYAN or the student’s way if there is a conflict between them? Suppose there is a conflict between the ideological bases of two or more different versions of patriotism. How then should the teacher evaluate the values of the student? This remains a problem for which the MAKABAYAN Values and Moral Education has no satisfactory answer to offer because it is basically indoctrination. And in this form, more often than not, the standard of goodness is the teacher's or the school's meaning of being a moral person.
A similar problem could be raised about MAKATAO and MAKAKALIKASAN, because each of these values also varies in meaning. Let me just say a few words about MAKAKALIKASAN. One, for instance, may argue that our current source of energy is not environment friendly, that atomic energy is a better option because it is more economical and it causes less pollution. Of course, many of us will have a quarrel as to the use of atomic energy owing to the hazards that its use brings. But the point here is that anyone could claim that he is more makakalikasan as he wants to go for a careful use of atomic energy. So again, MAKABAYAN here does not give us a clear and definite notion of makakalikasan. Whose version and interpretation of such value is to be introduced is, again, a matter that is left for the teacher, school or self-proclaimed authoities to decide. This obviously does not solve the bigger problem. Should we really endorse certain moral values? Whose values are these? Why are they just? What are we to do with the other conceptions or interpretations of the same value expressions? Do we invalidate them and declare that non-conformists are deficient in values, if not enemies of the state?
I will not go at length on the meaning of MAKATAO, another value that is no less problematic. Again, similarly, what may be makatao, for instance, for Ate Glue may not be makatao for her critics. Just read the way Conrado de Quiros expresses his opinion of GMA’s status as a politician. Perhaps, De Quiros may not make a good example of a human person if you will ask GMA. I too may not make a good example of a person who is makatao if you will ask GMA because of my propensity to call her Ate Glue. But De Quiros, if you will ask him will probably consider his work as a fine example of being makatao in the sense that his issues against GMA could be taken as pro-people--it’s makatao. So again, which way should we go in order to count as makatao? MAKABAYAN Values and Moral Education offers no good answer this problem.
Allow me now to go back to an earlier question: “Are the students not being programmed to behave in a certain definite way in MAKABAYAN Values and Moral Education? The answer here is yes and no. It is YES in that MAKABAYAN attempts to program the public school students to behave in a certain way according to the four basic values. But MAKABAYAN Values and Moral Education is not so clear and precise as to the meaning of the four basic values. Students and their teachers are left on their own to confer their own meaning on such names as makabayan, makatao, makakalikasan, and maka-Diyos. Be that as it may, this form of Values and Moral Education does not seize to be a case of values indoctrination, inculcation, or transmission. Again, Math and Science education does not have this kind of problem.
We have an issue here as Values and Moral Education, in its indoctrination sense, does not prioritize higher order or critical thinking for its basic aim is to get the students to simply imbibe a ready-made set of noble sounding, but vague, values. And the problem does not end here. Since it is a non-argumentative, therefore non-rational—take note again that I am not saying “irrational”—form of education, we cannot expect it to elicit the same respect that Math and Science education enjoys.
What I have done so far is to mangle the MAKABAYAN Values.
Moral and evaluative reasoning in Values and Moral Education
What then should Values and Moral Education be? Just like Math and Science, Values and Moral Education should place equal premium on critical thinking, rational doubting, reasoning, and logical skepticism. Specifically, because it should deal with rational thinking, Values and Moral Education should aim to cultivate the moral or evaluative reasoning abilities of the students. Only through this approach could we possibly maintain the thesis that Values and Moral Education is as meaningful as Math and Science. Only when Values and Moral Education places the same value on the use of reason when addressing a certain problem or issue will it count as a legitimate equal of Math and Science.
Will Values and Moral Education then be so useful in real-life situation if it is going to be chiefly concerned with the cultivation of the moral reasoning and other intellectual abilities of the students? Yes, of course. Let me give some examples where having a good deal of training and education in moral and evaluative reasoning is practically valuable.
In any country where the people are supposed to have the freedom to CHOOSE their local and national leaders, good moral and evaluative reasoning is highly important. What will happen to a country whose electorate is composed of voters who are dismally lacking in sophisticated rational VALUATION skills is not difficult to tell. We don’t have to look at other countries in order to say that it will be easy for the incompetent politicians to take those voters who are not capable of reasoned valuation for a ride. Let me give some names: Erap, Noli De Castro, Jaworski, Sotto, Jinggoy Estrada, Lapid, the Revillas, and Freddie Webb. They are a bunch of proofs that a huge number of our voting population lack the capacity to rationally evaluate and choose our national leaders. I think I don’t have to go as far as naming some more clowns that many voters chose to represent them at the House of Representatives. Please pay attention to the word “CHOOSE” because valuing is an instance of choosing. We value by choice. And again the question is, “Do our voters choose or value by rational means?”
Just imagine if all our voters are capable of making highly rational choices. Of course, I am not meaning to suggest that all those who voted for the likes of Lito Lapid and Bong Revilla are stupid valuers. But neither do I mean to say, and I will never do, that most of Lapid’s and Revilla’s supporters are highly rational valuers like you. Did you ever ask yourselves why the likes of Lapid and Revilla will never ever campaign for their candidacy in academic institutions like the University of the Philippines? Yes, because it is not easy to take rational, educated, or well-schooled valuers for a ride. Rational valuers cannot be persuaded by a pathetic appeal to emotion and popularity, which is what actors- and actresses-turned-politicians are usually doing during the campaign period. Rational valuers can only be persuaded by appeal to reason.
Aside from this, of course, we need a good deal of abilities to do evaluative and moral reasoning if we wish to arrive at a resolution to important value or moral issues. Some of such issues are the following: (1) Should I continue with my pregnancy even if I don’t have the means to support my child? (2) Should we re-activate the death penalty? (3) Is it right for parents to have their child baptized long before the child could make his/her own choice? (4) Should I leave the country and work for the people of other countries? (5) Is it right to legalize same sex marriage? (6) Should we allow legal separation by way of divorce? These are all value issues for which rational answers are hard to come by when the young valuers of our country were schooled in the tradition of VALUES INDOCTRINATION. What the valuer needs, to be a rational solver of value issues, is a solid training in moral and evaluative reasoning.
The aim of Values and Moral Education is to equip the students with the necessary knowledge and intellectual skills that will enable them to resolve moral or evaluative issues effectively.
But what exactly should be taught in Values and Moral Education? One is, how to think and communicate clearly. Another is, how to detect good and bad reasoning. Another is, how to argue correctly. Another is, how to evaluate one’s own or another person’s reasoning correctly. We could add many more in the list for as long as it is in keeping with the subject’s aim to develop highly rational problem solvers in the area of values and morality.
Ability to think and communicate clearly
So, since Values and Moral Education should aim to sharpen higher order thinking skills, one of the things that students should learn is how to think and express themselves clearly. This is not the be all and end all of Values and Moral Education, but this will make a good starting point. Having the ability to think clearly is a necessary condition to solve moral or evaluative problems effectively. Lucid thinking enables us to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant matters. Having such ability will enable us to save more time, effort, and other resources as we focus only on important matters.
Ability to detect fallacies
It is always a good thing for valuers to be familiar with fallacies as having knowledge of such errors is in itself a reminder that there are certain forms of faulty reasoning that we should not commit and refuse to accept. For example, appeals to popularity, emotion, and false authorities, which many politicians and commercial advertisements find highly effective, are some of the many ways of conning a gullible public. If only we could show that we deserve something better, we could expect to hear political speeches and witness advertisements that respect an intelligent mind.
But why do rotten speeches and advertisements continue to proliferate when they are usually fallacious? Think about these. Aga Mulach and Caridad Sanchez endorsing some medicines. What do they know about medicines? Manny Pacquiao endorsing a political administration. How many people allow themselves to be persuaded by a boxer who has very little knowledge of important issues outside the boxing ring? It’s good of course that Pacquaio lost in the congressional race. I am not saying though that his rival is certainly a better person. That remains to be seen of course. And how many people thought that Joseph Estrada and Fernando Poe Jr. will make good presidents of this country? Let us not be lost in examples because I think you already know what I mean.
Ability to argue soundly
What could happen to a country whose population is incapable of making sound arguments, especially in highly important issues, is not difficult to picture. In matters involving national interests, we decide who should represent us in law making, policy making, and in maintaining peace and order. It is ideal, of course, to think that a very poor country like the Philippines, whose government is generally run by corrupt politicians, should assume the attitude of not having the luxury of time for a gradual change. On this, much of the job rest on the teachers themselves. One of the things that we could do is to teach our young people to value good thinking, and not some shady moral doctrines. Good thinking here means sound reasoning.
We could say that a valuer is capable of advancing a sound argument if he/she offers a set of strong reason to support his/her moral or evaluative belief. For example, it is highly problematic for a valuer to believe that death penalty is wrong by appeal to emotion and pity as these are fallacious ways of thinking. Good thinking here requires the production of sufficient evidence to support a certain moral or evaluative proposition.
Ability to evaluate and revise one’s own reasoning
The ability to assess and revise one’s own thinking is equally an important element of good thinking or sound reasoning. If this develops into a habit, we could categorize the valuer as a disciplined arguer in that he/she would not advance an evaluative or moral belief without first subjecting his/her own arguments to rigorous questioning.
The last question that I should like to address now is, How should Values and Moral Education, in its reasoning sense, be taught? My answer to this question is brief. The teacher should employ techniques that will encourage the students to reason out their individual moral or evaluative convictions or beliefs. Teaching here may come in the form of Socratic Dialogue, facilitating group discussion or debate, and assisting individual students in solving moral or evaluative issues. There are of course other forms of teaching and they may be considered valid so long as they emphasize reasoning and they refrain from imposing anyone’s moral values on the students.
So, should we not transmit any one form of value in Values and Moral Education?
The answer is NO. There is one form of value that we could not avoid transmitting in Values and Moral Education in its reasoning sense. And that is the intellectual form of values. Some of these intellectual values are the following: clear thinking, sound reasoning, and consistency of thoughts. These are all important requirements for living a good and genuinely HUMAN life. I am placing emphasis on the expression “human” as animals could be happy even if they don’t have to deal with problems using the kind of thinking that we do on issues like abortion, death penalty, cloning, marriage, divorce, and so on.
Allow me now to restate the problems that I have just addressed:
1. What are the problems of values transmission or indoctrination form of Values and Moral Education?
2. What should be the aims of Values and Moral Education?
3. What should be the content of Values and Moral Education?
4. How should Values and Moral Education be taught?
The method that I used to address these problems is philosophical argumentation. This is inevitable because the problems in themselves require philosophical reasoning.
In closing, I am aware that my suggestions in administering Values and Moral Education are by no means complete. But I am confident that they will make a good start towards a good case of Values and Moral Education. Let us teach our young people that it is always wrong for them to accept anyone’s claim upon insufficient reason.
I hope that with this brief talk I have given you a clear picture of what, I believe, to be a better version of Values and Moral Education, of what should be its aims, contents, and pedagogy.
Thank you very much.
1 Education for me is the product of the human beings interaction with certain elements and forces in his/her environment. This product comes in the form of acquired valuable knowledge and skills. I share the belief that to be educated is being able to function effectively in different areas of worthwhile human activities, being able to exercise good judgment in addressing evaluative or moral issues, and being creative and imaginative in analyzing and solving problems. Knowledge and skills in education are tools that the educated could use to achieve his/her individual ends without sacrificing the interest of other human beings. It is possible that in the process of one’s utilizing his/her knowledge and skills, his/her fellow humans will benefit from such use. In any case, education for me, first and foremost, is something that one can use to live a better life. This definition, of course, is still very general but our time and space won’t allow me to get down to the finer details of my notion of education.
2 Former Senator Leticia Shahani-Ramos and former Department of Education Undersecretary Isagani R. Cruz are leading proponents of values transmission/indoctrination form of Values and Moral Education.