Friday, April 18, 2014

Emile Durkheim - Moral Education - summary and review

Emile Durkheim was a big believer in education and possibility of moral education as a means for social reform. Is "Moral Education" Durkheim builds on his elsewhere established theory of society as a source of morality. Emile Durkheim sees the state of being associated with social structures as the source of ontological perception, moral judgment and rules of behavior. In "Moral Education" Durkheim describes morality as comprised of three elements on which morality is constructed: discipline, attachment and autonomy. According to Durkheim discipline restraints egoistic tendencies and impulses, functioning to mediate aggressive self centered behavior. Attachment is the degree to which one is willing to be committed to a social group and autonomy is self accountability and responsibility for one's actions. The triadic relation between discipline, attachment and autonomy builds morality as code that is abided through complimenting and interdependent sources of action.       

According to Durkheim education provides children with these three aspects of morality required in order to function in society. School, for example, demands of children both discipline ("sit down and be quiet"), attachment ("love your country") and autonomy ("do your homework"). And id education is the source of morality then this means the morality can be changed through education, and society reformed.

The reformation of society through moral education for Durkheim is conducted not only and not necessarily at the level of content of education (i.e. what is being learned) but also and maybe predominantly at the level form. As described by Durkheim in works such as "Division of Labor in Society", attachment might be regarded as one of the weak points of morality, due to low levels of social cohesion characteristic of modern societies with high division of labor. Moral education will therefore focus on the sense of belongingness to a group. For example, Durkheim suggests that even adults can acquire moral education by associating themselves to various associations (such as occupational ones). 

Additional article summaries by Emile Durkheim:

Anomie according to Durkheim 

Suggested reading: