Durkheim's "Moral Education"

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1 Durkheim's "Moral Education" Ahmadreza Asgharpour Abstract The book "Moral Education" contains lectures of Durkheim in Bordeaux and Paris about Morality, Education and Pedagogy. Morality is a social phenomenon and has three elements: discipline, attachment to social groups and autonomy. The last element only exists in rational morality. Education is also a social phenomenon and consists of a systematic socialization of the young generation. Pedagogy is a practical theory. Pedagogy is not the educational activity itself or the speculative science of education. It is the systematic reaction of the second on the first. Moral Education is the process of internalizing of morality in the new generation. Keywords: Durkheim, Morality, Education, Moral Education, Pedagogy About the book "Both at Bordeaux and Paris, Durkheim's university appointments were to lecture primarily on education to trainee school teachers, with sociology as a subsidiary responsibility "(Thompson. 1982: p. 160). "Two of most important sets of the lectures were published shortly after his death: Education and Sociology(1922, English translation 1956), and Moral Education (1925, English translation 1961). The third, The Evolution of Educational Thought was published in 1938 and it is perhaps the most neglected of his works (Thompson. 1982: p. 161). Lukes says "The most important of the education courses was that on moral education. Its importance lies partly in close relation to Durkheim's central sociological concerns, and partly in his central place within his educational thinking."(lukes, 1973: p. 110) These lectures was delivered fairly regularly between 1889 and 1912 at Bordeaux and Paris (ibid). Mauss says Durkheim in these courses connects his discoveries concerning the general nature of moral phenomena with his doctrine of 1

2 education, itself a social phenomenon, and drives there from the consequent percepts of pedagogy (ibid). What is morality? "Mores refers to moral rules or ways of behaving that most members of a society believe are essential for maintaining standards of decency. Mores are vigorously enforced and transgressions punished by either group disapproval and sanction or where mores become laws, by legal action."(marshall, 1998: p. 431) As Durkheim says morality is a social phenomenon and is relative to the needs and structures of particular societies and is open to systematic observation (Lukes, 1973: p. 111). It was an important question in Durkheim's time that what morality is, because the France state attempted to secularize nation's public schools. "The need was to discover the rational substitutes for those religious notions that for a long time have served as the vehicle for the most essential moral ideas. It was not enough to cut out, we must replace." (Lukes, 1973: p. 112). Durkheim distinguished three elements in morality: first the spirit of discipline that identified the imperative quality of moral rules. Discipline performs an important function in forming character and personality in general (Lukes, 1973: p. 112). The second element of morality refers to the content of morality and Durkheim calls it "attachment to social groups". This means that "to act morally is to act on the light of a collective interest." (Lukes, 1973: p. 112). The third element is autonomy which concerned to the state of mind of moral agent. This means that the moral agent should know all the reasons of his conduct, truly and completely. In other words the third element of morality is understanding morality. Durkheim saw autonomy the principal differentiating characteristic element of secular morality. This element 2

3 changes the conception of rules which are the essence of moral discipline and changes the meaning of attachment to social groups (Bellah, 1973: p. xli). What is education? Pedagogy is "the science or art of teaching." (Marshall, 1998: p. 487). Durkheim viewed Pedagogy as a practical theory (Lukes, 1973: p. 110). Pedagogy is not the educational activity itself or the speculative science of education, it is the systematic reaction of the second on the first, the product of thought which seeks in the findings of psychology and sociology principles for the practice or for the reform of education (Lukes, 1973: p. 111). Durkheim says education is, like morality, a social phenomena and relative to needs and structures of particular societies, and it is open to systematic observation (Lukes, 1973: p. 111). Also education is the means by which the society perpetually recreates the conditions of its very existence. Education consists of a systematic socialization of the young generation. Durkheim thought it is possible to distinguish analytically (and not in reality) between all those mental states which are private to the individual and a system of ideas, sentiments and practices which express in us the groups of which we are part. These are religious beliefs, moral beliefs and practices, national or occupational traditions and collective opinions of every kind (ibid). What is moral education? One of the most important interests of Durkheim was the new social order in modern societies which he called it "organic solidarity". In the absence of religious morality he suggested to replace a secular and rational morality. He thought to replace this moral system in society it is 3

4 vital to internalize new morality in new generations. This process is named education and is needed for remaining all societies. Durkheim argues that the content of moral system should be adjusted for any particular society. References Bellah, Robert (1973) Emile Durkheim on Morality and Society, The University of Chicago Press. Lukes, Steven (1973) Emile Durkheim His Life and work, Penguin Books Marshall, Gordon (1998) Oxford Dictionary Sociology, Oxford University Press. Thompson, Kenneth (1982) Emile Durkheim, Ellis Horwood Ltd. 4

5 Bibliography The division of labor in society, Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, (First French edition, 1893) The Rules of Sociological Method, Glencoe, Ill.: Free press, (First French Edition, 1895) Suicide, Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, (First French edition 1897) The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, New York: Free Press paperback, (First French Edition, 1912) "Germany above All": German Mentality and the War. Paris: Colin, (First French Edition, 1915) Education and Sociology, Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, (First French Edition, 1924.) Moral Education, New York: Free Press, (First French Edition, 1925.) Socialism and Saint-Simon, Yellow Springs, Ohio: Antioch Press, 1958.(First French Edition, 1928.) L'évolution pédagogique en France. 2 vols. Paris: Félix Alcan, Professional Ethics and Civic Morals, Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, (First French edition ) Montesquieu and Rousseau, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, (First French Edition, 1953.) Pragmatisme et sociologie. Paris: Virin ( Partially translated in Emile Durkheim et al., Essays on Sociology and Philosophy. New York: Harper and Row, 1964, pp ) Journal Sociologique. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, (Contain all of Durkheim's articles and most of his reviews from L'anee sociologique.) 5

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