Classification and Treatment by Moral Development Level

Murder, She Wrote, continued

Classification and Treatment by Moral Development Level, by Dr. G. Harry McLaughlin, continued



A number of ways of promoting moral development have been tried in educational settings. The chief approaches and their shortcomings are:


  1. Cathartic Group Discussion. Here each person presents his individual problems. One difficulty with this approach is that other members of the group may tune out until it is time to relate their own particular problems: it is too demanding to be confidant to too many people. Also the haphazard approach does not facilitate the learning of general principles.


  1. Case Study. This helps everyone concerned to recognize that simplistic solutions are inappropriate for complex problems. However, the less intelligent may be very frustrated by the study of difficult dilemmas; although there are some excellent Canadian collections of case studies on the law and the police, for example, there are not many studies which would command general interest; and it is doubtful that there is much transfer of learning from case study to dealing with the problems of everyday life.


  1. Values Clarification. This approach trains people in the skills of choosing beliefs, affirming them publicly, and acting on them consistently. The approach appeals to sentimentalists who believe that human nature impels people to choose generally acceptable moral values when merely encouraged to think out their beliefs. In fact, it seems that many residents [i.e. inmates] have clearly-defined Stage 2 or 3 value systems which the criminal subculture encourages them to keep; and mere clarification of these values would be more likely to confirm than to alter them!


  1. Theoretical Discussion. This approach, although it reviews a wide range of specific examples, involves a thorough and cumulative consideration of various principles, ideas and theories in the light of these examples. The approach may well be the best for use in schools, where students are used to dealing with theory, but may have little appeal in correctional settings.

This brief review suggests that none of the main approaches to moral development which have been tried in school are entirely suitable as the main thrust of a programme in a correctional setting.

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