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The contribution of schools to moral development: A working paper in the theory of action

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In what is essentially a working paper, an ideal typical and analytical concept of moral action is derived from the general theory of action. The concept is described in terms of the pattern-variable scheme, with moral action seen as involving the choices of affective neutrality, quality, universalism, and diffuseness.

This model of moral action is then used to hypothesize an end state of moral development. The definition of this end state involves the specification of the analytical choices to the human condition, which is a given of all human action and the most universal point of reference for moral action in relation to human communities. The full development of moral action is thus seen to involve the capacity for involvement with others as whole persons; for relating to people in terms of their humanity; for respecting the moral autonomy and liberty of others; and for resolving moral issues by reasoning, which implies flexibility in relation to specific situations.

A major part of the paper is devoted to an examination of some social structural features of schools, indicating the considerable extent to which schools ordinarily inhibit the development of such moral capacities in children.


Dans ce texte destiné essentiellement à la discussion, on a abouti, en se fondant sur la théorie générale de l'action, a un concept analytique de l'acte moral. Sa description y est présentée en fonction de la typologiepattern-variable où l'acte moral fait intervenir, entre autres choix, la neutralité affective, la qualité, l'universalité, et le rayonnement.

Ce modèle d'action morale sert ensuite à établir l'hypothèse d'un état final du développement moral. La définition de cet état final comporte l'énoncé précis des choix analytiques en fonction de la condition humaine, élément constitutif de tout acte humain et le point de report le plus universel quand il s'agit de l'acte moral par rapport aux groupements humains. On voit ainsi que le développement maximum de l'acte moral comporte l'aptitude à collaborer avec les autres à titre de personnes entières, à considérer les gens sous leur aspect humain, à respecter l'autonomie morale et la liberté des autres, et à résoudre les problèmes d'ordre moral par le raisonnement, ce qui présuppose de la souplesse en face de cas particuliers.

Une partie importante du texte est consacrée à certains aspects de la structure sociale des écoles et fait voir dans quelle forte mesure ces institutions entravent habituellement le développement des ces facultés morales chez l'enfant.

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This article will be published in C. Beck, B. Crittenden, & E. V. Sullivan (Eds.),Moral education: Interdisciplinary approaches, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970, and is printed here with the kind permission of the University of Toronto Press.

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Loubser, J.J. The contribution of schools to moral development: A working paper in the theory of action. Interchange 1, 99–117 (1970).

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  • Analytical Concept
  • Moral Development
  • Human Community
  • Moral Issue
  • Moral Action