Cultivating Morality: Human Beings, Nature and the World
International Conference on Moral Education,
Nanjing International Conference Hotel, 24-28 October 2011
Journal of Moral Education 40th anniversary conference
Association for Moral Education 37th annual conference
The Asia-Pacific Network for Moral Education 6th annual conference
All human beings experience a call to morality. It is deeply embedded in cultural and religious traditions, drawing human beings into relationship with each other, and with nature and the world. How can we best cultivate morality and what role does formal education have to play? To what extent does morality develop naturally, even genetically? Or is it socially constructed, and best left to families and other agents of socialisation to cultivate? If education does have a role in cultivating morality, what form should it take in the globalising world of the 21st Century with its many old and new ethical challenges, including the rapidly increasing population and demands of human beings that are running up against the limitations of nature and the world to sustain? What should the goals, function and experiences of contemporary moral education be?
Participants are invited to explore the Conference Title, and the important issues it raises for moral cultivation and moral development, as suggested in the following illustrative themes:
- Educational: formal and informal moral education in practice in school and higher education and in families and communities; teaching and learning strategies (e.g. textbooks, discussion); moral education theories; putting moral education policy into practice; moral education curricula and programmes; teacher, parent and community education for moral education; lifelong learning;
- Philosophical: Eastern, Western and African philosophies and traditions, including the role of Confucianism in the Chinese value system, analytical, linguistic, Continental philosophy, virtue ethics, education of the emotions; liberalism; socialist materialism; applied ethics, especially environmental ethics and professional ethics;
- Psychological: moral motivation, moral judgement; moral behaviour, moral identity, moral development; affective learning, counselling; psychological theories of moral learning, behaviour and development;
- Social and anthropological: children; the family, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, community life; cooperation and conflict; globalisation;
- Neurobiological and neuroethical: moral implications of brain biology; bioethics;
- Ecological and cosmological: environmental; the unity of parts making the whole; 'man's' place in nature; lifestyle; sustainability;
- Spiritual: the transcendent and immanent in relation to religion and culture; harmony as an ethical value;
- Aesthetic: the poetic, musical, artistic, film;
- Religious: the sacred and divine; the role of religion (e.g. Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam) in morality and moral education;
- Secular: the traditional, modern, post-modern and their interrelationship; materialism and ethics; humanism; influence of the Internet; role of the media;
- Historical and cultural: customs and traditions, past and present; cultural diversity within and between societies and nations; cross-cultural studies;
- Political, civic and legal: the role of democracy; socialist ethics; individual and civic rights and responsibilities; citizenship education; social justice; civic engagement; rights within international law.
In the last 40 years –since the Journal of Moral Education was established– there has been a growing consciousness of the relationship between human beings and nature, and an awareness of the need to work with, rather than against nature for the survival of future generations and the sustainability of the planet. Old questions in Eastern, Western and African philosophy about 'man's' place in nature have been revived with renewed purchase in the 21st century. With increased globalisation, ethical questions about the relation between individuals, human interaction, social development, nation states and multinational corporations across the world take on new meaning. How should fairness and caring be interpreted and nurtured given wide disparities between peoples, environments, life opportunities? What meaning should be given to respect, responsibility and rights in different cultural and political contexts? Does the importance of biodiversity have any parallels in the cultural and moral worlds?
As we reflect on 40 years of the Journal of Moral Education and the Association of Moral Education, what have we learnt so far in terms of theory, research and practice in moral education and development; what needs critique, what works, what is of lasting worth? As we go forward in an interconnected academic world –which recognises the contributions of East and West, North and South– what are the goals of cultivating morality, what are likely new directions and what can we hope to achieve? Within the world frame what should be the national and local aims and role of moral education at all levels of formal education, in non-formal and informal learning across the lifespan, and in terms of lifelong learning and learning from life? What contributions do the various disciplines in the field of moral education and development make to our understanding of human beings and our relation with all aspects of the natural world? Holding this international conference in China, under the auspices of The Asia-Pacific Network for Moral Education, we shall reflect on how different cultural contexts and experiences affect our perceptions of and views on cultivating morality. As cultural and moral boundaries become more porous with global migration, the Internet and the media, how do we acknowledge and appreciate similarities and differences? Are there moral universals, or is everything just relative in a post-modern world?