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Moral Sense and Culture: A Conceptual Inquiry and Preliminary study —Its Implications to Teacher Education in a Global and Multicultural Context

Moral Sense and Culture: A Conceptual Inquiry and Preliminary Study —Its Implications to Teacher Education in a Global and Multicultural

Zhongtang Ren, Dwight Allen, Steve Tonelson

Ruiling Lu, Han Liu, Shaoan Zhang, Qingmin Shi

Old Dominion University, Virginia, USA



There is a long history of argument about whether moral sense is innate, independent of culture, or it is acquired, culturally affected. Free from this dichotomy, this paper, through the conceptual inquiry, together with the survey investigation, focuses more on the result of the study—how people view and understand moral sense in reality, emphasizing the moral sense is the key helpful to understand cultural differences, which has implications for teacher education in a global and multicultural context.



AUG 2000–present            Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, USA

PhD Candidate (ABD, all but dissertation), Graduate Assistant and Project Officer

  • Writing PhD dissertation entitled Cultural Differences in Moral Sense Between American and Chinese College Students
  • Doctoral student studying and doing research on Urban Studies

Preparing and assisting to lecture for Social and Cultural Foundations of Education real-time and on-line class

Evaluated in US Department of Education ACTT Now Project (Aligning Certification with Technology Training) in Brunswick County public schools, VA, USA 2000-2003

Freelance translator

  • Jubilee Tech International, Inc. Norfolk, VA, USA



We are living in a global and multicultural world. The advent of computer and communication technologies has been updating the concepts of time and space, transforming the world where we are living into an interdependent global society, where the intensity of economical, political and cultural interactions between countries is increasing. Robertson (1992) put it as “the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole”, and this has formed a driving force for this global village toward its economic unity. But, unfortunately, this economic unity does not amount to a political or cultural unity, which will not create a common culture in which everyone holds the same beliefs and values. Human history is a history of civilization and peace in which different cultures attempt to reconcile and understand each other, and it is also a history of ignorance and war in which cultures conflict and confront each other. In recent history, when Fukuyama (1992) is relieved to witness an end to history seen as series of confrontations between ideologies, the bow of history inconceivably turns its titanic hull toward what Huntington called Clashes of Civilizations. As Sato (1997) puts it, “for Huntington, civilization and culture are linked: both involve the overall way of life of a people.” Civilization is “the highest cultural grouping of people and the broadest level of cultural identity…defined by…language, history, religion, customs, institutions, and by the subjective self-identification of people.” To live peacefully and constructively in this world and to reduce confusion and confrontations caused by subtle differences in culture (Merryfield, 1995), people from different cultures are obliged to understand each other by knowing their respective cultures. Ignorance of such differences in culture has resulted in conflicts, threats and even warfare. In addition to other factors such as the contention of resources and sovereignty as well as power struggling that result in conflicts, cultural differences are manifestly an essential part of conflict and conflict resolution.


What is culture? In their book Multicultural education: Issues and perspective, Banks and Banks (1993) define culture as “the ideations, symbols, behaviors, values, and beliefs that are shared by a human group”; they add, “Culture can also be defined as a group’s program for survival and adaptation to its environment [natural and social]”. Given this two-pronged definition, one’s culture can include but is not limited to the following: ethnicity or race, religion, socioeconomic class, region, gender, profession, age or generation, disability, and sexual orientation. Triandis (1995) defines Culture as “a shared set of beliefs, attitudes, norms, values, and behavior organized around a central theme and found among speakers of one language, in one time period, and in one geographic region” (p. 443). As Bodley (1994) describes, culture has at least three components: what people think, what they do, and the material products they produce. Thus, mental processes, beliefs, knowledge, and values are parts of culture.


Myers and Filner (1997) even identify the following cultural issues most significantly affect conflict resolution:

l  language issues leading to miscommunication and misinterpretation;

l  incorrect assumptions about diverse cultures;

l  expectations that others will conform to our values;

l  biases against the unfamiliar;

l  values in conflict, e.g., mainstream traditional American values conflicting with those of other cultures.



All these scholars state that values or beliefs or what members in a culture think are elements of culture (apparently, by comparing the core values of each culture, we can know some differences between the cultures, but this will not answer the question what makes them think fundamentally different), nonetheless, they fail to specify that, as I believe, it is these differences of values, beliefs or the way of thinking that are the key to distinguish one culture from another, and thus, the vital key to interpret and understand different cultures. So what is the key to understand values, beliefs or the way of thinking in culture? What is the fundamental question when referring to values, beliefs or the way of thinking? Inevitably, it will be nothing else than the question of “what is right and what is wrong.”  Sense of right and wrong, or moral sense, is the identifier for values, beliefs or the way of thinking that represent culture.


Then what is moral sense? What is its relationship with culture? Is moral sense innate, independent of culture? Or is it acquired, culturally affected? Or else? As in many areas of educational research, the field of morality is rife with controversy. These disputes are not limited to the accounts of the nature of moral sense or nurture of moral sense, but extend to the very definition of educational aims in the terms of the appropriateness of character education, teacher education, global education, and multicultural education. Should teachers be prepared to educate their students in their character cultivation whilst in their intelligence development with awareness of their global and multicultural environment? If so, how?


Historically, these issues have been approached from two perspectives with divergent, albeit overlapping sometimes, sets of assumptions about the nature of moral sense and the nurture of moral sense. One the one side have been philosophers and scholars whose emphasis has been on the natural human nature of moral sense, underestimating the aspects of cultural influences; on the other side have been philosophers and educators whose stress has been on the cultural influence on moral sense, claiming that moral sense is culturally determined, thus falling into cultural relativism.


In as early as 250 BC, ancient Chinese philosophers Mencius and Xunzi debate on human nature, but they all have no opposition that the moral sense will be shaped by environment or culture in which people live. Central to the philosophy of Mencius is the belief that man is by nature good. His innate moral sense can be developed by cultivation or perverted by an unfavorable environment. Contrary to Mencius, Xunzi is known for his belief that ritual is crucial for reforming humanity’s original nature. Human nature lacks an innate moral compass, and left to itself falls into contention and disorder, which is why Xunzi characterizes human nature as bad. Confucius believes that virtues are acquired when taking about Self Cultivation. Norden (1996) indicates that, for Ivanhoe, “specifically, Confucius mentions both study (xue) and reflection (si) as methods of self- cultivation. This introduces a tension within Confucianism, never definitively resolved, between learning from texts and teachers vs. learning from one’s own innate moral sense.”


A few British moralists of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, notably Shaftesbury and Hutcheson, who are referred primarily to the Moral Sense School, hold the organ of ethical insight to be, not reason, but a special “moral sense,” akin to feeling in nature. Shaftesbury argues that we have an internal moral sense much like the senses of sight, hearing, and taste. He has largely caught the spirit of Locke, but he by no means follows him, using “connatural” in place of Lock’s innate ideas. “Twas Mr. Locke that struck at all fundamentals, threw all order and virtue out of the world, and made the ideas of these, which are the same with those of God, unnatural, and without foundation in our minds. Innate is a word he poorly plays upon: the right word, though less used, is connatural.” Shaftesbury is aware that the question of the character of the virtuous act is not the same as that of the mental faculty which looks at it and appreciates it. Natural to us is a “sense of right and wrong,” to which Shaftesbury gives the name “the moral sense.” This moral sense apprehends the beauty or deformity, the proportion or disproportion, of actions and affections.

“It feels the soft and harsh, the agreeable and disagreeable, in the affections; and finds a foul and fair, a harmonious and a dissonant, as really and truly here, as in any musical numbers, or in the outward forms or representations of sensible things. Nor can it withhold its admiration and extasy, its aversion and scorn, any more in what relates to one than to the other of these subjects.” (Characteristics 2:83).

This faculty of the moral sense he represents as a kind of sense organ. Locke describes two types of senses, the external and the internal (and from these tries to derive all our ideas or perceptions). In Shaftesbury, two internal senses occupy an important place: the sense of beauty and the moral sense. (IEP, 2001)

Hutcheson argues that humans have natural and disinterested feelings of benevolence which guide their moral acts and an innate “moral sense” which informs their moral judgments.

The origin of morality is not even agreed upon. Morality is intimately related with hypocrisy, for “Hobbes’ point is that morality is primarily concerned with the behavior of people insofar as that behavior affects others; it prohibits that kind of conduct that harms others and encourages the kind of conduct that helps them. Nietzsche was certainly right when he maintained that morality is what the vulnerable use to protect themselves from those who might prey upon them. Unlike Hobbes, he did not seem to realize that everyone is vulnerable. This vulnerability explains why even those who are not always prepared to act morally favor having morality taught to others.” (Gert, 1998)

Darwin sees the moral sense as uniquely human, but rooted in the social instincts that humans have in common with other animals. Darwin suggests that altruism is the basic moral principle. Bowen’s concept of the emotional system adds something to evolutionary theory. The emotional system provides a context for understanding the broad spectrum of moral thought and conduct, and the scale of differentiation sheds light on the ways that individuals and groups vary in their practice of altruism and other moral principles (Ferrera, 1995).

Recently, Wilson (1993) argues that human beings all share a “moral sense” rooted in human biology and evolution and our moral faculties, as he sees it, four innate sentiments dispose people to a universal moral sense. These are sympathy, fairness, self-control and duty that grow directly out of our mutual interdependence as social animals. He also believes that the moral sense is formed as the child’s innate disposition interacts with earliest familial experiences. He further explains, “Hence, when I say that people have a moral sense, I do not wish to be understood as saying that they have an intuitive knowledge of moral rules. Moral rules are often disputed and usually in conflict; but the process by which people resolve those disputes or settle those conflicts leads them back to sentiments that seem to them to have a worth that is intuitively obvious.”

Kohlberg uses every opportunity to castigate moral relativism. According Reed (1997), Kohlberg’s experience as a young man saving Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust drives him to argue for a universal morality against an equivocal relativist morality. Kohlberg is concerned with providing a basis for the individual to speak up against group practice and to criticize authorities, to prevent the conditions such as those that led to Nazi power (Narvaez, 2002).


Cultural relativists maintain that the circumstances of justice and morality are important components of the meaning of justice and morality. Relativists reject Kantianism because the subject of morality is divorced from human circumstances.  Relativists, to be clear, do not believe that there is no right and wrong (that would be a moral anarchist) but instead believe that what we may reasonably call just or moral is shaped (at least in part) by how the moral subject is situated.  In this sense, relativists admit of a variety of reasonable moral points of view. Kantians object that this view is blind to some deeply unsettling and unfair practices, and so does not accord with some of our firmest and deepest convictions about morality (which are held with near universality and, on the Kantian view, is available to any rational person) (Eisenberg, 2004)

To cultural relativism, the key is that can only be judged relative to a specified society. There will be no ultimate standard of right and wrong by which to judge culture.

Not influenced by his mother who John Dewey is a famous proponent of this view. A real philosophy, according to Dewey, must abandon absolute origins and finalities and explore specific values in practical, moral, and social life. Man continues to change his ideas until they work. Dewey (1903) said, “here I need only recur to the proposition of the reciprocal determination, in the ethical judgment, of the judger and the content judged, and suggest that this idea requires in its logical development the conclusion shalt, since the judger is personal, the content judged must ultimately be personal too — so that the moral judgment really institutes a relationship between persons, relationship between persons being what we mean by ‘social’.”

Cultural relativism is based on the following postulates:

  • Cultural is learned and not genetic.
  • The transmission of culture is not a conscious activity.
  • Cultures can’t be ordered along an axis from “primitive” to “advanced”.
  • Each culture is equally developed according to its own priorities and values.
  • Cultural traits cannot be classified or interpreted according to universal categories appropriate to “human nature”. They assume meaning only within the context of coherently interrelated elements internal to the particular culture under consideration.

Different from cultural relativism, some scholars and psychologists try to probe moral sense under cultural influences in a new perspective.


In his book, A Question Of Values, Lewis (1990) identifies the six ways that we choose values.




Table 1. Six Ways We Choose Values

Mode by which we arrive at knowledge Explanation Example
Authority Taking someone else’s word, having faith in (eg., church or bible) “I believe what he said. I have faith in the authority of …”
Deductive Logic  

Subjecting beliefs to the variety of consistency tests that underlie deductive reasoning.

“Since A is true, and B is true, C must be true, since it follows from A and B.”
Sense Experience  

Gaining direct knowledge through your own five senses. I saw it; I heard it; I smelled it, etc.

“I know it must be true because I saw it, heard it, tasted it, etc.”
Emotion Feeling that something is right. Although we do not usually associate feeling with thinking or judging, we actually “think” and “judge” with our emotions all the time. “I feel that this is true.”


Unconscious thinking that is not emotional. Think of the mind as 1) the conscious mind, 2) the emotions and 3) the intuitive mind. The conscious mind and intuitive mind are highly sophisticated, but the intuitive mind is much more powerful. Most creative discoveries are intuitively derived, and later “dressed up” with logic or other conscious techniques.

“After struggling with this problem, I went to bed confused and exhausted. The next morning, as I awakened, the solution came to me in a flash and I just knew it was right.”

A synthetic technique that relies on sense experience to collect observations; intuition to develop testable hypotheses; logic to develop a test; and sense experience to complete the test.

“I tested the hypothesis experimentally and found that it was true.”

Lewis, Hunter. 1990. A Question Of Values. Harper Collins, New York. pp 10-11.


Perceptibly, from this diagram, we know that moral sense, albeit so called, does not fit in “sense experience” category, rather, in “emotion”.


Having gathered many research evidences from others’ researches, Greene and Haidt (2002), point out “neuroimaging studies of moral judgment in normal adults, as well as studies of individuals exhibiting aberrant moral behavior, all point to the conclusion, embraced by the social intuitionist model, that emotion is a significant driving force in moral judgment.” They conclude that recent evidence suggests that moral judgment is more a matter of emotion and affective intuition than deliberate reasoning, though moral psychology has long focused on reasoning.


The social intuitionist model, brings together research on automaticity with findings in neuroscience and theory in evolutionary psychology. This model suggests that moral judgment is much like aesthetic judgment: we see an action or hear a story and we have an instant feeling of approval or disapproval. These feelings are best thought of as affect-laden intuitions, as they appear suddenly and effortlessly in consciousness, with an affective valence (good or bad), but without any feeling of having gone through steps of searching, weighing evidence, or inferring a conclusion. These intuitions – for example, about reciprocity, loyalty, purity, suffering – are shaped by natural selection, as well as by cultural forces.


Lloyd-Price (2003) summarizes the idea in The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, “better understanding the biological origins of our moral sense reveals its vulnerabilities. Defensible moral arguments can be confused with irrelevant passions and prejudices. For example, ethic of community – conformity to local norms – can lead to cultural relativism. Also, confusion between morality and purity can lead to racism and sexism. Moral emotions can be switched on or off depending on whether we have a mindset that judges behavior in terms of value or preference. Hence, smoking used to be a life-style choice; now, with second-hand smoke, it is immoral. Concepts of the sacred and taboo are alive and well in modern thinking. This happens when infinite value is put on things and blocks any consideration of trade-offs, e.g. food additives and toxic waste clean-up. Even the scientific study of mind was moralized by the radical scientists.”


What, then, can be concluded about moral sense? What is morality? Is it an innate quality or social construction? From where does it originate? Each voice in this debate provides unique and interesting insight. As Sullivan (2002) put it, “yet each argument is limited, providing only a fragment of understanding to the larger puzzle. The biological perspective is one such voice—it demystifies some of the enigma yet will never suffice as a solitary explanation. Biology shows one’s capacity for ethical behavior is a product of evolution, but its explanation cannot extend much further. To truly gain a heightened understanding of this ambiguous and highly charged concept, it is most useful to consider not only biological factors, but social, cultural, and psychological influences as well. An interdisciplinary exploration—a union, rather than a separation, of various fields—is indispensable.”


By the same token, my argument is not in favor of cultural relativist, neither is my intention of cultural defense. My point here is that, moral sense—sense of right and wrong of human nature, is greatly affected by culture in which people live. By studying the moral sense of a group of members within a culture or cross-cultures, we can understand some fundamental differences of how they think and view differently. Although there is a dichotomy of perspectives whether human beings are naturally moral, with an innate moral sense or that moral sense is culturally affected, there are few arguments about the fact that moral sense is affected and shaped by a culture in which people live. It is from this point of view that I advocate differentiation of moral sense as a tool to understand and study cultural differences.


The purpose of this study is to examine how people understand moral sense and how they relate moral sense to their culture, and the implications of the study for teacher education in a global and multicultural context.


This study has an implication for teacher education in a global and multicultural context, as Merryfield (1995) indicated, “in teaching about cultures, global educators focus as much on cultural universals, those things all humans have in common, as they do on cultural differences. Cross-cultural understanding, open-mindedness, anticipation of complexity, resistance to stereotyping or derision of cultural difference, and perspectives consciousness—recognition, knowledge, and appreciation of other peoples’ points of view—are essential in the development of a global perspective.”


The purpose of this preliminary study was 1) to generate a definition for moral sense, 2) to examine the relationship between moral sense and culture, 3) to find the cultural factors that affect moral sense, 4) to describe the attributes of a good teacher and 5) to investigate the obligations of the teacher as moral educator.



A relatively large sample of 104 college students who are mostly pre-service and some in-service teachers participated in this study in an attempt to 1) to generate a definition for moral sense, 2) to examine the relationship between moral sense and culture, 3) to find the cultural factors that affect moral sense, 4) to describe the attributes of a good teacher and 5) to investigate the obligations of the teacher as moral educator. No compensation was given for participation.

These college students’ age ranges from 17 to 45 years of age (M = 22.8, SD = 1.6). The ethnic composition of the sample was predominantly white/European Americans (77%), with the remainder African Americans (14%), Asian Americans (4%), Hispanic Americans (4%) and Native Americans (1%). These students are mostly those who are preparing themselves to be teachers with some as in-service teachers with various majors. In terms of formal religious affiliation, the sample was predominantly Christian (80%), although representing 10 different denominations. The remainder had no religious affiliation (18%). All participants were mostly undergraduates (93%) with a small number of graduates (7%). The number of female (82%) participants largely overweighs the number of male participants (18%). Female participants (82%) outnumber greatly male participants (18%).



A survey with five open-ended questions was administrated to the participants that first asked them to provide demographic information and then to “define the moral sense,” followed by the questions for explanations “Is moral sense innate, independent of culture or is moral sense acquired, culturally affected? Or else?”And then the participants were asked to list as many as they can “(cultural) factors that have affected the formation of moral sense” in order of importance. And finally they were requested for “What is a good teacher?” and the obligations of the teacher as moral educator.



This survey consisting of five questions were administrated to the 104 college students who are most of pre-service teachers. The questions were done by students at the end of class with their submission in anonymity. This survey typically took 15-20 minuets to complete.


Findings and Analysis

Moral sense is defined by 68% participants as “sense of what is right or wrong”, or “sense of what is good or bad”.

75% participants believe that moral sense is acquired and culturally affected while 22% of them support that moral sense may be innate but it is greatly affected by culture. Only 3% of them think that moral sense is innate and independent of culture.

The (cultural) factors that affect the formation of moral sense are family, religion, school education, friends and peers, media, living location, social-economic status, the order of which is based on the participants’ choice in order of importance (see Table 2).

Table 2. Factors that affect the formation of moral sense

Factors Frequency Percentage (%) The 1st Choice Item Percent of the 1st Choice Item (%)
Family 82 82 54 65.85
Religion 52 52 25 48.08
School education 47 47 1 2.13
Friends/peers 47 47 0 0
Media 16 16 3 18.75
Living location 15 15 2 13.33
Socioeconomic status 14 14 2 14.29

82% of the participants chose family as the factors that affect the formation of their moral sense, and 66% of them chose it as the first important factors, followed by the influence of religion, which was chosen by 52% students 48% of whom put it into their first choice. School education, friends and peers are important factors, but 2% of the participants who chose school education as a factor put it into the first choice. School education was viewed as factors but not expected to the first order of importance. The other important factors are media, living location, and socioeconomic status, in which living location and socioeconomic status chosen for the factors for the formation of moral sense are beyond researchers’ expectation.

The standard of a good teacher, from the viewpoints of the participants, are

Noun Phrase: “good listener and leader”, “friend”, “role model”, “not a dictator”, “experience”

Verbal Phrase: “listening to students”, “making class interesting and effective”, “teach students of right and wrong”, “create a positive environment”, “recognize students’ differences”, “involves kids in the learning process”, “have a positive impact on students”, “guide in right directions”, “motivate students”, “not punish students”, “have good personal skills”, “inspire students”, “encourage”

Adjective Phrase: “open-minded”, “effective”, “flexible”,  “caring”, “understanding”, “helpful”, “patient”, “knowledgeable”, “willing to spend time with students”, “strict but fair”

Obligations of a teacher as moral educator include

Noun Phrase: “role model”

Verbal Phrase: “offer guidance for students what to do”, “showing respect to students”,  “teach students to do the right things in class and also in their lives”, “understand students moral, if not agreeable, not to offend them”, “teach students of right and wrong”, “bring universal morals not press the teacher’s own beliefs” “guide students for right choice”, “unity between students”, “protect students”, “provide a moral benchmark”, “direct”, “instill”

Adjective Phrase:  “unbiased”, “fair”, “reasonable”


Based on the conceptual inquiry and the preliminary study, we conclude some of implications teacher education in global and multicultural context.

Firstly, parent participation provides a cultural context for teaching and a link with student personal/cultural knowledge (Banks, 1999). Parents are the first educators for their children for their children’s moral development. Parenting education should be embedded in teacher education for facilitating parents to have awareness of moral development stages of their children (Kohlberg, 1986). Parent involvement in education is meaningful for preparing children into good and smart students who will be responsible citizens respecting others within their own culture and outside their culture.

Secondly, as Bond (1998) suggested, a part of standard school curriculum should include a re-orientation of spiritual priorities (Korten, 1993). He believes that a socialization for community and harmonious living must replace the contemporary focus on materialism if we are to enjoy a sustainable global future, “as an act of collective survival, to recreate the political and economic structures of human society in ways that free our world from the grip of greed, waste, and exploitation…to re-establish the nurturing bonds of sharing on which human community and life itself depend.” (p. 59). This re- orientation will help reduce the pressure on limited material resources arising from widespread acquisitive motivation, and move society away from a status hierarchy based primarily on wealth (see also Hatcher, 1998; and Schwartz, 1992, for the trade-off between power motivations and values of benevolence).

Thirdly, school education must be globally and multiculturally oriented. The multicultural education policy statement should sanction and support diversity. The staff must have positive attitudes and expectations toward diverse students. The school staff are required to reflect ethnic and cultural diversity. The curriculum must be transformational and action-focused. Teaching strategies are constructivist, personalized, empowering, and participatory. Teaching materials present diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural perspectives on events, concepts, and issues (Banks, 1999).

Fourthly, friends and peers are important factors to affect the formation of moral sense. Careful selection of friends is suggested to be under parents and teachers’ guidance. Power of influence under peers should never be underestimated. Morality is originated from “marble rules” (Piaget, 1997). Students from different cultural background are encouraged to interact each other to reduce negative peer pressure for cultural prejudice.

Fifthly, media, rich in information, an influential channel for informal learning, is an effective way to understand different cultures. Teachers need to know how to direct their students to use their critical thinking to “analyze and explore the importance of a free press and the media’s role in producing different interpretations of the same event but, as one of the most powerful modes of communication, it is also the medium which inflects and interprets the very topical and events and issues that students are expected to study as part of every other strand of knowledge and information in the Citizenship curriculum” (BFI Education) and in the multicultural curriculum.

Sixthly, a crucial element of effective education is an in-depth appreciation of the social and cultural life of a community. Neighborhood can be formed into a caring and nurturing environment. Helping your neighbors in need and respecting their cultural differences will win back their respects.

Finally, as Bond (1998) proposes, “culture as a topic of study should receive much more attention (e.g., Claydon, Knight, & Rado, 1977; Hoffman, 1996), so as to moderate students’ attitudes towards race and other forms of difference (Banks, 1995). This exposure could include culture as the primary focus (e.g., Ladson-Billings, 1995) and with appropriate techniques (Pusch, 1979) or as a supplement to other social science or business courses where cultural considerations are central to the validity of material presented (e.g., Smith & Bond’s 1998 text on social psychology across cultures). By the identification of culture as a vital and worthy concern, ethnicities are legitimized and validated. Weight is given to cultural claims and a sense of security imparted to ethnic groups in the national and international mosaic.”

In shaping students’ moral sense, several important aspects should be noticed—example, explanation, exhortation, environment, and experience— “the five Es” of the new moral education proposed by Kevin Ryan (1986). Empathy should be added, for empathy is the bedrock of morality. The roots of morality are found in empathy as it is empathizing with the potential victim, someone in pain, danger, or acute deprivation, and sharing his distress that moves a person to act to help the individual. Empathic affect, putting oneself in another’s place, leads us to follow certain moral principles (Granacher, 1998).

In today’s educational settings, a 12-Point Comprehensive Approach to Character Education (Lickona, 1991) is highly recommended:

9 Classroom Strategies:

1. The teacher as caregiver, model, and ethical mentor: Treating students with love and respect, encouraging right behavior, and correcting wrongful actions.

2. A caring classroom community: Teaching students to respect and care about each other.

3. Moral discipline: Using rules and consequences to develop moral reasoning, self-control, and generalized respect for others.

4. A democratic classroom environment: Using the class meeting to engage students in shared decision making and in taking responsibility for making the classroom the best it can be.

5. Teaching values through the curriculum: Using the ethically rich content of academic subjects as vehicles for values teaching.

6. Cooperative learning: Fostering students’ ability to work with and appreciate others.

7. The “conscience of craft”: Developing students’ sense of academic responsibility and the habit of doing their work well.

8. Ethical reflection: Developing the cognitive side of character through reading, research, writing, and discussion.

9. Conflict resolution: Teaching students how to solve conflicts fairly, without intimidation or violence.

Strategies for the Whole School:

10. Caring beyond the classroom: Using role models to inspire altruistic behavior and providing opportunities for school and community service.

11. Creating a positive moral culture in the school: Developing a caring school community that promotes the core values.

12. Parents and community as partners: Helping parents and the whole community join the sschools in a cooperative effort to build good character.

Discussion and Suggestions


The survey was conducted in an intact group in which whit/European female participants take a large percentage, and their views of a good teacher as one who “cares about”, “knows” and “understands” students, reflect Gilligan’s morality of care (Gilligan,1982). The survey is in form of self-report and it would be more objective with a combination of test. Appropriate tools, such as the Defining Issues Test (DIT) and Moral Sense Test (MST), need to be selected for proper tests. It is suggested that since this preliminary study is done in a macro-culture, though with micro-cultures, it would be more interest to make a cross-cultural comparison. For example, cultural differences in moral sense between American and Chinese college students. For it is noticeable that as the economic and diplomatic climate in China has changed, the frequency of contact between Chinese and Americans has increased in all areas: business, academic, scientific, professional, personal and cultural, making this study even more valuable. The two countries’ trade volume grows, and the demand for cultural exchanges between two nations has been rising, for the governments of the two countries have realized the importance of fostering a broader and deeper understanding between two peoples (On December 9, 2003, the governments of the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China signed a renewed Implementing Accord for Cultural Exchange). Another significance for proposing such a study for the reason that the two nations have a big difference in their history and traditions: China is a populous country with long history of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism while the United States is a multiracial country with Judeo-Christian tradition. With a larger sampling from the two nations, together with a combination of quantitative and qualitative study based on proper instrument, such a study will not only benefit national or local governmental policy makers of the two nations for developing adaptive programs to enhance more cultural exchanges, but also benefit curriculum developers of both nations for infusing the contents of cultural consciousness into textbooks, and enhance educators for classroom activities with cultural awareness of global perspective and encourage other researchers for further and deeper study.




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