Journal of East China Normal University(Educationa ›› 2016, Vol. 34 ›› Issue (1): 24-30.doi: 10.16382/j.cnki.1000-5560.2016.01.003

• Basic theory of Education (教育基本理论) • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Beyond Living a Good Life:Reforming Moral Education Textbooks in Primary Schools

SUN Cai-Ping,ZHAO Wei-Li   

  1. Institute of Moral Education, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210097, China
  • Online:2016-03-15 Published:2016-03-31
  • Contact: SUN Cai-Ping,ZHAO Wei-Li
  • About author:SUN Cai-Ping,ZHAO Wei-Li

Abstract:        The year 2002 marked a radical reform in both the theory and practice of China’s moral education over the past few decades. Rather than a state mechanism for ideological indoctrination, the new moral education is expected to return to children’s real life world. And the moral education textbooks compiled since then have witnessed a progressive outlook. The content selection is based upon children’s real life events and moral dilemmas therewith, and a new agenda is in place to help children learn how to live a good and ethical life both at present and in the future.          Helping children live a good and ethical life is a noble goal of moral education in China. However, a closer review of the textbooks used in the past 12 years shows that such a lofty goal indeed registers some ethical concerns as possibly expressed in the textbook design of certain topics and in some real classroom teaching and learning. Such ethical concerns can be discerned at three layers. First is an ethical positioning that tends to play up the Iness of children themselves, meanwhile depreciating others, whether it be other human beings, material things, or the natural world. Second is an instrumental and technological view of what a good life is. Moral education becomes the training of life skills and a good life is attainable through obtaining those skills. Third is a lopsided understanding of ethos as vulgarized utilitarianism, relating to both the environmental world and interpersonal relationships. With that, the Iness of children is to take advantage of others and the natural world for its own benefit. What is neglected is a healthy ecology wherein human beings codwell harmoniously among themselves and with the natural world.       Based on the analysis of the above ethical concerns, this paper attempts to explore four new efforts beyond living a good life. First is a rethinking of the true meaning of moral education. It argues that the key tone and contour of living a good life does not lie in a simple juxtaposition of subject knowledge, life skills, and the ideas of good life. Rather, it rests with a practical wisdom that integrates perception, knowledge, feelings, and life strategies. Second is a reconceptualization of a human subjects not as an independent subject in its modern sense but as a cobeing in the traditional Chinese Daoist sense. According to the classical Chinese philosophy of Unity of Man and Nature(Tianrenheyi), human beings are just one element/being within the entire natural world that is composed of myriads of beings, including plants and animals. With such philosophy, human beings are supposed to codwell with and corespond to the natural world harmoniously, instead of availing of the latter as a resource. The third lies in an ethical attitude that aims to replace the nearsighted, albeit dominant utilitarian and technological viewpoint in the current world. With such an ethical view, moral education is to guide children into reliving some historical and cultural contexts for a deeper understanding of the meaning as an individual. Last is for children to recultivate a sense of culture, history, and cobeing in their daily life activities.         It should be noted that all the above new efforts are to complement and supplement, not to negate China’s progressive moral education reform in the past 12 years, in order to develop our children into real ethical citizens in the future.