Ethics has a prominent, but unclear and contradictory, role in the school curriculum. Viktor Gardelli, research assistant at Luleå University of Technology, says that the lack of a mandatory ethics subject in primary school leads to deficiencies in teaching.
– There are four general perspectives in the curriculum and ethics is the only one of these that have no separate subject in primary school teaching. Instead many of these questions are cited to the subject of religion which seems to be a reason that ethics teaching fall through the cracks, and my research suggests that primary education, as in high school, needs its own ethics or philosophy topic, said Viktor Gardelli.
Many and far-reaching effects
The research is presented in the dissertation To Describe, Transmit or Inquire: Ethics and technology in school where Viktor Gardelli studied three approaches to ethics education in the Swedish elementary school, and proved that the curriculum places conflicting demands on the school's work. Although the teaching of ethics is given a prominent role in the curriculum many teachers feel paralyzed in their relation to ethics, which can be explained by the conflicting missions the curriculum provides. A fact which causes a number of problems.
– Ethics teaching does not seem to have much impact on students' abilities in the area, and many teachers expressed that it is difficult to work with ethics and they do not do it very much. The study also shows that students reason in ways that seem incompatible with the values that the school has a mission to convey to all, and always work from, said Viktor Gardelli and continues.
– The effects are many and far reaching. It has negative consequences for the students' future social citizenship, their quality of life but also for their other schoolwork.
Saying one thing doing another
The thesis also examines young people's preferences regarding ethical issues and the Internet. The study shows that many young people say what they think adults want to hear and then act in a totally different way online.
– It is problematic from several perspectives. First, it risks obstructing an open discussion between young people and adults, because the young people realize that the adults do not believe they should behave as they do. It also hampers the possibilities for adults to get information on young people's behavior and creates a false sense of security, said Victor Gardelli.
Many call for the school to try to transfer certain beliefs and behaviors to students in order to counteract this development but that is a counterproductive approach, the study shows.
– Instead, schools should help students develop abilities to themselves relate to ethics, to think critically, to make considerations and make decisions. A teaching which calls for, open dialogue and a joint investigative in focus, says Viktor Gardelli.