It is time for adults to become concerned for the education
of the whole child. The tendency seems to be to take care of
parts of a child’s total development while the rest is left to
chance. The best example of this an over-concern for
intellectual development which can be evaluated by scores on
tests while the physical, social, emotional and moral development
is neglected. As a result, we are producing children who develop
into immature adults and never reach their potential.
The aim of education, according to Jean Piaget, is moral
and intellectual autonomy. Autonomy means being governed which means being by oneself and is the opposite of heteronomy which means
being governed be someone else.
All babies are born helpless and need to be taken care of
and governed by adults. As they move toward adulthood, they
should become increasingly autonomous. To the extent that a
child becomes able to govern himself, he is governed less by
other people. According to Piaget, children learn moral values
by constructing them from within, based on interactions with the
environment. They need to be given opportunities to put things
into relationships through social interactions.
Dr. Constance Kamii, an authority on the ideas of Jean
Piaget, feels that children need to be helped to develop
intellectual autonomy. This means being governed by oneself in
the intellectual realm. People who have acquired this autonomy
do not accept unquestioningly what they are told, including
slogans and propaganda. Instead of requiring that children
arrive at the right answer, teachers would be more helpful if
they asked how the children arrived at the answer. If a child
adds incorrectly, and the only response is that the teacher marks
it wrong, the child is given the erroneous message that the truth
comes only from the teacher’s head. Dr. Kamii says that when
individual children are asked how they arrived at a particular
answer, they typically react by grabbing for the eraser, even
when their answers are correct. They must learn to trust their
Moral autonomy is another essential property for a complete
adult. This should be learned early and cannot be left to
chance. Parents and teachers need to provide experiences and
model behavior for children so that they learn to identify
situations with a moral/ethical dimension and to base their
responses on what is right.
Children also need to learn to accept responsibility
for their own actions. Parents should not rescue them from the
consequences. They are not responsible for the actions of the
rest of the world, but they are responsible for their own
behavior. This is a very difficult task because the media and
the world act differently. Parents have much to fight against.
However, it is probably the most important thing they can do for
their children, and it must be done early. Adolescence may be
too late, it should begin with the very young child.
We should all be conscious of the fact that the
development and nurturing of intellectual and moral autonomy in ourselves and our children is a lifelong process and we are going
to be faced constantly with new dilemmas in our society. The
process should be started early and it is never finished.
Piaget noted that if we examine ” normal adult individuals
who are representative of the honest, human average, the truly
logical persons who are masters of their reasoning power are as
rare as the truly moral men who exercise their conscience with all their strength.”