Main Article Content

Nurturing democratic virtues: educators' perspectives

Lena Green


It is widely accepted that certain values and their associated virtues are desirable in citizens of a democracy. Schools in South Africa and elsewhere are expected to play a part in the development of appropriate values, although the precise form of their influence is frequently not clarified. The development of values and virtues is the central theme of moral development, a process linked by some psychologists to cognitive development. Although cognitive competence cannot guarantee virtue, it is generally recognized that insightful moral judgement and action are facilitated by certain cognitive dispositions and skills, and that values and habits of thoughtfulness are interdependent. Research indicates that educators are aware of a responsibility to nurture morality but suggests a number of concerns related to their capacity and to their understanding of their role. The study reported here is a quantitative survey of the priorities of a sample of 350 Western Cape educators regarding the dispositions (both cognitive and moral) they consider to be important to nurture in the classroom and the extent to which they attempt to do so. Educators rated all 25 dispositions as at least of some importance, the four most highly rated being goal-setting and planning, reliability, punctuality, and persistence. Despite the high priority accorded to certain dispositions the percentage of educators who claimed to assign effort to their active nurturance was never more than 31%, and educators did not seem to prioritize cognitive dispositions. Gender, professional experience and phase of education were each found to influence priorities and practices. Finally, educators maintained that they assigned effort to nurturing many characteristics in addition to those listed on the questionnaire, of which respect (21%) and self-respect (14%), were mentioned most frequently. These findings have implications for the engagement of educators in values education.

South African Journal of Education Vol.24(2) 2004: 108-113

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2076-3433
print ISSN: 0256-0100