Kohlbergs Theory - Essay Example

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He believed that people developed their moral intelligence gradually. In this way, he is similar in thought to Jean Piaget and John Dewey (Barger, 2000, p…
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Kohlbergs Theory
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Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development Lawrence Kohlberg was a at Harvard that left the field of developmental psychology to study Moral Education. He believed that people developed their moral intelligence gradually. In this way, he is similar in thought to Jean Piaget and John Dewey (Barger, 2000, p. 1).
Kohlberg visualized moral understanding developing along a continuum of six stages and three levels, each level consisting of two stages. Level One consists of the stages Obedience and Punishment Orientation and Individualism and Exchange. In these stages, individuals primarily focus on punishment for wrongdoing. In the first stage, punishment is viewed as validating the fact that something is wrong, where in the second stage, punishment is recognized for breaking a law but is something that should be avoided if possible. Level two consists of the stages Good Interpersonal Relationships and Maintaining Social Order. In these stages, individuals reason that breaking a law might be allowable if the cost to an individual is too great or if the damage to society as a whole is minimal. For example, stealing medicine to save a dying person is probably OK because few people are harmed by the loss of the medicine and one person’s life is saved. The third level includes the stages Social Contract and Individual Rights and Universal Principles. These stages acknowledge the fact that individual rights must be brought into account when determining right and wrong. A smoothly running totalitarian state is not morally agreeable. Stage six is reached by individuals that recognize that there are universal principles that must be applied to all people in a society. This means that everyone in the society must be valued equally. Most people do not reach this level of moral reasoning (Colby and Kohlberg, 1983, p.28). One person in history that has is the Dr. Martin Luther King.
Two aspects of Dr. King’s efforts to bring equality to all people in America qualify him as an individual that operated at level three, stage six of Kohlberg’s theory. One is the fact that Dr. King recognized that if a law was created in order to create a disparity of value between groups or individuals in a society, then it is a morally reprehensible law. Universal principals, by definition, must apply equally to all members of a society. This means that a white individual would have the same value as a black individual. The laws that Dr. King sought to repeal created this type of disparity. The stage five individual believes that democratic processes can reach a settlement that all parties agree is fair. This is not the case when one of the groups is a minority group that will always be outvoted by a majority. Stage six individuals believe that sometimes things must occur outside of the democratic process in order to create change.
The final aspect of Dr. King’s civil rights efforts that establishes him as operating at stage six is his willingness to embrace civil disobedience. Civil disobedience would never be embraced by individuals below stage six due to the disruption it causes to society as a whole. It is not democratic, so stage five would not agree and it does not promote societal harmony so stage four would not approve. Few individuals every accomplish reasoning at a stage six, and even fewer leaders exhibit these traits (Divr & Eden, 2002).
Works Cited
Barger, R. N. (2000). A SUMMARY OF LAWRENCE KOHLBERGS. Retrieved November 15, 2011, from California State University Dominguez Hills:
Colby, A., & Kohlberg, L. (1983). A Longitudinal Study of Moral Judgment. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development , 1-38.
Divr, T., & Eden, D. (2002). Impact of Transpormational Leadershiip on Folower Development and Performance. The Academy of Management Journal , 735-745. Read More
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