Morality And Social Convention Essay

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Morality and Social Convention Children in any society are expected to learn to conform to a number of social rules and expectations if they are to become participants in the culture. This is a point frequently made by traditional educators (Ryan, 1989; Wynne & Ryan, 1993) and something we will return to at various points in this book. Among the rules that children in our society are expected to learn are that certain classes of adults (such as teachers and doctors) are addressed by titles, that males and females use separate restroom facilities, and that women but not men wear dresses. These are examples of social conventions. In the absence of such a shared norm, the acts are neither right nor wrong. For this reason, conventions may be said to be arbitrary. For example, we could just as easily have students address teachers by first names as have them call teachers by their last names and formal titles of Mr. or Ms. Conventions, however, serve an important function by providing predictability and order to social life. Without social conventions it would be impossible to organize social institutions such as schools, and societies as organized systems could not exist. The arbitrariness of conventions makes their importance difficult for children to figure out. It is not until some time in adolescence that children come to fully understand the function that these arbitrary conventions serve to provide predictability and order to our social interactions. In contrast with issues of convention are matters of morality. Morality refers to issues of human welfare, justice, and rights that are a function of the inherent features of interpersonal relations (Turiel, 2002). Because of this, the right and wrong of moral actions are not simply determined by social consensus or the views of authority. For example, it is not possible to hit another person with force and not hurt
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