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Caring for the ethical ideal: Nel Noddings on moral education

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Nel Noddings is arguably one of the premier philosophers of moral education in the English-speaking world today. Although she is outside the mainstream theory, research, and practice traditions of cognitive-developmentalism (the Kohlberg legacy) and of character education (which is in public ascendancy), her body of work is unrivalled for originality of insight, comprehensiveness and coherence. Whilst Carol Gilligan's In a different voice (1982) introduced the ethic of caring into academic and public discourse, it is Noddings 'who has done most to outline a specific feminist position on moral education' (McClellan, 1999, p. 104), and whose influence extends to educational practice. This essay explicates Noddings's vision in sufficient depth to make the foregoing claims credible. Thematic focus is given to her attention to the ethical self or ethical ideal. The paper also examines Noddings's perspective on character education and the need to incorporate a morality of evil into any serious educational philosophy or practice. It is less a critical appraisal of that vision and perspective than an invitation to others to more fully engage with Noddings's writings.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Creighton University USA

Publication date: 2004-06-01

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