I enjoyed your post. It seems that we have much in common regarding the shaping of our educational values; in particular, what is noteworthy is our joint exhortations for self-improvement. I would like, however, to caution against believing that we can know our values explicitly and fully. Some (perhaps most) of our values originate in parts of our personal histories that may be lost to us.
Stets (2010) argues effectively for the combination of psychology and sociology in understanding the disjuncture between moral reasoning and moral functioning. Stets’ argument is predicated on his assertion that individuals have access to reflexivity, that is, the ability to understand self as object and as subject. His identity theory assumes Mead’s (1962) separation of “I” and “Me” and that reflexivity is possible through feedback loops that encourage negative or positive emotional responses to situations. These assumptions, however, form only an incomplete view and as such cannot answer fully the question of where values originate.
Kegan (1982) explains this discrepancy. Drawing upon the moral stage theories of Piaget and Kohlberg, Kegan describes how certain aspects of the subject, “I”, is only visible at particular developmental stages. The ‘evolution’ in the title of the book refers to the evolving of the individual through life stages when aspects of “I” become accessible as characteristics of “me”. Just as a fish cannot perceive water, individuals cannot recognise elements of “me”-ness (Eriksen, 2008). A Kegan stage ends when hidden elements of the subjective individual transform (through biological maturation, cognition development or social-cognitively altered) as separate from the individual. An erstwhile invisible facet becomes visible, and the self is able to comprehend that facet as being separate from the self. When this separation is complete, the individual gains agentive potential over the element.
Stets (2010) and Archer (2007) emphasise the nature of the agentive in moral development, but human actions are the result of a myriad of influencing factors, and it is unlikely that any individual will have direct cognitive access to all factors: More so, when they are not aware of how they are constructed socially or biologically (Steven Hitlin & Piliavin, 2004). Kahn and Walsh (2006) present to teachers some implications of the Johari Window (p. 137). Whereas some values are accessible to the self, others are not available for reflection. To overcome this, Kahn and Walsh (2006) urge teachers to accept feedback often as a mechanism for accessing potentially unreachable values.
I think that much work needs to be done in both psychology and social psychology to understand more precisely the scope and nature of the moral self in regard to the epistemology of conceptualising self-knowledge. I would add that I sense that however progressive Stets’ and Archer’s theories are, they need to be framed within what we still do not know.
Archer, M. S. (2007). Making our way through the world: Human reflexivity and social mobility. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Eriksen, K. (2008). “Interpersonal” Clients, Students, and Supervisees: Translating Robert Kegan. Counselor Education & Supervision, 47(June), 233–249.
Hitlin, S., & Piliavin, J. A. (2004). Values: Reviving a Dormant Concept. Annual Review of Sociology, 30(1), 359–393. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.30.012703.110640
Kahn, P., & Walsh, L. (2006). Developing your teaching: Ideas, Insight and Action, 164. doi:10.4324/9780203969380
Kegan, R. (1982). The evolving self: Problem and Process in Human Development. Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.
Mead, G. H. (1962). Mind, self, and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviourist. (C. W. Morris, Ed.). Chigago: University of Chicago Press. doi:10.1080/01463376009385121
Stets, J. E. (2010). The social psychology of the moral identity. In S. Hitlin & S. Vaisey (Eds.), Handbook of the Sociology of Morality (pp. 385–409). New York: Springer Science and Business Media. doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-6896-8