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Section Education & Educational Research

MORAL EDUCATION BETWEEN IDEAL AND POPULISM


Lecturer Dr. Marin Drmnescu Lumina The University of South-East Europe, Bucharest, Romania
Lecturer Dr. Ragp Gokcel
ABSTRACT
The article presents the possible impact of populism on the two basic dimensions of
education: moral education and religious education. The current society is characterized
by a decline in moral and religious values on the personality formation of the trainee
and on the metaphysical- religious conception of the world and man. This phenomenon
causes a vulnerability of the educational system and the Church to the aggressiveness of
the manifestations of the populist phenomenon, a phenomenon on the rise in Eastern
Europe. A certain inertia specific to both educational and religious systems, combined
with some traditional and anti-Reformation attitudes, can be a fertile land for asserting a
populist corrosive speech with long-term adverse effects in their formative objectives.
Keywords: populism, moral education, religious education, ethics, moral values.
1. INTRODUCTION
In Romania, the educational ideal lies in the free, full and harmonious development of
human individuality, in the autonomous personality formation and in the assumption of
a system of values that are necessary for personal fulfillment and development, for
entrepreneurship development, for active citizen participation in society, for social
inclusion and employability [1].
The formation of an autonomous personality by assuming a system of values necessary
for personal development necessarily implies the existence beyond the normativity of
that system which is to be assumed. In other words, the moral consciousness appears as
a structure composed of cognitive, emotional, volitional and action-practical elements
and its obvious objectives lie in the formation of both moral conscience and moral
behaviour [2].
The construction and operationalization of this system are the task of moral education.
2. ETHIC AND MORAL. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
Etymologically, the two concepts, ethics and morals have different sources of origin,
ethics in Greek, where ethos designates character, habit, tradition, ability, and morals of
Latin, moris meaning morals, too [3].
Unlike morals, ethics has a strong theoretical character. Morals requires a cohesive set
of goals and means with which these goals can be achieved. It also proposes a set of
moral values in the form of concepts with which classifications of human behaviors and
their effects: faithful, unfaithful, loyal, treacherous, good, bad, honest, efficient,
accurate, can be operated. On the other hand, morals also exposes a set of moral
imperatives or permissiveness, such as: must, necessary, compulsory, permitted, free
[3]. Thus, by the framework of morals are developed concepts and principles necessary
or possible for the theoretical reconfiguration of the society morals and also rules for
moral reasoning [3].

SGEM 2014 International Multidisciplinary Scientific Conferences on Social Sciences and Arts

While morals is manifested in the form of imperative and normative speeches, resulting
from the opposition between good and evil, understood as absolute or transcendent
values, ethics has a standardized speech , but non imperative resulting from good-evil
opposition, considered as relative values [3].
Morality or the quality of being moral involves manifested human action, measurable
and observable, more or less conscious, subjective, not imposed and responsible at the
same time. Morality is in opposition to immorality understood as the will to do evil,
injustice, deliberate violation of rules, of community conventions, corruption,
selfishness. On the other hand, morality opposes to the concept of amoral understood as
decision to be out of regulation, sequencing and harmonization of objectives and targets
in line with commonly agreed rules. From this point of view morality outlines and
emphasizes normality, desirable, acceptable and socially promoted in opposition to the
abnormality [3].
In a society considered to be normal, there are possible, and they are even manifested,
deviations from principles and rules. The acceptance of a rule requires a free
consciousness expressed by will and observable in the behavioral act. On a subjective
level, however, the same idea of rule refers to the conventional and the free will by
which one justifies the possibility of circumventing the compliance [3]. For describing
and understanding such situations, it was proposed the concept of constitutive rule [4]
which defines events, facts, situations that are not related only to the subject, but also to
various social institutions [3].
These rules are more than mere conventions, following the socio-cultural constructs
constantly budding with higher objective value. From this perspective, ethics senses the
way in which there are or there are not respected the components of the normative
systems, which can be understood as one of the morality modes [3].
3. MORAL EDUCATION
The objectives of moral education are the formation of conscience and moral conduct
[5, 10]. The cognitive component informs the trainee about moral values, norms and
rules. The result of this type of knowledge is reflected in representations, concepts and
moral judgments, the latter related to teleological and normative judgments [2]. The
affective component is expressed by the tone and emotional experiences, emotions and
feelings generated by moral notions with which the trainee interacts. Subsequently, all
these, agglutinated under the form of convictions, will integrate the cognitive
component in the personality structure [2]. In this way, external cognitive demands by
their affective- volitional incorporation in internal necessity plan, are assumed and
belong to the trainees personality.
The moral conduct is formed through the acquisition of skills and behavioral habits and
by the operationalization of character traits. An essential role in forming skills is played
by social models which, by imitation, are taken, adapted, internalized and transformed
into own models.
By repeated, conscious and free integration of moral norms in the structure of
personality traits, the character traits are formed, these mediating between norms and
behaviors [3] in the form of a stabilized attitude towards behavior, towards self and
towards others. In this way the character shapes the moral profile of the trainee.

Section Education & Educational Research

The formation of moral personality is a lengthy process marked by the achievement of


specific objectives. Such formative-cognitive objectives aim at developing mental
structure, ensuring the reception and processing of moral knowledge (the comparative
analysis of a situation with moral meanings, the synthesis of moral elements of a group,
culture, etc.) while the affective objectives aim that emotional experience associated
with moral norms to generate stimulating, motivating and reiteration of compliance
effects. The psychomotor perspective envisages the formation, development and
operationalization of moral skills and habits (the unity among the said word and
immediate action, punctuality, respect for self and others). In the volitional and
character plan there are pursued, on the one hand, the development, concentration and
determination in achieving goals, and the development of the character traits
consistency, on the other hand.
4. RELIGIOUS EDUCATION
In the wider context of education, of the character formation of the trainee, religious
education occupies a definite place in reaction to a clear need of the human being.
Traditionally, school prepares the person formally and systematically, from an
intellectual, moral, civic, aesthetic, physical and ecological perspective. The religious
education nuances these formative aspects ensuring the instructive and formative
complementarity and continuity [6].
The knowledge and formation of the trainees personality must be understood from a
multifaceted perspective, taking into consideration the personal freedom, by which one
prefers a certain way or use of certain means according to the nature of the educative
objectives. From the point of view of religious education, the achievement of these
objectives can be achieved by at least three types of knowledge: knowledge through ...
characteristic to empirical, experiential life, ensuring a knowledge acquisition in stages,
knowledge from ... achievable by reference to a symbol, by which are revealed certain
ciphered meanings in things and facts and knowledge by... achieved through the direct
internal experience of a phenomenon or an external reality [6].
Following the same structure as in the case of moral education, in the case of religious
education, the informative objectives aim the acquisition of fundamental religious
concepts, of information on the history of religion, religious cults and practices. The
formative objectives of religious education are focused on the formation and
development of mental structures of reception and processing of religious knowledge, in
order to develop their own answers to the problems of life and existence. From this
point of view, religious education ensures the development of the trainees interrogative
and meditative potential [3]. The affective objectives refer to love, compassion and
tolerance, ensuring the development of general mood of harmony and respect.
Character-volitional objectives highlight the role of the models, the discrimination
between patterns and anti-patterns and the formation of their selection capacity. By
achieving psychomotor objectives are formed and developed, skills, abilities and habits,
necessary to a religious cult practice.
The common aspect between moral and religious education is given by the fusion
between the synthesis of humanist values and the system of beliefs, fusion that permits,
on the one hand, the knowledge of social morality and normality, and the revelation of
the sacred felt like an individual morality.

SGEM 2014 International Multidisciplinary Scientific Conferences on Social Sciences and Arts

The moral education ensures the trainee skills and abilities to resist evil, to refrain from
reprehensible acts, to fight various seductions as well. Through this type of education
moral conduct skills are also formed simultaneously with the explanation of the rules
that determine this behavior.
The harmonisation of moral normativity with its concrete application is made by the
moral ideal. In the process of achieving that ideal, moral values are converted into moral
norms. In the social context, the moral norms are less restrictive than the religious
ones, but becoming beliefs, they are more active than the others [3].
Since the community, social environment as a whole, validates the compliance of the
trainees behaviour with moral norms, a stabilization of the trainees attitude occurs,
followed by the increase of character consistency and the conscious adherence,
deliberate on the values of that community. The moral norms are not only the attitude
towards other people, institutions and social values, but they are also fidelity to the
values which determine the existence of a climate of trust and peaceful coexistence [3].
5. RELIGIOUS POPULISM OR TRADITION PROTECTION?
The term religious populism is a challenge for the social sciences because there is still
no consensus, at least a majority one, meaning a precise definition of the concept of
populism in general. Similar to other fundamental concepts from political sciences such
as democracy or power, populism belongs to a conceptual category, frequently used in
academia and politics, despite its semantic imprecision [7]. The constitutive ambiguity
of populism [8] and its volatility over time and space, depending on various political,
social, cultural and economic factors [9], make it impossible to capture the term
populism in a comprehensive definition.
For these reasons we tried to define it as a political ideology, an anti-modernist reaction,
a socio-political expression of a certain social class, a certain mode of political
organization, a strategy of a campaign speech or a simple manipulation technique, a
category of political parties, a tool for the analysis of the representative democracy. It
was also assumed that it is the opposite of elitism or intellectualism or a label assigned
to a specific type of political behavior, etc.
Certainly, the populism remains around the intrinsic and immediate validity [10] and the
binding and unquestionable [11] supremacy of the peoples will. In the populist vision,
this popular will becomes the single source of legitimacy under which decisions can be
made fast, immediate and do not require justification.
The populist leaders are (...) charismatic, with authoritarian and paternal accents. They
claim to have the key to solving all problems. The semi-presidential regime established
by the Romanian Constitution assigns extended responsibilities to the presidential
office. This is why in the collective imaginary the president is often identified with the
Savior able to solve the problems of society [12].
After 1989, the religious revival and the success of populist politics went hand in hand,
the two, both religion and populism, being among the winning ideologies of the postcommunist regimes [13]. The success of populism as a political movement is partly due
to the mobilization of rural populations where religion has a great influence. It can be
assumed that there are three major elements linking populism with religion: both focus
on the concept of nation, the primacy of the patriarchal family and the valuing of the
primary role of the people and his will [14]. In this context, most events with national

Section Education & Educational Research

character are attended by religious leaders and also by more or less charismatic leaders
belonging to populist forces. On the other hand, in the social issues that relate to the
family (the proliferation of abortion, divorce, the rights of sexual minorities, etc.) [14],
the traditionalist speech, either with religious or populist connotations, is present and
mobilizing. Noteworthy are the points of view and the attitudes of both in education, in
the problems of national history or family interpretation.
The risk of transforming the religious speech into populist speech derives from the
common belief of religious, populist and obviously, political leaders who consider
themselves the voice of the majority. But, speaking for the majority necessarily implies
being against a minority or at least affecting the rights of the latter. After Stavrakakis,
the Church often positions in opposition to the modernizing forces of a society, being
more consistently anchored in tradition and conservatism [3]. From this position of the
Church, assumed as being in the good faith, the populists can benefit from credibility by
association and similarity of message.
There are voices [14] which state that a common, very influential element both for the
Church and for populism is the martyrdom. From this perspective, the Church has
always been subject to various attacks by various political regimes, being sacrificed or
subjected to various pressures. It is obvious that there are forces that fight against the
Church for the Dechristianisation or the Islamisation of Europe. The reaction of
opposition manifested by the Church in these situations is normal.
The manifestation of populist forces in a similar way entails the expansion of the
populist concept upon religious speech. The martyrdom of the populists lies in their
fight against those in power. They claim that they are not deliberately understood by the
political elite and that they are affected just like people when faced with the complex
results of the modernization policies, for instance.
From the desire to protect traditions, the religious speech can sometimes be anti
intellectual. Its corroboration with the constant anti-intellectual message, found in the
populist discourse, may create confusions and may result in the same label for both. One
of the striking common characteristics of religious and populist rhetoric is the fear of
losing the traditional character (Christian or national) [2].
The populist contamination of religious discourse can occur through unilateral
interpretation of the general functions of religion which, according to Bryan Wilson, has
five functions [15]: a) maintains cohesion and social control; b) explains the physical
universe specifically; c) specifically legitimates the purposes and procedures of society;
d) gives identity to individuals and groups; e) provides forms of expression, regulation
and relief of emotions (rituals, ceremonies, confessions, etc) .
If in the traditional organization of a society, religion could impose moral norms, the
prohibitions and restrictions by which it manifested its social control, in post-modern
society, these functions tend to be solved by technical solutions [2]. This fact has as
immediate effect a mitigation of the impact of religious values on the society direction
and on the metaphysical- religious conception of the world and man, minimizing the
regulatory potential of religious phenomena.

SGEM 2014 International Multidisciplinary Scientific Conferences on Social Sciences and Arts

Fig. 1 The influence of populism on the trainees moral and religious formation
EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENT

MORAL
EDUCATION

RELIGIOUS
EDUCATION

Formation of
conscience and
moral conduct

Populist perspective

The formation of
conscience and religious
conduct. Completes and
continues the moral,
intellectual, civic,
aesthetic and ecological
training

COGNITIVE
OBJECTIVES

Values, norms and rules in


agreement with the populist
message

COGNITIVE
OBJECTIVES

AFFECTIVE
OBJECTIVES

Moods, affective
experiences,emotions and
feelings in agreement with
the populist message

AFFECTIVE
OBJECTIVES

CHARACTERVOLITIONAL
OBJECTIVES

Populist models
The distortion of the
capacity of discrimination
between models and antimodels patterns

PSYCHOMOTOR
OBJECTIVES

Formation and development


of skills, abilities and habits
manifested in a populist
manner
Populism, populist movements, populist
discourse

SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

CHARACTERVOLITIONAL
OBJECTIVES

PSYCHOMOTOR
OBJECTIVES

Section Education & Educational Research

6.CONCLUSIONS
At European level, there is a well articulated motivation that argues the need for
knowledge of the religious fact in public education. It aims to combat religious
illiteracy; to get answers to the challenges brought by the democratic and religious
pluralism, to counteract the confusion resulted from the collapse of the great
ideologies; to educate for community life and for its morality [2].
A certain inertia specific to both educational and religious systems, combined with some
traditional and anti-Reformation attitudes, can be a fertile land for asserting a populist
corrosive speech with long-term adverse effects in their formative objectives.
The drift towards populism becomes possible if we consider the types of speech
promoted in the two types of education: moral and religious. On the one hand a purely
technical, pedagogized, neutral speech which retrieves and articulates concepts from
psychology, philosophy, anthropology with concepts from pedagogy. On the other hand
there is a speech-sensitive to the integration of the two educations in the system of
interactions among different social factors. It is a speech in which its author is involved,
derived from implicit assumptions about the couple community-society; a speech that
requires adhesion and reveals a balanced optimism. This type of speech, essentially
humanistic, where religious education is understood as an element of support or a
complementary factor for spiritual, moral and civic elevation, allows certain openings
for the specificities of populist speech.
Thus, in this context, the statements, understandings, explanations and the message,
conveyed with reference to personality structure and development, acquire
characteristics and value-emotional connotations from the part of the teacher, according
to interwar model [2].
The trainee, as the subject of the present time, of a postmodern society that integrates
him, is revealed and exposed religious values that he was disconnected from or did not
have access to, in a manner either traditional or tributary to an interwar model. This
aspect weakens the whole formative process (moral, civic and religious) to populist
manifestations either in speech or actionable.
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SGEM 2014 International Multidisciplinary Scientific Conferences on Social Sciences and Arts

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