Transforming perspectives : an approach to ethics education in a First World context

Young, Mark W (1995) Transforming perspectives : an approach to ethics education in a First World context. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

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This thesis applies an ethical analysis to an educational process which aims to transform the perspectives of people in the First World. It appropriates the insights of a range of contemporary scholars into the ethical significance of experience to evaluate the model of adult education developed by Jack Mezirow called perspective transformation. The process of perspective transformation begins with a disorienting dilemma which challenges existing meaning perspectives. The intent of perspective transformation is to link individual experience to collective experiences, and ultimately to a critical understanding of the relationship between the individual and society. Although the model of perspective transformation focuses, to a large extent, on ways of changing an individual's world view, it can also provide a strategic tool (in conjunction with other tools) for awakening people of the First World to larger social and political realities of injustice and suffering. In examining this process and synthesising the reflections of various author-activists working for change, the study tries to contribute to the development of a 'pedagogy for the transformation of the oppressor'. In so doing, it recognises that models of ethics education are just one important step in the larger process of social change and political strategizing. Informed by the disciplines of moral philosophy and educational theory, this study applies a critical or praxis approach to the author's professional and practical experience of educating for social responsibility within a First World Protestant denomination. Within this applied ethics context, the study observes that many transformative models have often displayed an overreliance upon purely rational models of education and ethics. Such models have tended to see the moral agent as a one-dimensional rational person and, consequently, have focused on cognitive processes of information rather than affective processes of formation as the fundamental basis for transformation. This tendency limits their capacity to inspire vision or motivate change. By contrast, this study argues for an ethical approach which gives priority to experience. In particular it examines how the experience of suffering is used as a disorienting dilemma to inspire and motivate perspective transformation. The study examines attempts by ethics educators to transform perspective by exposing people to unfamiliar situations of suffering and injustice. It argues that: • the paradoxical nature of suffering, and its interpretation, is a phenomenon which should be considered in designing experiential programs of perspective transformation; • the narratives of suffering should be communicated within a safe pedagogical space that does not impose oppressive interpretations of suffering; • ethics educators should attempt to move beyond a reliance upon programs of exposure to oppression to a process of deepening relationships with the oppressed; • raising awareness about the social location of the non-poor is facilitated by critical reflection on personal experience rather than a reliance on abstract categories of social analysis. Finally, the thesis tries to contribute additional strategies for ethics education in a First World context which enable people who are both beneficiaries and victims of oppression to practice sustainable acts of solidarity with the oppressed. It concludes that ethics educators should attempt to create an environment in which people can interpret their pain in such a way that it facilitates not only self-discovery but also knowledge about the causes and consequences of social oppression. Furthermore, the thesis affirms that ethics education with the non-poor has achieved a constructive outcome when people realise that their own experiences of suffering and oppression are valid, and then move on to respond in solidarity with those whose suffering is entrenched by structures of injustice.

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ID Code: 35847
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Preston, Noel & Jordan, Trevor
Additional Information: Presented to the School of Humanities, Queensland University of Technology.
Keywords: Moral education, Education Philosophy, Ethics Study and teaching, thesis, masters
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Mark W Young
Deposited On: 22 Sep 2010 13:03
Last Modified: 19 Jun 2017 02:48

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