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Educating heart and mind : fostering ethical emotional learning in elementary schools Kerr, Jeannie Anne

Abstract

There have been calls for a renewed emphasis on balancing educating the heart and mind in elementary education in response to troubling global problems such as poverty, environmental destruction, war, and genocide. The hope is that educating the hearts as well as the minds of students will begin a process of thoughtful healing of this world. Despite calls for broader educational objectives, teachers in public school systems are under increasing pressure to narrow the curriculum to encourage better performance on standardized tests. I am engaging in this conceptual inquiry into emotional learning both to provide a defensible philosophical position on emotional learning that will help resist political pressures to narrow the curriculum and to answer theoretical questions arising out of my teaching practice. The general purpose of my study is to contribute to the conceptual research literature on ethical emotional learning of pre-adolescent children. By ethical emotional learning, I am referring to the ways in which a child acquires appropriate emotions and learns to direct both her negative and positive emotions so as to live in moral or good ways. This conceptual inquiry and related educational approach is grounded in neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics as I believe it avoids the intellectualist bias found in other prominent ethics, and provides an appropriate balance between emotional and intellectual development. The concept of habituation is often discussed in virtue ethics literature as an early form of learning of the emotional virtues. Amongst neo-Aristotelian virtue ethicists there are divergent interpretations of the concept of habituation, and I am undertaking a conceptual inquiry in order to arrive at a normative conception of the term. I also position my normative conception of habituation in a broader consideration of the achievement of practical wisdom or phronesis. To further develop this research, I have also provided the teaching methods and educational configurations that are practically effective and drawn a theoretical connection to virtue ethics. I have also brought in the topics of teacher/student relationships and teacher identity and integrity as I believe that these considerations are of fundamental importance, but not widely discussed in the conceptual literature.

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