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Moral Imagination and Character Development

September 5 - November 10, 1989                                                                 Washington, D.C.



Throughout the world, the quickening pace of change has generated confusion regarding basic values, the mode of realizing them in our days and ways of transmitting them to the next generation. This is a matter of primary concern to families in the education of their children. It is shared, however, by society as a whole, which depends upon the moral resources of its present and future members in facing difficult challenges.

The problem would seem to have special characteristics in our times. These derive from the very successes of modern efforts to rationalize life and systematize its endeavors. Progressive clarity in organizing life around specific objectives, in relation to which all else is reduced to the status of means, has made possible great pragmatic strides, which too simply have been termed "progress." Indeed, the move from the craftsman to the production line, which vastly increased the production of useful but less interesting goods, may typify a deep human tragedy in which an increasingly homogeneous and manipulable public has lost to a significant degree its personal freedom and creativity.

This presents education with a particularly fundamental challenge. It must not merely provide information and develop skills in order to provide for the maintenance of an efficient productive or political system. Rather, it must awaken new generations from their stupefaction, endow them with creative moral imagination capable of envisaging new possibilities for life in community, raise new goals for the quality of life in our times, and lay the foundations for that human contentment which comes from honest striving.

To understand and respond to this basic challenge education will require the resources of the various cultures as these are embodied in literature, art and religion, studied in the humanities and interpreted by a creative hermeneutics.

This seminar builds upon the work of teams of philosophers, psychologists and specialists in education, each of which has published a volume, and focus upon the development of moral imagination through the humanities as a key to character development.






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