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Washington Homeschool Organization Conference Notes: Dale McGowan – Engaging Ethics

Special note: even though Dale writes about parenting from a non-religious point of view, his talks were not from any pro or anti-religion point of view. The two books of his I’ve linked at the end of the post were not referenced in his talks, but are included as a small sample of his work.


Not knowing what is wrong is rare – you already know what is right. Example: “you mean to say murder is WRONG?!” No one says that.

Morality – prosocial, helps people, improves lives

Moral stages (1950s-1970s)

  • Piaget’s developmental stages
  • Kohlberg’s moral development

Moral development stars earlier than previously thought – 12-24 mos = shame, guilt, pride etc can be felt. Theory of mind – can be used to comfort or mess with someone else. Parents are the early regulator.

Moral development acts on existing temperament – 40-70% of temperament is genetic. Temperaments – open, slow to warm, negatively reactive.

Moral development positively correlates to healthy attachment to primary caregiver.

Moral development: experience > formal teaching.

Religion is an unrelated variable — Dr. Larry Nucci — studies children’s moral development. Moral indoctrination interferes with moral development, children can’t think morally.

Moral development has a mostly positive default. Children will hit moral landmarks regardless of what parents do.

The Ethical Eight

  1. Responsive and prosocial home life, strong attachment
  2. Encourage active moral reasoning
  3. Don’t hit or humiliate kids
  4. Encourage kids to question authority, including yours
  5. Make them comfortable with differences
  6. Use knowledge to drive out fear
  7. Teach and expect responsibility and maturity
  8. R E L A X

Some of Dale’s books:

Dale’s Website

Published inHomeschool Conferences

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