The thesis hypothesizes that there is a continuing need for moral education of an explicit kind for use at the senior secondary level of schooling. Any rationale designed for it should also help primary and junior secondary teachers to account more adequately for the implicit moral directives they inevitably employ in exercising their responsibility for school procedures and the welfare of their students. The thesis provides for curriculum developers, and for such teachers who may have sufficient confidence to develop their own scope and sequence charts, lesson plans and teaching strategies, a theoretical basis which seeks to minimize the more extreme effects of indoctrination and relativism popularly believed to proscribe any attempts at moral education programs. Despite the deserved criticisms that have been made of the major programs in the UK and the USA in the last couple of decades, and also of the moral injunctions dispensed without consideration of alternatives in the course of most religious education programs in these countries, as well as Australia, the thesis springs from the desire to meet such objections with a methodology sufficient to make 'virtues' out of 'necessities' by allowing for certain degrees of indoctrination (as in dispositional formation) and relativism (in accommodating a wide range of moral beliefs without concluding that these are 'purely' relative one to another) and thus hopefully being acceptable to those concerned for the future of democratic pluralism in their respective countries.
The thesis proceeds to meet these requirements by projecting a four-box model whose content areas are linked by multi-directional process lines indicating the interpretative interdependence of elements in each of the model's content areas. For example, ideological and religious, as well as ethical beliefs such as determine what are to be counted as 'facts', and the sometimes incompatibility of moral claims to the expectations of customs, conventions, legal requirements or the clashes between conscientiously made autonomous moral decisions and the demands of socially constituted authority, are discussed in detail with recourse to both past and contemporary thinkers in philosophical, theological, sociological, psychological theory and educational practice with findings succinctly summarised in successive chapters.
Attention is given to a relevant range of the presuppositions of ideological and religious concepts of reality, and of normative and meta-ethical theories, the former in the shape of a meta-narrative underlying the status of the propositions advanced by the several ethical and meta-ethical systems of thought. Both of these content areas of the model are brought into focus by their application to situations which involve personal and public issues which inevitably bring to the fore ideological and ethical thinking to which individuals and groups have access by reference to long established disciplines of thought. Without such access their attempts to respond to whatever moral issues the situations present may suffer from impoverished understanding.
But the boxes representing the three main content areas when joined by further content provided by the responses and the reasons of both cognitive and affective kinds given by those engaged in the process, especially when they express positions of their own, are expected by the model, if it is being taken seriously, to answer questions raised by others engaged in the process. And in this matter the teacher is counted as another classroom peer whose seniority may best be exercised in taking responsibility for ensuring that all expressions of commitment are couched in non-presumptive language and thus keeping open the process by avoiding premature closure on a note of absolutism.
Thus the thesis contends that to minimize the fears of indoctrination and relativism (while allowing for dispositional formation subjected to later rational review as well as allowing for relativism in the presentation of a plurality of moral positions) involves wrestling with the comprehensive content, with reasonableness being derived from sincere use of the content and process of the model. The thesis also contends that the inhibiting effects of the dichotomies between 'fact' and 'value', 'objective' and 'subjective' as well as any ideological or religious absolutist-type claims, are assuaged by the model's accommodations of both cognitive and affective interchanges which are in line with curriculum developers' acceptance that all realms of thought, in their processing for educational purposes, must be content with less than final resolution of the epistemological problems which they invariably encounter.