Can a “Moral Models Campaign” Solve China’s Morality Problem?

The Civilization Office of the China People’s Congress Central Committee announced Friday the assistance plan to 14 of the 53 national moral models who are in financial difficulty. The plan involves paying 24,000 RMB to 100,000 RMB to the models for their life assurance, housing cost, tuition, living expenses, daily necessity cost.

The moral models were selected in September and they were divided into five categories: helping another person, acting bravely for a just cause, being honest and trustworthy, working hard and “making great contributions”, and showing filial piety and love to their parents and family members.

While rewarding moral models are positive steps to form a social environment of recognizing honors and disgraces, upholding justice, and promoting harmonious society, we need to be aware of the reasons leading to immorality and morality in promoting the overall well-being of a society.

Common sense tells us — confirmed by research — that people’s behavior is normally guided by their thoughts. Moral behavior is also affected by moral reasoning. Kohlberg’s stage theory of moral development suggest stages are critical, as they consider the way a person organizes their understanding of virtues, rules, and norms, and integrates these into a moral choice.

The goal of moral education, it then follows, is to encourage individuals to develop to the next stage of moral reasoning. Kohlberg held that moral education required more than individual reflection, but also needed to include experiences for people to operate as moral agents within a community. Kohlberg and his colleagues developed the “just community” schools approach to moral development which entails full participation of community members in arriving at consensus and establishing collective norms which express fairness for all members of the community. When members are responsible for determining and enforcing rules, they will take pro-social behavior more seriously.

Studies also show that the authority must be perceived as legitimate to gain obedience for its claim. In an experiment, eighty percent of the participants refused to comply fully when a cleric instead of the experimenter assumed command. Similarly, a government official who is not perceived as legitimate leader would less likely to persuade people to follow what she of he espouses. Officials are natural models for common people. When they corrupt, they are bad models of benefiting only oneself.

Another question is why these moral models would be in such an impoverished situation in the first place. They are nice and hard working people.

Does a campaign really solve the moral problems in China?

Curious? Watch for future posts when Jun answers this question.

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