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Some clarifications on moral literacy

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SWIMMING AGAINST THE CURRENT
By JESUS ESTANISLAO

BEING such an important core area of strategic concern, “moral literacy” deserves further elaboration and some clarifications. Dr. Tiongco does not disappoint. He provides those, as shown below:

“In the first place, “literacy” may be broadly defined as “competence or knowledge in a specified area” (from Oxford dictionaries) or “the condition or quality of being knowledgeable in a particular subject or field” (from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English language).”

“This broad definition suggests that there can be many types or forms of “literacy.” We can speak, for example, of the following:

• Functional literacy: the ability to read and write.

• Economic literacy: the ability to apply economic concepts in situations that one faces in one’s life or work.

• Financial literacy: knowledge of how money works and how to earn, manage, and invest it.

• Cultural literacy (a term coined by E. D. Hirsch ): the ability to understand and participate fluently in a given culture (by virtue of one’s knowledge of facts, events, and perspectives related to the historical development of this culture).

• Media literacy: the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms.

• Computer literacy: the ability to use computers and related technology efficiently.”

“In the recent literature on moral education, one term that has been increasingly used and discussed is moral literacy. There is still no generally accepted definition of the term. But drawing from various authors (e.g., nancytuana, barbaraherman, brad zdenek, and danielschochor), I  define moral literacy as a set of competencies that enable a person to reason, choose, behave, and act ethically and with moral imagination.”

Here is a working definition of “moral literacy.”  It goes way beyond a person´s ability to discern what is right and wrong.  It extends to one´s personal ability to make a choice, and indeed to choose what is “good,” and thereby to behave and act always ethically. What is made clear in this definition is a characteristic that many Filipinos express a preference for: never to stay at the level of theory, words, or mere knowledge; always get down to the level of action, deeds, or practical experience.

“Moral literacy,”  then, is not something merely to talk or theorize about. It is more one´s practical ability to do what is right and good, not only for oneself, but also for others and for the wider community as well.

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