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Bardige, B. “Things So Finely Human: Moral Sensibilities at Risk in Adolescence.” In Mapping the Moral Domain, edited by C. Gilligan, J. V. Ward, and J. M. Taylor, 87-110. Cambridge, England: Harvard University Press, 1988.


In this chapter Bardige examines how certain moral sensitivities used by younger students to understand past violence may be at risk as students shift from elementary to high school education. To do so, she draws from analyses conducted on journals kept by young adolescents as they studied the Holocaust in the course “Facing History and Ourselves” – an eight to ten week unit that asks students to explore their own moral opinions and responsibilities.

Students’ journals reflected three ways of understanding this historical violence which were coded using Piaget’s stages of thinking. Some entries told a one-sided story without analysis of alternative possibilities and thus exhibited a way of thinking known as “face value thinking.” Other students told a story that included “both sides” and delved below the surface to understand people’s motivations for their actions. This type of response was labelled “composite picture thinking.” Finally, students’ entries recognized multiple points of view showing an ability for “multiple lens thinking.”

To conclude, Bardige notes that while teachers may promote multiple lens thinking for higher level learning, fostering this type of thinking can serve to rationalize inaction and to evade decisions. Thus she argues that teachers must first and foremost be concerned with helping students maintain their moral sensibilities in the face of the realities and complexities of violence.

Ana Laura Pauchulo