Children's Social Consciousness and the Development of Social Responsibility

By Sheldon Berman

Subjects: Early Childhood Studies
Series: SUNY series, Democracy and Education
Paperback : 9780791431986, 264 pages, April 1997
Hardcover : 9780791431979, 264 pages, April 1997

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Table of contents


1. "I care about the world. But I don't think it concerns me, even though it does. "

2. The Development of Social Responsibility


The Meaning of Social Responsibility
Models of Development
The Early Emergence of Social Understanding
Patterns of Development: Political Consciousness
Individual Differences


3. From Consciousness to Activism


Efficacy and Activism
The Roots of Activism: Moral Integrity
The Roots of Activism: A Connected Sense of Self
The Roots of Activism: Meaning and Place
The Emergence of Activism


4. Processes that Promote Development


Modeling and Cooperative, Nurturant Relationships with Others
Perspective Taking and Perspective-Taking Dialogue
Conflict and Equalizing Dialogue


5. Educational Interventions and Social Responsibility


A Knowledge Base and an Ideological Framework
An Open Classroom Climate
Welcoming Controversy and Conflict
Participation in Decision Making and Democratic Governance
Classroom Communities of Care and Cooperation
Direct Engagement in the Social and Political Arena
An Integration


6. The Current State of Educating for Social Responsibility


Social Responsibility in Policy and Practice
The Reality of Civic Education in the Classroom: Teachers, Texts, and the Conception of Citizenship
Persistent Patterns


7. The Courage to Teach Social Responsibility


A New Theoretical Framework
Creating Change
A Gift of Strength and  Hope


Appendix A: Model District-Wide Curriculum Assessment



Breaks new ground in our understanding of the development of social consciousness and social responsibility in young people and the educational practices that promote this development.


This book breaks new ground in our understanding of the development of social consciousness and social responsibility in young people and the educational practices that promote this development. Berman shows that children's awareness of the social and political world emerges far earlier and their social and moral abilities are more advanced than we thought. Drawing on the research literature in such fields as moral development, citizenship education, political socialization, prosocial development, and psychosocial development, Berman provides educators and researchers with the developmental understandings and instructional strategies necessary to enable students to become active, caring, and responsible members of our social and political community.

Sheldon Berman is the Superintendent of Schools in Hudson, Massachusetts. Prior to assuming this superintendency in 1993, he was one of the founders of Educators for Social Responsibility and served as President from 1985 to 1993. He is the co-editor (with Phyllis LaFarge) of Promising Practices in Teaching Social Responsibility, also published by SUNY Press.


"This is not another eclectic survey of school programs aimed at children becoming caring, responsible people. Shelley Berman is deeply knowledgeable about relevant theory, research, and practice, and is able to penetrate to the heart of the matter. He gives us a powerful framework for understanding children's development, and he uses it unerringly to identify the educational approaches that prepare children to live out their roles with integrity and compassion. This work makes an important contribution to the field of social and ethical development. " — Eric Schaps, President, Developmental Studies Center

"I believe this book pushes the field of educational and developmental psychology to a new level. It addresses some of the most pressing issues of our time. The importance of the development of a socially responsible citizenry capable of working effectively toward the common good cannot be underestimated in a society torn by privatism and individualism as is ours. " — Mary Field Belenky, University of Vermont, co-author of Women's Ways of Knowing

"Berman pushes us to consider how more than service opportunities or isolated courses in contemporary issues will be needed if students are to become engaged citizens. In doing so, he lays the groundwork for a movement to reclaim the civic purposes that once undergirded American education. Achieving this end will require a transformation of curriculum, instruction, and school structures aimed at incorporating multiple perspectives, providing more room for student voices, and supporting the formation of interactive school communities in which students feel cared for and influential. " — Gregory Smith, Lewis and Clark College, author of Education and the Environment: Learning to Live with Limits