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The Teaching of Evil

Mike Bottery
Oxford Review of Education
Vol. 19, No. 3 (1993), pp. 319-336
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1050937
Page Count: 18
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The Teaching of Evil
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Abstract

This article argues that teaching about evil should be an essential function of schools. A set of necessary conditions for a definition of 'evil' is proposed, which is based upon the idea of injury or harm being caused to another intentionally. However, this paper also suggests, counter to some current suggestions by politicians and others, that no set of sufficient conditions for its definition is possible, due to the nature of language, and the wide variety of beliefs as to what is constituted by the term. This is seen as a problem which must inform the pedagogy of this area. A number of arguments are presented to support teaching about evil, the principal one being that it is only by understanding its different forms that one can hope to decide when and where to combat and prevent it. A typology is presented, in which a variety of forms of evil are located at personal, institutional, societal and global levels. Whilst it is suggested that each of these levels has a degree of individual involvement, it is also suggested that causation may be located through other naturalistic, and perhaps, transcendent frameworks. It is further suggested that evil, in the form of ethical blindness, may be prevalent in present day societies, and a number of examples are cited to substantiate this. Finally, the arguments against the raising of such issues in schools are considered, and found to be wanting.

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