Turning eighteen opens the door to adulthood for most of us teenagers. It is the time decision-making and psychological growth as an individual starts. Lawrence Kohlberg rates the individual’s advanced thinking and growth on his Moral Development scale. Observing the developments on this scale, one will notice that students reach each level at different ages depending on their maturity. Ultimately, of all the traits students must acquire, I believe that independence is the characteristic that will bring students to their highest level of ethical behavior. No one can force this upon us; we must see and understand this for ourselves.
Kohlberg’s scale is set up in six different developmental stages which illustrate one’s strengths in solving moral dilemmas which I define as choosing between two or more actions and having a moral reason for each. The stages are grouped into three levels: pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional.
The purpose of Kolhberg’s structure is to examine people’s behaviors. It is not so much a ranking of behaviors, but a set of insights into why people do what they do. For example, the responsibilities that we as college students hold may be studying for a final or writing a paper. The goal is to do well on both in order to attain a high GPA. At level 1, if your grade isn’t as high as you expected, you will realize maybe the test was just not what you imagined or the teacher was a tough grader. However, being at a level 6, you will accept responsibility for your actions and not blame your grade on other factors. That is part of being independent.
As teenagers, we don’t just become independent; some kind of experience may open our eyes to a world of freedom that makes us become rely more on ourselves, not others. Whether we are influenced by our peers, parents, or professors, we form a sense of our own independence. Conformity is not always a good thing; if we all choose to be the same, how will our world grow? College campuses may try conform us, but we don’t have to give in. If one thinks about it, we come into our courses hoping to become better educated and more open minded, not to fall into other’s opinions. Forming our own ideas and opinions is what makes us independent. Lola Solis, a freshman at
Obviously, this professor left a mark on his student, but she has taken his teachings and made them her own. Professor Pellegrino did not force any beliefs onto Lola; she was able to form her own through his teachings. It is important that we as students do not just listen and believe, but listen and penetrate into our own thoughts. Her professor was so moved by her essay that he sent it to his chairperson. A student made a professor feel worthy! Lola has become bigger in the sense that she now knows that meanings doesn’t have to be taught, but understood on our own terms.
As my journey towards college began, I wasn’t as much nervous as I was relieved. I was so happy to be advancing my education on a new campus. In high school, I lost most of my friends due to the high school “drama” which is really just immaturity. The common partying and drinking aspect of high school, as well as the cattiness among friends, was never appealing to me. I wanted to do well in school and make my parents proud. This led me to become more independent. My parents always told me I was mature for my age as I wasn’t focused on the same things as other students. I wanted to be successful and make something of myself. I never relied on anyone or anything to help me; I helped me. I didn’t need a group of friends to feel “cool.” I needed confidence, independence, and intelligence. A high school guidance counselor says it best: “It’s tough to be a teenager. You want to be independent while still having to rely on everyone around you” (Facebook). I was and still am determined to achieve my goals on my own. I have always known I wanted to be a “helper.” My experiences of volunteering at children programs, being a camp counselor, tutoring, and babysitting made my passion for kids grow. I absolutely adore children and somehow I wanted to incorporate them in my career. With much research I found that Speech Pathology was not only interesting, but rewarding. I could work with children and adults at a school or a hospital, and this fact led me to change my major. I am content with the changes Hofstra has offered me and intend on becoming more worldly. My path has already changed, and I feel without my independence I would have been lost.
Entering college you choose your major, your classes, and eventually your career path. Notice how each chose has you in it? Becoming more independent may come with age, experience, and maturity. With the guidance of your guardians and the advice of you advisors, you will achieve you goals. However, you are the one making the choices, and every step you take is solely by yourself. College is your time to make your dreams a reality, but this can only be done with a clear mind and self awareness. While emailing with Jade, a freshman at Hofstra, she talked about the process of choosing a major, saying: “My major is business. Although I am undecided on the specific business, I am leaning towards either accounting, entrepreneurship, or both. I chose to study business because I had an interest in it back in high school. I took college accounting in senior year and really loved it...I see myself in the future hopefully opening up my own dance studio with my sisters (who are dancers as well). We all dream about this, and I hope we can make it a reality one day!” (Chu). She expressed her love and dedication for ice skating and dancing and told me of her experiences teaching young children. She is a perfect example of a student who is using her right and left brain strengths to emerge into a stronger individual. Who would have thought a love for dance and business could somehow coincide into a bigger dream? In order to reach your full potential, you must set goals for yourself and strive to reach them.
College students and Kohlberg seem to have something in common: they both are reaching for potential. Every college student will reach level 6 of moral development at some point in his college career. Many students may have already attained this level of universal ethical principles. When children and teenagers grow up in specific settings, they may look at life situations differently. Independence comes differently to all of us, and Kohlberg was well aware of this. We are all capable of understanding others, ourselves, and the world around us. Our right as citizens is to be independent with the knowledge that it is under reasonable circumstances (Wikipedia). Entering a college campus is a new world for many students, especially those who are coming from households or towns that held them back. Students desire the freedom and acknowledgment of being their own person. A freshman at Hofstra named Kelsey proves that breaking out of the bubble we call home is life changing. “I don't rely on others to do anything I could do myself for I am internally motivated and don't require a push from anyone. All and all, I would say that I am forging my way from a controlled and held-back household to be an independent student with her own unique set of views and morals. I’m independent in the sense also that I don't really pay any mind to the influence of the viewpoints of others, and I am not very easily influenced. I am, however, confident in my beliefs and choices which I feel makes me very independent” (Picciano). Students like Kelsey know they can fight through the conventions of society and be unique on their own. It was her choice to interview her writing professor for a paper in his class to show her classmates how fascinating she found him to be. She was able to make them see that their respect for him should go beyond the that fact he is responsible for their grades by revealing him as genuine, real person. She wasn’t afraid of what they would think of her. If you are able to build a self-esteem that allows you to move forward positively, you will gain a strong independence on your college campus.
Most eighteen-year-old college students are thinking about their futures and not about Kolhberg’s theory of moral development which actually maps out the steps for success in learning how to learn. To see and feel and think and live at the highest level (six), however, a sense of independence is necessary as Lola, Jade, Kelsey, and I have found out .
Chu, Jade. “Personal Interview.” Message to the author.
Facebook. “Humans of New York.” Web.
Lawerence Kohlberg. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 28 July. 2015.
Picciano, Kelsey. “Personal Interview.” Message to the author.
Solis, Lola. “The Anti-Conformist”
United States Declaration of Independence. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web.