Citizenship Education for Conflict: An Empirical Assessment of the Relationship between Principled Thinking and Tolerance for Conflict and Diversity


  • Janet Eyler Peabody College of Vanderbilt University , USA


This study brings the perspective of cognitive moral development to the frequent finding that citizens endorse democratic procedural norms in the abstract, but are unable to apply these norms to unpopular groups or actions. If the ability to apply these norms entails a capacity for principled reasoning then we would expect to find that principled thinkers surpass non-principled thinkers in applying such democratic principles as majority rule and minority rights in concrete controversial situations; in endorsing the legitimacy of political conflict; in defining the citizen role as active rather than passive; and by showing greater interest in politics. Results of the study support all but the final assertion. If educators wish to facilitate the development of civic tolerance, attention must be paid to creating conditions conducive to cognitive moral development.