Theoretical background: The starting point of our project is the idea of ethics whose conception is rooted in the ancient philosophy and in the European cultural tradition. That is a proposal considering ethics not as a mere learning of rules, rights and duties (that is a typical American vision) but a deep reflection on life and its meaning (Lobkowicz, 1983). In this ethical vision the discourse about virtues is central. Both Socrates and Aristotle affirm that virtue is a core concept for education. In the Apology Socrates affirms that the aim of education is to orient the young to care their soul (Apology, 30 a, b); Aristotles states that the good for a human being consists in acting according to virtue (Nichomachean Ethics, II).
These philosophical conceptions have been translated into an educative and research project: virtues are the key concept for an “educative research” in the primary school and kindergarten, a research following the perspective of the “research for children” (Mortari, 2009). The main elements of this approach are: to work with children within an educational familiar context; the research methods are mainly qualitative because they are more suitable for an inquiry on complex phenomena such as ethical education, i.e. able to collect and analyze participants’ meanings, thoughts, ideas and perceptions; research is not intended as aimed at testing theories, but as a path aimed at understanding a phenomenon.
The research path is inductive and emerges step by step, working in the classroom with children.
Moreover the project is aimed at increasing cooperation between university and school, building a team between academic researchers and school teachers: this cooperation is the only opportunity for activating a real and significant change in educational context.