Two moral abilities are particularly important for living together in a democracy: firstly the ability of all citizens to judge and to act in accordance with their own moral principles; secondly, the ability to solve conflicts by means of fear-free discussions instead of the use of violence and the exercise of power. As research shows, both basic abilities, which are often summed up under the overall concept of moral competence, are essential for a democratic way of life and the functioning of democratic institutions. They are important for many things, e.g., for helping people in distress (not just readiness to help), for making quick decisions, learning effectively, for tolerating ambiguity, and for rejecting violence as a means of social change. Research also shows that the school promotes moral competence less effec¬tively and less sustainably than is needed and seems possible today.
In this editorial, I attempt to give a broad overview on the research on moral competence and its application in education and educational policy-making in the past thirty years, in which I have been personally involved. It is not a comprehensive handbook article, which remains to be written.