Posts Tagged ‘critical thinking’

As Calvin said to Hobbes in a cartoon one day, “Today at school I tried to decide whether to cheat on my test or not.  Well, it just seemed wrong to cheat on an ethics test.”  Good thinking Calvin!

Cheating, ethics, morals, lies, white lies, little lies, misstatements, gaffes, spin, plagiarism, how many different ways can we say the same thing: doing the wrong thing, when doing the right thing would have served you better.  Bernie Madoff made off with everyone’s money.  And not just the millionaires and billionaires money, but charities and people’s pensions, and so he sits in a federal prison where he was sentenced to 150 years in jail and a forfeiture of $17.179 billion.  Was it worth it Mr. Madoff?

According to Rushworth Kidder the author of the book How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living, this would be considered a right vs wrong dilemma.  Clearly a person can see that what Madoff did was not only illegal but it was unethical. For many of my college students plagiarism is confusing to them and they do not seem to understand that it is wrong to plagiarize something that another person wrote.  And there are rules against it in every school.  After a certain number of times in any school you will be suspended and/or expelled from that institution and rightly so.

Then there is the right vs right ethical dilemma.  That is much harder to figure out and much harder to decide what to do in that case.  During this presidential election time in our country we hear lots of right vs right ethical dilemmas.  Do we raise taxes on the rich to balance the budget, cut services to the poor to balance the budget.  Do we keep Obamacare because it has so many important elements to it that will help everyone, including giving more customers and therefore more money to the insurance companies.  Do we repeal it and start over?  Do we expand the military industrial complex or shrink it?  I could go on and on, but I won’t.  You get the idea.  Whose values are correct anyway?

Every spiritual tradition on this planet gives you a set of values to live by, the 10 commandments, 16 precepts, the golden rule, and more.  Those who are ethical humanists may have something similar in their creed as well.  But how many of us stop to think about these commandments, creeds,or  rules when we are in the middle of a tough decision?

Did Paul Ryan stop to think about them when he wrote a budget that took much needed services away from the poor, the elderly, and the sick?  Maybe he did after he was chastised by the Catholic Bishops and the Nun’s on the Bus.  Did he think about it when he told the reporter he had run “marathons” and his fastest time was around two hours?  Did John Edwards think about the consequences when he cheated on his wife and fathered a child out of wedlock?

Our transgressions may not have been as dramatic and over reaching as Madoff, Ryan, and Edward’s but we need to be aware of them and think about how they affected our family, friends, students, co-workers and more.  As educators it is our responsibility to set the example for our students.  To be the person that they can look up to, and to check in with them to help them deal with their ethical dilemmas.  Do we create fun and informative exercises in our classes that bring ethics into the subject matter?  It does not matter what subject you teach–they all will ultimately depend on good ethical decision making and problem solving.

If you teach history are you looking at the historical figures and talking about some of their unethical decisions from genocide of the native Americans to the Patriot Act and some of its unintended consequences.  If you teach literature are you reading stories, fiction and non-fiction, that illustrate ethical choices.  Are you letting them write essays, reports, and poems on ethics.  Do you have them debate the subject with some of the students taking the pro and others taking the con on a particular ethical dilemma?

Many years ago I played a game with my students and it was all about ethics.  The students were broken into groups, each group was acting as a country.  Each group was given certain items at random–problems and solutions.  Some of the problems were drought, floods, wars, corruption,  and more.  Then the solutions were things like water resources, scientists, good politicians, food, clothes, and more.  The game was not over until all the groups had solved each one of their dilemmas and no one was left behind with an unsolved problem!  Wow was that hard and fun and rewarding for the students.  They came up with fantastic solutions and great cooperation and sharing was demonstrated by the group members.

There were many lessons learned and many “Ah Has” gotten during the training.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get all of our politicians, local, state, and federal to play this game, to take the things they learned from it and actually put them to use for the citizens of this country.  And if they cheated or didn’t share or plagiarized, or allowed themselves to have “insider trading” they would be given “time out” or suspended or expelled from their jobs.  What a wonderful world we would have if only that were true.

So let’s take some time this fall and look at our ethics and see how well we score.  Let’s take the time to be introspective and discover what we mean when we define the word ethics. Let’s look at our lives and see if we parse them out–more ethics on Sunday after church, or on Saturday after sitting at the Zendo.  How about less ethics at work, yet more ethics at home in front of the kids, and less ethics at the grocery store when we are alone.

Where oh where has your ethics gone?

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