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Posts Tagged ‘rule-based thinking’

The late Rush Kidder wrote in his book How Good People Make Tough Choices, Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living (2003), “Ethics, after all, is all about the concept of “ought.”  It is not about what you have to do because regulation compels it (like paying to ride the train) or nature requires it (like eating and sleeping).  It’s about what you ought to do—have an obligation to do—because it is “right (page 153).”

Kidder tells us that there are three principles for resolving dilemmas. These principles can be used in our own lives, we can teach them to our students, children, extended family members, and maybe even our coworkers or employees.  They are as follows:

  1.  “Do what’s best for the greatest number of people (which we’ll refer to here as ends-based thinking).”
  2. “Follow your highest sense of principle” (or rule-based thinking).”
  3. “Do what you want others to do to you” (or care-based thinking) (page 152).”

The best way that I can see to do the teaching is by using these principles in our daily lives.  If we live these principles by our example we will be “teaching” others about what “ought” to be done in life.  We will be teaching without lecturing, or shouting, or having to say “I told you so.”

Our politicians are short on these principles in every corridor of government from the top down.  We find that to win an election they will say anything.  They will pander to one group and say one thing and then pander to another an hour later and say the exact opposite.  They will pit races, age groups, and the sexes against each other to garner votes.

Our police departments are going back to before the civil rights movement of the 60s and racially profiling everyone that is not white.  The Black community has something they call “driving while black” and the Hispanic community has something called “show me your papers.” And the women have something called “prove to me you’ve been raped.”  Do these policies fall into the three ways Kidder shows us to resolve dilemmas?  I don’t think so.

Would the people who are enforcing these three ideas want them done to them (#3), if they compared them to the “highest principles” they were taught in church or temple or at the mosque would they pass the smell test (#2)? Not as far as my little pug nose can tell.  And finally, if they asked them what is in the best interest of the greatest number of people would they pass the math test?  Maybe today, but in the very near future it would not (#1).

Fortunately, for us our children are growing up in integrated schools where they see people of all colors, sizes, shapes, and sexual preference.  They have the opportunity to have teachers that are young right out of college, grandmothers teaching for 20 years, gay and lesbians, Blacks, Hispanics, and republicans, democrats, and independents, and combinations of all of these put together.  Many of these people may even be living in the same households, no less be going to the same schools, or shopping in the same stores.

So when we are making decisions and solving problems for ourselves, our families, our jobs, and our communities it is imperative that we take advantage of the three decision making tools shared by Kidder.  One may be more appropriate than another depending upon the dilemma, but they are all based on one key idea “ought to do—because it is right to do.”

When the whites in South Africa stood up against apartheid they did not do it because it was easy—they did it because it was the “right” thing to do.  When the supreme Court decided to uphold the school children’s right to an equal education in Brown v Board of Education they did not do it because it was easy—but  because it was the “right” thing to do. When President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act on his first day in office to ensure equal pay for equal work for women he did it not because it was easy to do—but because it was the “right” thing to do.  It ought to have been done in the 1970s when women were fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment to the constitution because it was the “right” thing to do—but it was not.  Ponder on that thought for a moment…

What “right” thing did you do today?  What right thing “ought” you have done today?  When will the two merge?  Soon I hope because our communities, our country, and our world are in grave danger if we don’t.

 

 

 

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