Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ethics, Morality, & Character Education

This post by coolcatteacher is a crucial reason why we absolutely must stress ethical behavior. This is why we teach online safety. This is why we stress the permanence of the online persona, made famous by Dembo.
If you haven't, please stop reading right now. Go back and read the coolcatteacher's post slowly and carefully.
This information has always been available. True, but has it ever been so easily available?
I always make a test of things in my mind. I reiterate this all school year: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men Colossians 3:23 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
[NIV at IBS] [International Bible Society] [NIV at Zondervan] [Zondervan]
I seriously doubt the company in question is following that guideline. I challenge you to do it - how are you doing today?
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Tracy Rosen said...

Yes. We must stress ethical behaviour. I think how we do it is critical as well.

I have a difficult time telling my students this is ethical and this is not. Ethics are very personal.

What I feel good about doing is teaching my students to explore ethics, to question behaviour, and to have conversations about why they feel a certain way about different topics and issues.

Christian Long recently spoke about teaching being a higher calling for him and I agreed in a comment I wrote on his blog think:lab.

I see that relating to your own personal test. At the end of the day, if I can look back and say, yes, I feel right about the work I did today with my colleagues, my students, and my leaders then I know that I am modeling a behaviour that is ethical.

Durff said...

Modeling ethical behavior - how would one do that if each person can decide for themselves what is ethical? The whole point of ethics is then lost. There must be a plumbline by which behavior is measured either ethical or not ethical. I have no problem whatsoever explaining this to students. They see quiet clearly that is wrong to take Susie's lunch, or to punch Jerry, or to call Ed names. Ethics is ethics exactly because it is NOT personal. If it where, then it would be a moot point. Since it is not, it is therefore imperative that we facilitate discussions about ethical behavior as measured against a plumbline.

Tracy Rosen said...

oooh - ethics is not personal? Ethics is based on my world view, how I personally view the world, and is shaped by my experiences, background, and major events that have had an impact on me and have helped to form my values.

I must disagree with you, the whole point of ethics is NOT lost through personal choice but enhanced.

Please help me to understand how it is not personal and how personal choice destroys it.

If I can teach my students how to weigh an issue for themselves, using conversation and historical background of ethics and world-views from different cultures then I can say that I am teaching them how to behave ethically.

And if I can model that kind of behaviour then I feel I am doing right.

(Whose plumbline were you thinking of measuring ethical behaviour against? It seems to me that if you modeled it against mine then you would probably feel you weren't doing your job ;) )

This is good. I like this kind of conversation.

Durff said...

I assert & insist that anything called personal ethics is not ethics at all.
For example, consider the plumbline to be a football game plan. The players refer to this standard, this gameplan, which is one plumbline. If they go by the game plan, they may win, and maybe get to the SuperBowl. If they play the game by relying on their own feelings without regard to the game plan, they will most definitely lose the game. But if they had measured their actions against the game plan (plumbline) they would have won. We do possess the personal choice to align the way we play the game with the gameplan, and there is only gameplan for that game. If we take that route we are soon out of the game, probably because we lost the game or had too many fouls or whatever they call them in football.
Attempting to measure actions against personal choice is an illusion of ethics. The only way there can exist any ethics is for there to be a common gameplan or plumbline. Otherwise all is lost, as players go their own way, and the game is called off. What is the point in that? Is that the way to spend taxpayer dollars?

Lisa Parisi said...

Quite an interesting discussion. I agree that ethics are personal. However, I do believe that there are basic ground rules (a plumbline perhaps, Durff) that we could all agree to. And if we keep reminding our students of the ideas of respect and consideration for others, than perhaps that would help begin conversations in ethics.

I agree with Tracy that the conversation needs to happen, with a view back to history, to help teach ethics and ethical behavior. Monitoring it by one person's ideal is akin to ruling under one religious idea. Not a comfortable place for me to be.

Tracy Rosen said...

I do not know of a universal ethical plumbline. Do you?

If I were to look at ethical behaviour in relation to, for example, teenage pregnancy, or abortion, or same-sex marriage, or religion in schools then there are certainly different takes - or plumblines - to measure it against.

I hear you saying that we can not just decide to do things on personal whim. I agree, personal whim is very different than ethics.

When I say personal ethics I mean that my ethics have to do with my own values, which may be different than yours because of my background and experiences. Ethics do not have to do with rules, they have to do with values.

It sounds to me like you are describing a code of conduct and not necessarily ethical behaviour.

Bottom line - I do not believe that there is one ethical plumbline for all situations. Our society is too diverse for that.

It is my job as a teacher to model considered decision-making, based in ethics and values, to my students. To expose them to diverse world-views and to teach them how to take a considered opinion on ethical issues and to engage in conversations and dialogue about difficult issues with those who may have differing views than their own.

Next year will mark the first year of a new course in the province of Quebec, Ethics and Religious Culture. It will be replacing all of the Religion courses in elementary and high school. I am excited about it because it does just that - teaches students how to engage in ethical dialogue and conversation.

This conversation is inspiring, Durff. I think it reflects just how personal ethics is, as we both have different ways of looking at it and are both quite passionate about our views. It's inspiring me to create my own post on the subject...thanks!

Tracy Rosen said...

Lisa - what do you think those ground rules would be?

Durff said...

Ethics is defined by Merriam-Webster as the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group. If these principles are personal then they are not measurable against a standard. This is why quantitative research measures behavior against a standard. Where there is no standard there is no validation. Pretty obvious...

Tracy Rosen said...

"principles of conduct governing an individual or group"

Notice the plural of principles.

As well, what happens when many individuals or groups get together to make an ethical decision?

In my classrooms I have had Native Canadians (Mohawk), French Canadians, and Jews, among other individuals and groups within the same room.

Are we to assume that each individual and each group is governed by the same principles?

The reality is that I can not assume that my principles are better than yours, or than another group's.

If I were to teach ethics in this manner I would be spreading a pretty racy assumption.

Therefore I do not believe that ethics can be defined quantitatively.

You have inspired me! I've made some observations on this subject in the
latest post on my blog

elona said...

Personal ethics? I get really worried when I think of personal ethics and watch the nightly news showing the consequences of people acting on personal ethics.

Tracy Rosen said...

Again, I see a big difference between whim and ethics, and between ethics and political agenda.

I'm going to revisit this issue within the next day or so. Right now I need to think some more :)

I like this - it is helping me to think this through.

Character Education said...

Interesting discussion on interesting topic, i also want to take a part in this, i am not hundred present agree that ethics are personal, if we will talk about that ethics are personal there are many bad things going on, we should try to stop them we can mold them, we can take them in a right direction, we should keep reminding our children what are the rules of a responsible citizen, we grow self respect in them, i know its very critical but we can start it from our houses, Character Education is a basic step for this, and in future i will be keep blogging too.