INTRODUCTION TO ETHICAL DIALOGUE This course has very practical goals. They are: To see that ethical decisions often involve a choice between competing interests, each of which is positive or good; To learn the leading ethical theories and how they work; To acknowledge the values which tend to drive our own ethical decisions; To understand what dialogue is and how it differs from other forms of communication; To understand the conditions that make dialogue possible; To begin to develop and practice skills that support dialogue about ethical choices; and To increase our self-awareness so that our participation in dialogue will be more effective.
What Makes Dialogue Possible Introduction In this class, we will consider dialogue as an actual practice with accompanying skills and activities. Dialogue is different than just having a conversation – practicing skills with active listening, talking and being nonjudgmental helps us be intentional about what we mean, what we say, and how we say it. In the sections that follow, there are conditions, practices, skills, and intentions that support dialogue. It is helpful to keep in mind that dialogue doesn’t just happen. We have to work at it. Dialogue requires intention, will and openness. Time and Space Many actions require us to be a space that is intentional. A concert or a play usually requires a stage, a soccer game requires a field, and a basketball game requires a court. Without the appropriate space, an action or idea can take on a different meaning or idea. Playing four-square outside the high school building seems appropriate – the space allows for the meaning and ideas to be relatively clear. But what if you tried to play four-square in the commons? An action that could be considered appropriate outside could potentially be seen as disrespectful to the school and other students. In this example, changing the space changes the meaning. If we want to be intentional about our actions and ideas, what might the space look like? How could space be important in a conversation? Think of these two stories: 1) “I was talking to my mom in the car on our way home from school about getting permission to go on spring break with my friends. The radio was on, my mom was just getting home from work and we were stuck in traffic because there was a car accident in front of us. What I wanted was for us to talk about going on spring break, but we ended up getting into a fight about my grades. I’m not sure what happened and I don’t know if I am going to ask again.” 2) “My friend and I were at the movies and we were walking into the bathroom when I heard someone talking on the phone in the next stall. I heard her yell ‘Happy Birthday Dad!’ into the phone and then she started talking about the presents she bought him.” •
In both stories – how does the space affect or change the meaning of the conversation?
Would the actions and the ideas be expressed in the same way if they were in different spaces? How would you re-do these conversations being more intentional about your actions?
Think of your last argument you had with a parent or sibling. o Remember what the space looked like – where were you? What else was happening at the time? o Were you distracted by other things? Intention Being intentional about our actions, thought and speech means to understand our motivations before we act. It is like when a coach diagrams a play during a basketball game. The coach pauses or calls for a time out before it happens, goes through the play, and tries to get everyone to play their part in achieving their goal. This is what it means to be intentional about our actions – the coach stops, understands the motivations of players in the game, and tries to put it in action. Although it may seem natural to be intentional in a game where we can take timeouts, being intentional in the rest of our lives can more difficult. In our daily lives, we can take our own “time-outs”. Sometimes we are already doing it without knowing of it. Time-outs can really be a space or a time where we take a pause of our daily routine and go over what our motivations or intentions are for our actions. The pauses in our lives can look like a lot of different things - It can be a moment of silence when you wake up, a prayer, a walk by yourself, or even some time just listening to music that makes you feel good. The time out or the pause is what helps us be aware of our intentions – it can help us figure out our real motivations behind our actions. Practicing doing things with intention can often make our experiences richer and fuller. It can also allow us to be more focused on our daily actions. Imagine if the coach hadn’t practiced the plays beforehand or give the team any plays at all? What would that feel like?
Rituals A ritual is an activity that expresses some deeper meaning or reality. Rituals can help us focus and be more aware of our actions. They can be as little as starting the day with breakfast at the table or listening to music before you go to school. It can be as big as family dinners or holiday trips with friends. All of these things we do can help us start our day, focus ourselves, and reaffirm bonds between friends and family. Moments at the beginning and the end of dialogue sessions are sometimes used for us to “check in” and “check out”. It helps remind us that that we’re engaged in a collaborative process. It is similar to a band taking a moment of silence or a prayer before they go on stage to perform – it is a reminder of the purpose and intent of their actions. Being intentional about our actions also implies recognizing what kinds of rituals are present in our own lives. Rituals can act as symbols of personal values and beliefs.
Being Aware To get an idea of awareness, let’s start with a few examples of not being aware. • • • • •
Your mom wants you to take care of your little brother, but you are on the computer IM-ing a friend. You get yelled at for not paying attention. Your sister is driving and talking on the phone. She runs a stop sign and hits another car. You are doing homework, watching TV, listening to music, and texting a friend. It takes you two hours to do a math assignment. You are in class and start texting a friend about lunch. You miss the lecture notes for the day and can’t seem to do the homework later on. You are talking about going out with friends in the commons and one of your friends gets up and leaves. You didn’t realize that you were talking about a party that she was not invited to.
To be aware means to be in touch with one’s body, one’s emotions, and one’s thoughts. We can be easily distracted by the world around us. There are always different things to focus on, look at, listen to, and be connected with. Being aware is recognizing all the factors that distract us and choosing to focus and be cognizant of ourselves. You might think of being aware as experiencing yourself in different ways at the same time, or at different levels. The second level is detached, as if you are an observer of yourself. You can be aware of a sensation, a feeling, or a thought. Maybe you’re having a bad headache because of an argument with a parent, or you’re upset because one of your friends has moved away, or you’re anxious about an upcoming biology test. Feeling the actual pain of the headache, the sadness, or the anxiety is one level of experiencing yourself. If you try to, you can “go inside” these, feeling and sensing the pain, sadness, or anxiety. Being aware of yourself experiencing these is another, more detached level in which you “step back” from yourself and just notice that you are having these experiences. Pause momentarily and see what you are aware of as you read this material. It could be anything. Here are a few of many possibilities: I am aware that – I keep remembering an argument I had with my boyfriend; My back itches; I’m hungry and want to eat lunch; I am sitting in a certain way; My cat’s purr is so comforting; This material is kind of interesting; This assignment bores me; I can’t stop worrying about the bio test I have tomorrow; I can’t seem to get my mind off of her I can’t seem to be still for long. Notice that as you become aware of any of these or similar
sensations, you can experience them on two levels – one being unaware and living only in the moment, the other more reflective and detached. This awareness can make your experience richer and more interesting and can lead to new insights. Exercise: Practice a check in – what is distracting you from class right now?
The Ladder of Inference: A Special Form of Awareness
The ladder of inference is a metaphor that shows us how we often respond to experiences in ways that prevent us from seeing what is actually happening. It allows us to understand what it means to be judgmental and how hard it can be to stop our own judgments from clouding situations. Each “rung” on the ladder is a level of response. If we think of the ground as what is actually happening – or observation, each rung of the ladder takes us further from the ground and closer to judgment. Very rarely are we ever just observing something.
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If we were “standing on the ground,” we would observe what is actually happening; At the lowest rung we see some facts or data and not others; At the second rung we add meaning or an interpretation to the facts that we have selectively noticed; At the third rung we make assumptions about what we noticed; At the fourth rung we draw conclusions about what we have observed; At the fifth rung we use our selective perceptions and the meanings we drew from them to reinforce beliefs that we have; and, At the highest rung we are at the “noble certainties” – a place where there is no room for changing ideas and the judgments made here are often defended passionately.
Here are four examples. See if you can notice the ladder of inference at work in each of them. After each example, ask yourself what is happening. Notice whether or not you “go up the ladder”. Do you place more importance on some facts over others, interpret facts, make assumptions about what you noticed, or draw conclusions about the situation? #1: A boy in your English class who does not make very good grades is standing in the commons looking at the new photo exhibit. His English teacher comes out of the Teachers’ Work Room, approaches the boy and says, “I didn’t find your paper in my box this morning.” The boy says in response, “That’s because I didn’t put it there.” What happened? What do you think about the teacher? What do you think about the student? Where are you on the ladder? #2: You’re sitting outside after lunch. Across the lawn a female history teacher approaches one of the girls in her class. They talk briefly. Then the history teacher reaches up and touches the cheek of the student with
her hand. What happened? What do you think about the teacher? What do you think about the student? Where are you on the ladder?
#3: You are sitting in the passenger side of the car while your brother is driving down Ponce de Leon. Two homeless men walk towards the car. Your mom locks the doors from her side. What happened? Where are you on the ladder?
#4 Two girls are sitting together at lunch whispering in the corner. One girl looks in your direction, laughs loudly, and turns back to her friend and whispers more. They laugh loudly again. What happened? Where are you on the ladder?
Awareness Awareness gives you the opportunity of doing something that avoids the outcomes that happen when we are on “autopilot.” Performing intentional actions and thoughts can help change our responses and our understanding of different moments. Intentional actions can be: taking a deep breath, closing your eyes, asking a question before you make an assumption, or thinking about what it would feel like to be in someone else’s position. How do you practice awareness? You can sense and feel what is going on, first in your body, then in your emotions, and finally in your mind. It’s best to start with your body because it is always in the present; it can’t be anywhere else. Take a few slow breaths. Experience the sensation of breathing. Then see if you notice any particular sensation in your body. Afterwards, move on to your emotions and your thoughts. What is really happening? Did those girls laugh at you or a joke they told from the night before? Were you deliberately excluded from lunch or did your friends have to leave early and couldn’t find you? Trying to determine what is “really” happening around us can be difficult, but practicing some awareness skills can help deter us from making inaccurate judgments.
Exercise: Relaxation exercise: Everyone can either sit in their chairs or lie on the ground. Have the group close their eyes and go through each part of their body (feet, calves, thighs, stomach, etc) to tighten and release the muscles. End with the eyes. What did you notice about yourself? Were you distracted by something else? Exercise: Try to have the whole class stay silent for two minutes. Have someone keep time. What did you notice about yourself?
Listening Well and Reflective Listening How often do you find yourself planning what you are going to say before someone finishes his or her comments? How often do we say “Yeah, Yeah,” only to find at the end of the conversation we cannot remember what the other person said? How often do we stop listening because we think we have heard it before? Most of us don’t listen as well as we would like to think we do. Like being aware, listening is a skill that we can practice, develop, and use intentionally. How can we listen well? One way to listen well is to use all of our abilities and senses. We can listen with our ears and eyes. We can notice someone’s tone of voice, body
language, facial expressions, the kind of energy, and other observable qualities that can appear in a conversation. Imagine how the same sentence could express happiness, anger, or sadness depending on the tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions. The more in-tune we are to others, the more empathy and sympathy we can have for our friends and family. Try doing this in pairs or a larger group: Choose a line and express an emotion only through body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. Can you do the same line and express anger, sadness, fear, and happiness? “Why am I in trouble?” “What are you doing?” “Where are you going?” “What do you need?” “Why are you mad at me?”
Reflective Listening and Authentic Questions Another way is to practice listening is by reflecting back to the other person what he or she said before responding. Reflective listening allows for room for the other person to clarify his or her words, and it requires us to not practice what we are going to say before we actually say it. It not only can show respect to the other person and what he or she said, but it also allows for more time in-between responses. Reflective Listening also allows us to practice the concept of “not knowing”. By focusing on others while they speak without assuming their motives or reasoning, or adding value judgments to body language or what you can hear, you can hold the space for being non-judgmental or not-knowing. Reflective listening allows us to be on the bottom rung of the ladder of inference – to observe facts and data from the world. Think of this example. A teacher asked a student to stay behind after class for being distracting and the teacher immediately closed the door. The student then asked the teacher to open the door while they talked with out explaining why. Immediately the teacher felt on the defense, thinking that the student didn’t want to speak with her. If the teacher only assumed that she already “knew” why the student wanted the door open, it would have made an impact on their conversation with negative feelings or judgment. In practicing notknowing and reflective listening, the teacher asked the student why she wanted the door open. The student was then able to explain her reasoning and it made the situation much more easier to deal with.
Asking authentic questions and not knowing Imagine this conversation: You are walking to school with a friend, talking about the math test yesterday. You tell your friend that you think you might have failed and don’t want to tell your parents. Your friend looks at you and says “ Didn’t you study? You know if you just studied you would pass. ” Asking questions can be another form of listening. Sometimes we ask questions to which we think we already know the answer. This can lead us to be judgmental and closed to new ideas. An authentic question is one that seeks the truth in a supportive way. It grows out of genuine curiosity and a desire to understand. Authentic questioning is not judgmental. It is not argumentative. It does not suggest that the person asking the question knows what the answer is or what the other person should do. Closely aligned with authentic questions is the practice of not knowing. Often, we really don’t know what other people think, how they feel, or what they are going to do. In most cases, we don’t know what’s best for someone else. If we think that we already know, our mind closes. We aren’t really listening and aren’t really being supportive. When we practice not knowing, we open ourselves to learning things we never expected to learn and to seeing others in new ways that might surprise us. Not knowing also opens us to acting in new ways. Exercise: As a class, try and rewrite these questions as authentic questions: 1. What is wrong with you? 2. Are you really going to wear that? 3. Don’t you know what the answer is? 4. Don’t you know he is mad at you? 5. Why can’t you do this right? Now, try writing your own inauthentic questions. In pairs, write down four inauthentic questions of your own. Share them with the class and listen to others give suggestions for authentic questioning.
Know Thyself Socrates (469-399 BCE) was a Classical Greek philosopher who is often credited with developing western philosophy and moral and ethical exploration. According to Socrates “ the unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates believed that a real moral knowledge exists and is worth pursuing for its own sake. Socrates believed in the philosophy of “know thyself.” He felt that if we understand who we truly are, we therefore understand others and the world around us. Understanding ourselves is can be considered as finding out unchangeable knowledge about our true selves and can act as the basis of all truth. He focused on the importance of human relationships and our intellect that allows us to examine our lives. According to Socrates, “an unexamined life is not worth living”. This kind of self-knowledge can mean a number of different things, but many interpret this as understanding our own personal value systems, morals, emotions, and human behavior. It calls for selfreflection rather than self-absorption. Self-reflection calls for searching for answers through introspection and a willingness to learn. Selfabsorption is an excessive or obsessive preoccupation with ourselves that block us from others. According to Socrates, once we understand our values and morals, we then will make moral and ethical decisions. He believed that we do not do wrong willingly, but rather only out of ignorance. Once we understand who we are, we can then understand the value of others and life itself. We commit crimes against others not because we want to, but because we don’t understand the offense. Socrates felt that true moral behavior always would lead to happiness, and any action that created true happiness would be moral behavior. In the process of understanding a sense of self, Socrates had his students question themselves and their understanding of their personal values. Some of these questions are: -
How do we really know ourselves? What does it mean to have a self? How do I know that what I think I ‘am’ hasn’t just been programmed into my mind from friends, family and other people around me? How do I know what I would really do in any given situation that requires a moral or ethical decision rather than what others have told me? What does it mean to be my authentic self?
Sense of self: Another theory about our sense of self comes from the Christian religious and philosophical teachings. Some believe that we don’t act deliberately to our own failings – that we would not deliberately do something that would cause us harm or unhappiness. So therefore, most of our actions are based on doing things that will actually increase our happiness. But – there is a catch! Often we can miscalculate what we think will make us happy. We mistakenly believe that some things will make us happy when in actuality it can cause us pain or suffering. We would do these things not to cause our selves deliberate pain, but because we don’t know our self well enough. The better we know ourselves, the better we will understand what will truly make us happy. In the end, similar to Socrates, the guiding belief behind this idea is that moral knowledge is self-knowledge and self-knowledge leads to moral action. The hard part about this is that often we don’t have a clear sense of self – particularly during adolescence. Adolescence has traditionally been characterized by a period of change and instability and has a lot to do with how we feel about ourselves – how we feel about our own personal characteristics and traits. If we “look” at ourselves in the mirror and like what we see, sometimes we can have a better sense of self than someone who struggles with liking their own personal characteristics and qualities.
Questions: 1. What do you think the difference is between self-awareness and personal identity? Can you be self-aware and not know who you really are? 2. How would you describe the idea of “self”? 3. Do you agree with Socrates that we do not do wrong willingly but only out of ignorance? Why or why not? 4. Can you define the difference between self-reflection and selfabsorption? Can you give some examples? 5. Do you agree with the idea that we would not intentionally cause ourselves to suffer or to be unhappy? 6. Do you agree with the idea that true moral behavior creates happiness and that any action that created true happiness is moral?
Values and Objectives
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How do you make decisions? What is important to you when you are faced with a problem? How would you want to feel after the decision has been made? What are the values that motivate your decisions?
Understanding what motivates our actions can be as important as the action itself. How we see ourselves, how we want to be seen, and how others actually see us are important parts of how we make decisions. If you get into an argument with a friend who values being strong, he might not back down or get emotional. If you tease a friend about getting a low grade on a test, she might break down because of how she feels about herself in school. Our actions are often based on what we value within ourselves and how other’s behaviors affect us. What are your personal values? From the following list choose three values or objectives that are most important to you when making a decision. When I make a decision, I hope to be.... Fair Stable Compassionate Strong Creative Faithful Hopeful Loving Courageous Honest Accepting Respectful Cautious Independent Bold Wise
Other: _______________ Other: _______________ In actual practice, when I make decisions, I find often that I amâ€Ś ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ Why? Can you think of the last time you made a difficult decision? What values were important for you? Check up to three of the following statements. When making decisions: I ask people with more experience for advice and guidance. I ask my parents what I should do and usually follow their advice. I ask my friends what I should do and usually follow their advice. I make sure that I protect myself and that no one is messing with me or trying to take advantage of me. I try to make as many people who are affected by my decision as happy as I can. Keeping the peace is important to me. I try to do what I know is the right thing to do. I donâ€™t have much trouble knowing what is right. My difficulty is in getting others to see and do what I know needs to be done. I take care of those persons who are suffering or are in need. Helping others is more important than helping myself. I try to do what needs to be done and what others affected by my decision will admire and applaud. I pray for guidance and insight and remember my religious training. I always look for the uniqueness of any situation. I want time to investigate any possible decision so that I can know as much about it as possible and fully understand it before I decide to act. I want to know and do the right thing. One way I can is to check and see what others around me are doing and thinking. I want my decision to be supported by others. I like doing things that I havenâ€™t done before and I like to keep my options open. I am willing to try something new in making a decision. I realize that I may not know what to do and try to sit quietly in hope that what I should do will be revealed to me. Other: _____________________________________________ Other: _____________________________________________ Other: _____________________________________________ Can you share the last time you made a difficult decision? How did you come to your decision?
When I get upset, I usually... Defend myself strongly. Numb out, going into my head to think of something that is more pleasant to me. Cry. Get agitated and angry. Tell myself to think of others. Try to go along with what others want. Look for friends and those I can trust. Go on the attack, saying things that I hope will hurt others. Look for what is positive and try to persuade others that things arenâ€™t that bad. Realize that I am often misunderstood and unappreciated by others. Sulk. Think of something else to do that would make me feel better. Physically leave and go to someplace where I feel comfortable. Remember how often I have been hurt and suffered. Try to find a way to mediate and forge a consensus between everybody. Try to get others to see how wrong they are and what they should do. Comfort others so that they will feel better. Think of something - a theory, body of knowledge, experience - that will prove to myself that I am right. Wish ill for those who are giving me a hard time. Other: _____________________________________________ Other: _____________________________________________ Other: _____________________________________________ When was the last time you were upset? What happened? How did you respond?
For Homework: Have your parents fill out the same sheet. Ask them to explain what they chose on the checklists.
Parent Value Sheet: What are your personal values? From the following list choose three values or objectives that are most important to you when making a decision. When I make a decision, I hope to be.... Fair Stable Compassionate Strong Creative Faithful Hopeful Loving Courageous Honest Accepting Respectful Cautious Independent Bold Wise Other: _______________ Other: _______________ In actual practice, when I make decisions, I find often that I amâ€Ś ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ Why? Can you think of the last time you made a difficult decision? What values were important for you? Check up to three of the following statements. When making decisions: I ask people with more experience for advice and guidance. I ask my parents what I should do and usually follow their advice. I ask my friends what I should do and usually follow their advice. I make sure that I protect myself and that no one is messing with me or trying to take advantage of me. I try to make as many people who are affected by my decision as happy as I can. Keeping the peace is important to me. I try to do what I know is the right thing to do. I donâ€™t have much trouble knowing what is right. My difficulty is in getting others to see and do what I know needs to be done. I take care of those persons who are suffering or are in need. Helping others is more important than helping myself.
I try to do what needs to be done and what others affected by my decision will admire and applaud. I pray for guidance and insight and remember my religious training. I always look for the uniqueness of any situation. I want time to investigate any possible decision so that I can know as much about it as possible and fully understand it before I decide to act. I want to know and do the right thing. One way I can is to check and see what others around me are doing and thinking. I want my decision to be supported by others. I like doing things that I havenâ€™t done before and I like to keep my options open. I am willing to try something new in making a decision. I realize that I may not know what to do and try to sit quietly in hope that what I should do will be revealed to me. Other: _____________________________________________ Other: _____________________________________________ Other: _____________________________________________ Can you recall the last time you made a decision? What was it and what did you do? When I get upset, I usually... Defend myself strongly. Numb out, going into my head to think of something that is more pleasant to me. Cry. Get agitated and angry. Tell myself to think of others. Try to go along with what others want. Look for friends and those I can trust. Go on the attack, saying things that I hope will hurt others. Look for what is positive and try to persuade others that things arenâ€™t that bad. Realize that I am often misunderstood and unappreciated by others. Sulk. Think of something else to do that would make me feel better. Physically leave and go to someplace where I feel comfortable. Remember how often I have been hurt and suffered. Try to find a way to mediate and forge a consensus between everybody. Try to get others to see how wrong they are and what they should do. Comfort others so that they will feel better. Think of something - a theory, body of knowledge, experience - that will prove to myself that I am right. Wish ill for those who are giving me a hard time. Other: _____________________________________________ Other: _____________________________________________ Other: _____________________________________________ When was the last time you were upset? What happened? How did you respond?
Identity Circles On this piece of paper, draw a diagram that has a center circle and smaller circles extending from the center with a line.
Inside each circle that extends from the center identify eight different things that identify you. These can include gender, race, religious background, ethnic background, or even birth order. Each circle has to help describe your identity. Try not to choose a physical characteristic unless you feel it is an important part of your identity. Once you’re done, split into groups of four. In each group, there will be one speaker and three students who will listen. The students who are listening will not respond or speak about the story until it is finished. Each student will try to pick one circle that feels most important to them and will try and answer the following questions: •
What about this element of your identity makes you feel different than others who are not in the same group?
What about this part of your identity makes or gives you a sense of pride?
Do people immediately identify this about you? Does this make some aspects of your life easier? Harder?
Share one experience or story with the group that helps others understand your experience.
The Book of Questions: These questions and directions are from the Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, a biophysicist from Johns Hopkins University. His exploration of values, The Book of Questions, was a New York Times bestseller that has now sold over 2 million copies and been translated into 15 languages. When you read the questions, try to identify what seems most important to you in making your decision. Can you identify personal, family, and community values in your decision making process? Go back to the values sheet. Can you see your answers on the qualities you valued in your answers? “ There are no correct or incorrect answers to these questions, only honest and dishonest ones. This is a chance to gain insights without actually having lived through the predicaments described. Let yourself be swept up in these situations so that you care about the choices you make. Resist the temptation to escape from a question by denying its reality or by coming up with some complication that obscures the basic issue. Ignore the paradoxes of time travel and the impossibility of various magical powers. Accept that conditions are as described, that odds are accurate, that promises will be fulfilled, and furthermore that you know this when you are making your decisions. Don’t just answer yes or no to the questions – probe and explain your responses and pursue interesting tangents.” Questions If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one ability or quality, what would it be? What is your most treasured memory? Have you ever hated anyone? If so, why, and for how long? What is the greatest accomplishment of your life? What is your worst nightmare? Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire; after saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? For what in your life do you feel most grateful? When did you last yell at someone? Why? Did you later regret it? You are invited to the party of the year – with celebrity guests but you are asked to come by yourself and you won’t specifically be friends or know any one there. Would you go?
If you were at Thanksgiving at your friend’s house and found a dead cockroach in the turkey, what would you do? If your friends and acquaintances were willing to bluntly and honestly tell you what they really thought of you, would you want them to? Who is the most important person in your life? What could you do to improve the relationship? Would you do it? Do you find it so hard to say “no” that you regularly do favors you do not want to do? If so, why? What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about? In conversations, do you tend to listen or talk more?
Quotes Check-in: Have students bring in a quote, poem, passage of a story or line of a song that speaks to them. They can bring it in and share it with the rest of the class. Have them explain to the rest of the group why it is important to them. Below are a number of statements. Read through them carefully and pick three that speak to you in some way. Then spend some time reflecting about why these are your favorites – what do you think of when you read the quote? Does it remind you of someone in your life? Or a particular time in your life? Does the quote support ideas or values you believe in? 1. Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace. The soul that knows it not, knows no release from little things. 2. If you want something to remain a secret, don’t tell anyone, not even your best friend. 3. The story is told of a Jewish rabbi whose disciples were debating the question of when precisely “daylight” commenced. One ventured the proposal: “It is when one can see the difference between a sheep and a goat at a distance.” Another suggested, “It is when you can see the difference between a fig tree and an olive tree at a distance.” And so it went on. When they eventually asked the rabbi for his view, he said, “When one human being looks into the face of another and says, ‘This is my sister, or this is my brother,’ then the night is over and the day begins.” 4. Be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable, be responsible, be loving, and, if necessary, change. 5. Don’t be fooled by altruism and kindness. Even these grow out of selfishness, for no one does something he doesn’t want to do.
6. If people did not sometimes do silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done. 7. ...for it's the strong man who can stand up amid opposition, who can stand up amid violence being inflicted upon him and not retaliate with violence. 8. Every man is an island, responsible for himself and for no one else. Genuine morality consists precisely in not giving in to compassion and other such temptations 9. No man is an island unto himself; every man is a piece of the continent ... any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. 10. If you wish to see the truth, then hold no opinions for or against anything. 11. Think of the flowers growing the the fields; they never have to work or spin; yet I assure you that not even Solomon is all his royal robes was clothed like one of these. Now if that is how God clothes the wild flowers growing in the field which are there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you who have so little faith? So do not worry; do not say, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? What are we to wear?” .... Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. 12. People of a meshed team will help each other personally .... A group of self dedicated soloists, on the other hand, never ceases its internal competition. 13. Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love. 14. See everything. Overlook a great deal. Improve a little. 15. Both love and true friendship are more than a way of knowing that we matter to someone else. They are a way of mattering to the world .... that would otherwise be a vale of selfishness and loneliness. 16. Bad as things are, still, when all is said and done, one can sit on a doorstep in the winter sunlight and watch sparrows kick leaves. 17. You cannot write anything about yourself that is more truthful than
you yourself are. That is the difference between writing about yourself and writing about external objects. You write about yourself from your own height. You don't stand on stilts or on a ladder but on your bare feet. 18. Each individual, by virtue of his inclinations, has a right to principles which do not destroy his individuality. 19. It is part of our discipline to live in simplicity, avoiding greed and luxury that threaten our neighborâ€™s survival. 20. [Some people] use their capacities, amass money, carry on secular enterprises, calculate shrewdly, etc., perhaps make a name in history, but themselves they are not; spiritually speaking, they have no self 21. I found myself thinking of all the people who had lived and died on this coast, and of the bones lying a mile out under the waves in the great churchyards. Their lives must have mattered at the time to themselves and the people who cared about them, but now they were dead and it would have been just the same if they had never lived. In a hundred years no one will remember Charlie, Mike or me. All our lives are as insignificant as a single grain of sand. My mind felt emptied, even of sadness. Instead, gazing out to sea, accepting that in the end nothing really matters and that all we have is the present moment to endure or enjoy, I felt at peace. 22. We do not see the world as it is. Rather we see the world as we are. 23. We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery. 24. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. 25. The real test of a man is not how well he plays the role he has invented for himself, but how well he plays the role destiny assigned to him. 26. Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape. 27. The choice between love and fear is made every moment in our hearts and minds. That is where the peace process begins. Without peace within, peace in the world is an empty wish. Like love, peace is extended. It cannot be brought from the world to the heart. It must be brought from each heart to another, and thus to all mankind. 28. The blade of grass that sticks up gets mowed down. 29. It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.
30. Forgiving is love's toughest work, and love's biggest risk. If you twist it into something it was never meant to be, it can make you a doormat or an insufferable manipulator. Forgiving seems almost unnatural. Our sense of fairness tells us people should pay for the wrong they do. But forgiving is love's power to break nature's rule. 31. I’ve always managed to fly my own flag. 32. Remember your humanity and forget the rest. 33. No man steps ever in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. 34. There is no growth without safety. 35. The will to be one’s self is heroism. 36. If you begin by sacrificing yourself to those you love, you will end by hating those to whom you have sacrificed yourself. 37. We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. 38. All children paint like geniuses. What do we do to them that so quickly dulls this ability? 39. I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes. 40. It is never to late to be who you might have been.
Sources: 1. Amelia Ehrhardt; 2 and 5. Anon.; 3. and 15. Harold Kushner; 4. Bernard Lonergan; 11. Matthew; 7. Martin Luther King, Jr. 6 & 18. Ludwig Wittgenstein; 8. Lawrence Hinman summarizing philosophical egotism; 9. John Donne; 10. Buddhist Heart Sutra; 12. Bill Bradley; 13. Reinhold Niebhur; 14. Pope John XXIII; 16. Parker Palmer; 17. Dr. Tom More in Love in the Ruins, by Walker Percy; 18. Goethe; 19. a Presbyterian affirmation; 20. Kierkegaard; 21. Margaret Munro, sitting next to Ronald Treeves’ body and waiting for Father Sebastian and others to arrive. From Death in Holy Orders, by P. D. James; 22 The Talmud; 23. Leo Buscaglia; 24. H. G. Wells; 25.. Jan Patocka; 26. Unknown; 27. Paul Ferrini; 28. Japanese colloquial saying; 29. Herman Melville; 30 Lewis B. Smedes.31. S.Freburg 32. B. Russell 33. Heraclitos 34.R.Putnam 35. Rilke 36. G.B. Shaw 37. K Vonnegut 38 Picasso 39. W. Whitman 40. G Eliot
Morality Where does our sense morality come from? What do we mean by morality? How can we tell if something is a moral issue or not? Morality is often considered codes of conduct put forward by society or another group, or accepted by individuals for guiding our own behavior. Often these codes of conduct are based on social norms or behaviors that we agree to be “normal”. Many people understand morality to have a basis in religion or personal beliefs about how society should function and how people should treat each other. Morals are the principles or beliefs that we believe to be the most important in our lives and they set the boundaries for acceptable behavior in different communities and in society. Morality is most often defined by how we should act towards others. For example, moral issues can include issues like harming others, respect for others, or doing right by others. We tend to think and speak about morality in terms what we should do, rather than what we should not. So how can we define what are moral issues and what are not? This can be difficult because so often so many of our actions and beliefs are subjective. The ladder of inference can be a good place to start when trying to decide if an issue or action has moral weight.
If we aren’t on the ladder, we are standing on the ground and watching the world around us without value judgment. In this place, we are observing data and facts that we believe to be true or not true and they are not debatable. Standing off the ladder, observing facts, we could think of a few examples: -‐ -‐
The driving age in GA is 16. By GA law children need to attend high school until they are 16.
These are all facts with out any value or judgment placed on the statements. By making these observations, we are stating only fact. It is non-judgmental. But as we move up the ladder, we start evaluating and adding value or judgment to actions and issues. By doing this kind of evaluation, we are also deciding whether or not we like or dislike the action. So for example, if we use the earlier examples: -‐
The driving age in GA is 16. o Value judgment: I both dislike and like this rule for young drivers. Young drivers are more prone to get into accidents, however for some students they need to be able to drive to go to school or to work. By GA law children need to attend high school until they are 16. o Value judgment: I dislike this rule and think that all students should be required to graduate by law.
As we make other kinds of value statements that have an impact on others, we can then evaluate and debate whether or not the consequences of beliefs or actions can be moral or immoral. But remember, not everything that comes up in our lives is a moral issue – sometimes we are standing on the ground and observing facts and the world around us. Once we start to climb up the ladder and use value judgments in evaluating what is wrong or right in our lives, that’s when we start to deal with moral and ethical issues. We can ask ourselves some questions when dealing with issues that may hold ethical or moral weight: -‐ -‐ -‐
Is this a debatable issue? Is this issue important to me? Is it a real or authentic issue?
Questions: 1. Can you think of some examples of issues that are moral or ethical in your life? 2. What are some of the issues that fall into a gray area for you?
January 13, 2008 The Moral Instinct By STEVEN PINKER Which of the following people would you say is the most admirable: Mother Teresa, Bill Gates or Norman Borlaug? And which do you think is the least admirable? For most people, it’s an easy question. Mother Teresa, famous for ministering to the poor in Calcutta, has been beatified by the Vatican, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and ranked in an American poll as the most admired person of the 20th century. Bill Gates, infamous for giving us the Microsoft dancing paper clip and the blue screen of death, has been decapitated in effigy in “I Hate Gates” Web sites and hit with a pie in the face. As for Norman Borlaug . . . who the heck is Norman Borlaug? Yet a deeper look might lead you to rethink your answers. Borlaug, father of the “Green Revolution” that used agricultural science to reduce world hunger, has been credited with saving a billion lives, more than anyone else in history. Gates, in deciding what to do with his fortune, crunched the numbers and determined that he could alleviate the most misery by fighting everyday scourges in the developing world like malaria, diarrhea and parasites. Mother Teresa, for her part, extolled the virtue of suffering and ran her wellfinanced missions accordingly: their sick patrons were offered plenty of prayer but harsh conditions, few analgesics and dangerously primitive medical care. It’s not hard to see why the moral reputations of this trio should be so out of line with the good they have done. Mother Teresa was the very embodiment of saintliness: white-clad, sad-eyed, ascetic and often photographed with the wretched of the earth. Gates is a nerd’s nerd and the world’s richest man, as likely to enter heaven as the proverbial camel squeezing through the needle’s eye. And Borlaug, now 93, is an agronomist who has spent his life in labs and nonprofits, seldom walking onto the media stage, and hence into our consciousness, at all. I doubt these examples will persuade anyone to favor Bill Gates over Mother Teresa for sainthood. But they show that our heads can be turned by an aura of sanctity, distracting us from a more objective reckoning of the actions that make people suffer or flourish. It seems we may all be vulnerable to moral illusions the ethical equivalent of the bending lines that trick the eye on cereal boxes and in psychology textbooks. Illusions are a favorite tool of perception scientists for exposing the workings of the five senses, and of philosophers for shaking people out of the naïve belief that our minds give us a transparent window onto the world (since if our eyes can be fooled by an illusion, why should we trust them at other times?). Today, a new field is using illusions to unmask a sixth sense, the moral sense. Moral intuitions are being drawn out of people in the lab, on Web sites and in brain scanners, and are being explained with tools from game theory, neuroscience and evolutionary biology. “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and more steadily we reflect on them,” wrote Immanuel Kant, “the starry heavens above and the moral law within.” These days, the moral law within is being viewed with increasing awe, if not always admiration. The human moral sense turns out to be an organ of considerable complexity, with quirks that reflect its evolutionary history and its neurobiological foundations. These quirks are bound to have implications for the human predicament. Morality is not just any old topic in psychology but close to our conception of the meaning of life. Moral goodness is what gives each of us the sense that we are worthy human beings. We seek it
in our friends and mates, nurture it in our children, advance it in our politics and justify it with our religions. A disrespect for morality is blamed for everyday sins and history’s worst atrocities. To carry this weight, the concept of morality would have to be bigger than any of us and outside all of us. So dissecting moral intuitions is no small matter. If morality is a mere trick of the brain, some may fear, our very grounds for being moral could be eroded. Yet as we shall see, the science of the moral sense can instead be seen as a way to strengthen those grounds, by clarifying what morality is and how it should steer our actions. The Moralization Switch The starting point for appreciating that there is a distinctive part of our psychology for morality is seeing how moral judgments differ from other kinds of opinions we have on how people ought to behave. Moralization is a psychological state that can be turned on and off like a switch, and when it is on, a distinctive mind-set commandeers our thinking. This is the mind-set that makes us deem actions immoral (“killing is wrong”), rather than merely disagreeable (“I hate brussels sprouts”), unfashionable (“bell-bottoms are out”) or imprudent (“don’t scratch mosquito bites”). The first hallmark of moralization is that the rules it invokes are felt to be universal. Prohibitions of rape and murder, for example, are felt not to be matters of local custom but to be universally and objectively warranted. One can easily say, “I don’t like brussels sprouts, but I don’t care if you eat them,” but no one would say, “I don’t like killing, but I don’t care if you murder someone.” The other hallmark is that people feel that those who commit immoral acts deserve to be punished. Not only is it allowable to inflict pain on a person who has broken a moral rule; it is wrong not to, to “let them get away with it.” People are thus untroubled in inviting divine retribution or the power of the state to harm other people they deem immoral. Bertrand Russell wrote, “The infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists — that is why they invented hell.” We all know what it feels like when the moralization switch flips inside us — the righteous glow, the burning dudgeon, the drive to recruit others to the cause. The psychologist Paul Rozin has studied the toggle switch by comparing two kinds of people who engage in the same behavior but with different switch settings. Health vegetarians avoid meat for practical reasons, like lowering cholesterol and avoiding toxins. Moral vegetarians avoid meat for ethical reasons: to avoid complicity in the suffering of animals. By investigating their feelings about meat-eating, Rozin showed that the moral motive sets off a cascade of opinions. Moral vegetarians are more likely to treat meat as a contaminant — they refuse, for example, to eat a bowl of soup into which a drop of beef broth has fallen. They are more likely to think that other people ought to be vegetarians, and are more likely to imbue their dietary habits with other virtues, like believing that meat avoidance makes people less aggressive and bestial. Much of our recent social history, including the culture wars between liberals and conservatives, consists of the moralization or amoralization of particular kinds of behavior. Even when people agree that an outcome is desirable, they may disagree on whether it should be treated as a matter of preference and prudence or as a matter of sin and virtue. Rozin notes, for example, that smoking has lately been moralized. Until recently, it was understood that some people didn’t enjoy smoking or avoided it because it was hazardous to their health. But with the discovery of the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, smoking is now treated as immoral. Smokers are ostracized; images of people smoking are censored; and entities touched by smoke are felt to be contaminated (so hotels have not only nonsmoking rooms but nonsmoking floors). The desire for retribution has been visited on tobacco companies, who have been slapped with
staggering “punitive damages.” At the same time, many behaviors have been amoralized, switched from moral failings to lifestyle choices. They include divorce, illegitimacy, being a working mother, marijuana use and homosexuality. Many afflictions have been reassigned from payback for bad choices to unlucky misfortunes. There used to be people called “bums” and “tramps”; today they are “homeless.” Drug addiction is a “disease”; syphilis was rebranded from the price of wanton behavior to a “sexually transmitted disease” and more recently a “sexually transmitted infection.” This wave of amoralization has led the cultural right to lament that morality itself is under assault, as we see in the group that anointed itself the Moral Majority. In fact there seems to be a Law of Conservation of Moralization, so that as old behaviors are taken out of the moralized column, new ones are added to it. Dozens of things that past generations treated as practical matters are now ethical battlegrounds, including disposable diapers, I.Q. tests, poultry farms, Barbie dolls and research on breast cancer. Food alone has become a minefield, with critics sermonizing about the size of sodas, the chemistry of fat, the freedom of chickens, the price of coffee beans, the species of fish and now the distance the food has traveled from farm to plate. Many of these moralizations, like the assault on smoking, may be understood as practical tactics to reduce some recently identified harm. But whether an activity flips our mental switches to the “moral” setting isn’t just a matter of how much harm it does. We don’t show contempt to the man who fails to change the batteries in his smoke alarms or takes his family on a driving vacation, both of which multiply the risk they will die in an accident. Driving a gas-guzzling Hummer is reprehensible, but driving a gas-guzzling old Volvo is not; eating a Big Mac is unconscionable, but not imported cheese or crème brûlée. The reason for these double standards is obvious: people tend to align their moralization with their own lifestyles. Reasoning and Rationalizing It’s not just the content of our moral judgments that is often questionable, but the way we arrive at them. We like to think that when we have a conviction, there are good reasons that drove us to adopt it. That is why an older approach to moral psychology, led by Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg, tried to document the lines of reasoning that guided people to moral conclusions. But consider these situations, originally devised by the psychologist Jonathan Haidt: Julie is traveling in France on summer vacation from college with her brother Mark. One night they decide that it would be interesting and fun if they tried making love. Julie was already taking birth-control pills, but Mark uses a condom, too, just to be safe. They both enjoy the sex but decide not to do it again. They keep the night as a special secret, which makes them feel closer to each other. What do you think about that — was it O.K. for them to make love? A woman is cleaning out her closet and she finds her old American flag. She doesn’t want the flag anymore, so she cuts it up into pieces and uses the rags to clean her bathroom. A family’s dog is killed by a car in front of their house. They heard that dog meat was delicious, so they cut up the dog’s body and cook it and eat it for dinner. Most people immediately declare that these acts are wrong and then grope to justify why they are wrong. It’s not so easy. In the case of Julie and Mark, people raise the possibility of children with birth defects, but they are reminded that the couple were diligent about contraception. They suggest that the siblings will be emotionally hurt, but the story makes
it clear that they weren’t. They submit that the act would offend the community, but then recall that it was kept a secret. Eventually many people admit, “I don’t know, I can’t explain it, I just know it’s wrong.” People don’t generally engage in moral reasoning, Haidt argues, but moral rationalization: they begin with the conclusion, coughed up by an unconscious emotion, and then work backward to a plausible justification. The gap between people’s convictions and their justifications is also on display in the favorite new sandbox for moral psychologists, a thought experiment devised by the philosophers Philippa Foot and Judith Jarvis Thomson called the Trolley Problem. On your morning walk, you see a trolley car hurtling down the track, the conductor slumped over the controls. In the path of the trolley are five men working on the track, oblivious to the danger. You are standing at a fork in the track and can pull a lever that will divert the trolley onto a spur, saving the five men. Unfortunately, the trolley would then run over a single worker who is laboring on the spur. Is it permissible to throw the switch, killing one man to save five? Almost everyone says “yes.” Consider now a different scene. You are on a bridge overlooking the tracks and have spotted the runaway trolley bearing down on the five workers. Now the only way to stop the trolley is to throw a heavy object in its path. And the only heavy object within reach is a fat man standing next to you. Should you throw the man off the bridge? Both dilemmas present you with the option of sacrificing one life to save five, and so, by the utilitarian standard of what would result in the greatest good for the greatest number, the two dilemmas are morally equivalent. But most people don’t see it that way: though they would pull the switch in the first dilemma, they would not heave the fat man in the second. When pressed for a reason, they can’t come up with anything coherent, though moral philosophers haven’t had an easy time coming up with a relevant difference, either. When psychologists say “most people” they usually mean “most of the two dozen sophomores who filled out a questionnaire for beer money.” But in this case it means most of the 200,000 people from a hundred countries who shared their intuitions on a Web-based experiment conducted by the psychologists Fiery Cushman and Liane Young and the biologist Marc Hauser. A difference between the acceptability of switch-pulling and man-heaving, and an inability to justify the choice, was found in respondents from Europe, Asia and North and South America; among men and women, blacks and whites, teenagers and octogenarians, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Jews and atheists; people with elementary-school educations and people with Ph.D.’s. Joshua Greene, a philosopher and cognitive neuroscientist, suggests that evolution equipped people with a revulsion to manhandling an innocent person. This instinct, he suggests, tends to overwhelm any utilitarian calculus that would tot up the lives saved and lost. The impulse against roughing up a fellow human would explain other examples in which people abjure killing one to save many, like euthanizing a hospital patient to harvest his organs and save five dying patients in need of transplants, or throwing someone out of a crowded lifeboat to keep it afloat. By itself this would be no more than a plausible story, but Greene teamed up with the cognitive neuroscientist Jonathan Cohen and several Princeton colleagues to peer into people’s brains using functional M.R.I. They sought to find signs of a conflict between brain areas associated with emotion (the ones that recoil from harming someone) and areas dedicated to rational analysis (the ones that calculate lives lost and saved). When people pondered the dilemmas that required killing someone with their bare hands, several networks in their brains lighted up. One, which included the medial (inward-facing) parts of the frontal lobes, has been implicated in emotions about other people. A second, the dorsolateral (upper and outer-facing) surface of the frontal lobes, has been implicated in ongoing mental computation (including nonmoral reasoning, like deciding whether to get somewhere by plane or train). And a third region, the anterior cingulate cortex (an evolutionarily ancient strip lying at the base of the inner surface of
each cerebral hemisphere), registers a conflict between an urge coming from one part of the brain and an advisory coming from another. But when the people were pondering a hands-off dilemma, like switching the trolley onto the spur with the single worker, the brain reacted differently: only the area involved in rational calculation stood out. Other studies have shown that neurological patients who have blunted emotions because of damage to the frontal lobes become utilitarians: they think it makes perfect sense to throw the fat man off the bridge. Together, the findings corroborate Greene’s theory that our nonutilitarian intuitions come from the victory of an emotional impulse over a cost-benefit analysis. A Universal Morality? The findings of trolleyology — complex, instinctive and worldwide moral intuitions — led Hauser and John Mikhail (a legal scholar) to revive an analogy from the philosopher John Rawls between the moral sense and language. According to Noam Chomsky, we are born with a “universal grammar” that forces us to analyze speech in terms of its grammatical structure, with no conscious awareness of the rules in play. By analogy, we are born with a universal moral grammar that forces us to analyze human action in terms of its moral structure, with just as little awareness. The idea that the moral sense is an innate part of human nature is not far-fetched. A list of human universals collected by the anthropologist Donald E. Brown includes many moral concepts and emotions, including a distinction between right and wrong; empathy; fairness; admiration of generosity; rights and obligations; proscription of murder, rape and other forms of violence; redress of wrongs; sanctions for wrongs against the community; shame; and taboos. The stirrings of morality emerge early in childhood. Toddlers spontaneously offer toys and help to others and try to comfort people they see in distress. And according to the psychologists Elliot Turiel and Judith Smetana, preschoolers have an inkling of the difference between societal conventions and moral principles. Four-year-olds say that it is not O.K. to wear pajamas to school (a convention) and also not O.K. to hit a little girl for no reason (a moral principle). But when asked whether these actions would be O.K. if the teacher allowed them, most of the children said that wearing pajamas would now be fine but that hitting a little girl would still not be. Though no one has identified genes for morality, there is circumstantial evidence they exist. The character traits called “conscientiousness” and “agreeableness” are far more correlated in identical twins separated at birth (who share their genes but not their environment) than in adoptive siblings raised together (who share their environment but not their genes). People given diagnoses of “antisocial personality disorder” or “psychopathy” show signs of morality blindness from the time they are children. They bully younger children, torture animals, habitually lie and seem incapable of empathy or remorse, often despite normal family backgrounds. Some of these children grow up into the monsters who bilk elderly people out of their savings, rape a succession of women or shoot convenience-store clerks lying on the floor during a robbery. Though psychopathy probably comes from a genetic predisposition, a milder version can be caused by damage to frontal regions of the brain (including the areas that inhibit intact people from throwing the hypothetical fat man off the bridge). The neuroscientists Hanna and Antonio Damasio and their colleagues found that some children who sustain severe injuries to their frontal lobes can grow up into callous and irresponsible adults, despite normal intelligence. They lie, steal, ignore punishment, endanger their own children and can’t think through even the simplest moral dilemmas, like what two people should do if they disagreed on which TV channel to watch or whether a man ought to steal a drug to save his dying wife.
The moral sense, then, may be rooted in the design of the normal human brain. Yet for all the awe that may fill our minds when we reflect on an innate moral law within, the idea is at best incomplete. Consider this moral dilemma: A runaway trolley is about to kill a schoolteacher. You can divert the trolley onto a sidetrack, but the trolley would trip a switch sending a signal to a class of 6-year-olds, giving them permission to name a teddy bear Muhammad. Is it permissible to pull the lever? This is no joke. Last month a British woman teaching in a private school in Sudan allowed her class to name a teddy bear after the most popular boy in the class, who bore the name of the founder of Islam. She was jailed for blasphemy and threatened with a public flogging, while a mob outside the prison demanded her death. To the protesters, the woman’s life clearly had less value than maximizing the dignity of their religion, and their judgment on whether it is right to divert the hypothetical trolley would have differed from ours. Whatever grammar guides people’s moral judgments can’t be all that universal. Anyone who stayed awake through Anthropology 101 can offer many other examples. Of course, languages vary, too. In Chomsky’s theory, languages conform to an abstract blueprint, like having phrases built out of verbs and objects, while the details vary, like whether the verb or the object comes first. Could we be wired with an abstract spec sheet that embraces all the strange ideas that people in different cultures moralize? The Varieties of Moral Experience When anthropologists like Richard Shweder and Alan Fiske survey moral concerns across the globe, they find that a few themes keep popping up from amid the diversity. People everywhere, at least in some circumstances and with certain other folks in mind, think it’s bad to harm others and good to help them. They have a sense of fairness: that one should reciprocate favors, reward benefactors and punish cheaters. They value loyalty to a group, sharing and solidarity among its members and conformity to its norms. They believe that it is right to defer to legitimate authorities and to respect people with high status. And they exalt purity, cleanliness and sanctity while loathing defilement, contamination and carnality. The exact number of themes depends on whether you’re a lumper or a splitter, but Haidt counts five — harm, fairness, community (or group loyalty), authority and purity — and suggests that they are the primary colors of our moral sense. Not only do they keep reappearing in cross-cultural surveys, but each one tugs on the moral intuitions of people in our own culture. Haidt asks us to consider how much money someone would have to pay us to do hypothetical acts like the following: Stick a pin into your palm. Stick a pin into the palm of a child you don’t know. (Harm.) Accept a wide-screen TV from a friend who received it at no charge because of a computer error. Accept a wide-screen TV from a friend who received it from a thief who had stolen it from a wealthy family. (Fairness.) Say something bad about your nation (which you don’t believe) on a talk-radio show in your nation. Say something bad about your nation (which you don’t believe) on a talk-radio show in a foreign nation. (Community.)
Slap a friend in the face, with his permission, as part of a comedy skit. Slap your minister in the face, with his permission, as part of a comedy skit. (Authority.) Attend a performance-art piece in which the actors act like idiots for 30 minutes, including flubbing simple problems and falling down on stage. Attend a performance-art piece in which the actors act like animals for 30 minutes, including crawling around naked and urinating on stage. (Purity.) In each pair, the second action feels far more repugnant. Most of the moral illusions we have visited come from an unwarranted intrusion of one of the moral spheres into our judgments. A violation of community led people to frown on using an old flag to clean a bathroom. Violations of purity repelled the people who judged the morality of consensual incest and prevented the moral vegetarians and nonsmokers from tolerating the slightest trace of a vile contaminant. At the other end of the scale, displays of extreme purity lead people to venerate religious leaders who dress in white and affect an aura of chastity and asceticism. The Genealogy of Morals The five spheres are good candidates for a periodic table of the moral sense not only because they are ubiquitous but also because they appear to have deep evolutionary roots. The impulse to avoid harm, which gives trolley ponderers the willies when they consider throwing a man off a bridge, can also be found in rhesus monkeys, who go hungry rather than pull a chain that delivers food to them and a shock to another monkey. Respect for authority is clearly related to the pecking orders of dominance and appeasement that are widespread in the animal kingdom. The purity-defilement contrast taps the emotion of disgust that is triggered by potential disease vectors like bodily effluvia, decaying flesh and unconventional forms of meat, and by risky sexual practices like incest. The other two moralized spheres match up with the classic examples of how altruism can evolve that were worked out by sociobiologists in the 1960s and 1970s and made famous by Richard Dawkins in his book “The Selfish Gene.” Fairness is very close to what scientists call reciprocal altruism, where a willingness to be nice to others can evolve as long as the favor helps the recipient more than it costs the giver and the recipient returns the favor when fortunes reverse. The analysis makes it sound as if reciprocal altruism comes out of a robotlike calculation, but in fact Robert Trivers, the biologist who devised the theory, argued that it is implemented in the brain as a suite of moral emotions. Sympathy prompts a person to offer the first favor, particularly to someone in need for whom it would go the furthest. Anger protects a person against cheaters who accept a favor without reciprocating, by impelling him to punish the ingrate or sever the relationship. Gratitude impels a beneficiary to reward those who helped him in the past. Guilt prompts a cheater in danger of being found out to repair the relationship by redressing the misdeed and advertising that he will behave better in the future (consistent with Mencken’s definition of conscience as “the inner voice which warns us that someone might be looking”). Many experiments on who helps whom, who likes whom, who punishes whom and who feels guilty about what have confirmed these predictions. Community, the very different emotion that prompts people to share and sacrifice without an expectation of payback, may be rooted in nepotistic altruism, the empathy and solidarity we feel toward our relatives (and which evolved because any gene that pushed an organism to aid a relative would have helped copies of itself sitting inside that relative). In humans, of course, communal feelings can be lavished on nonrelatives as well. Sometimes it pays people (in an evolutionary sense) to love their companions because their interests are yoked, like spouses with common children, in-laws with common relatives, friends with common tastes or allies with common enemies. And
sometimes it doesn’t pay them at all, but their kinship-detectors have been tricked into treating their groupmates as if they were relatives by tactics like kinship metaphors (blood brothers, fraternities, the fatherland), origin myths, communal meals and other bonding rituals. Juggling the Spheres All this brings us to a theory of how the moral sense can be universal and variable at the same time. The five moral spheres are universal, a legacy of evolution. But how they are ranked in importance, and which is brought in to moralize which area of social life — sex, government, commerce, religion, diet and so on — depends on the culture. Many of the flabbergasting practices in faraway places become more intelligible when you recognize that the same moralizing impulse that Western elites channel toward violations of harm and fairness (our moral obsessions) is channeled elsewhere to violations in the other spheres. Think of the Japanese fear of nonconformity (community), the holy ablutions and dietary restrictions of Hindus and Orthodox Jews (purity), the outrage at insulting the Prophet among Muslims (authority). In the West, we believe that in business and government, fairness should trump community and try to root out nepotism and cronyism. In other parts of the world this is incomprehensible — what heartless creep would favor a perfect stranger over his own brother? The ranking and placement of moral spheres also divides the cultures of liberals and conservatives in the United States. Many bones of contention, like homosexuality, atheism and one-parent families from the right, or racial imbalances, sweatshops and executive pay from the left, reflect different weightings of the spheres. In a large Web survey, Haidt found that liberals put a lopsided moral weight on harm and fairness while playing down group loyalty, authority and purity. Conservatives instead place a moderately high weight on all five. It’s not surprising that each side thinks it is driven by lofty ethical values and that the other side is base and unprincipled. Reassigning an activity to a different sphere, or taking it out of the moral spheres altogether, isn’t easy. People think that a behavior belongs in its sphere as a matter of sacred necessity and that the very act of questioning an assignment is a moral outrage. The psychologist Philip Tetlock has shown that the mentality of taboo — a conviction that some thoughts are sinful to think — is not just a superstition of Polynesians but a mindset that can easily be triggered in college-educated Americans. Just ask them to think about applying the sphere of reciprocity to relationships customarily governed by community or authority. When Tetlock asked subjects for their opinions on whether adoption agencies should place children with the couples willing to pay the most, whether people should have the right to sell their organs and whether they should be able to buy their way out of jury duty, the subjects not only disagreed but felt personally insulted and were outraged that anyone would raise the question. The institutions of modernity often question and experiment with the way activities are assigned to moral spheres. Market economies tend to put everything up for sale. Science amoralizes the world by seeking to understand phenomena rather than pass judgment on them. Secular philosophy is in the business of scrutinizing all beliefs, including those entrenched by authority and tradition. It’s not surprising that these institutions are often seen to be morally corrosive. Is Nothing Sacred? And “morally corrosive” is exactly the term that some critics would apply to the new science of the moral sense. The attempt to dissect our moral intuitions can look like an attempt to debunk them. Evolutionary psychologists seem to want to unmask our noblest motives as ultimately self-interested — to show that our love for children, compassion for the unfortunate and sense of justice are just tactics in a Darwinian struggle to perpetuate
our genes. The explanation of how different cultures appeal to different spheres could lead to a spineless relativism, in which we would never have grounds to criticize the practice of another culture, no matter how barbaric, because “we have our kind of morality and they have theirs.” And the whole enterprise seems to be dragging us to an amoral nihilism, in which morality itself would be demoted from a transcendent principle to a figment of our neural circuitry. In reality, none of these fears are warranted, and it’s important to see why not. The first misunderstanding involves the logic of evolutionary explanations. Evolutionary biologists sometimes anthropomorphize DNA for the same reason that science teachers find it useful to have their students imagine the world from the viewpoint of a molecule or a beam of light. One shortcut to understanding the theory of selection without working through the math is to imagine that the genes are little agents that try to make copies of themselves. Unfortunately, the meme of the selfish gene escaped from popular biology books and mutated into the idea that organisms (including people) are ruthlessly self-serving. And this doesn’t follow. Genes are not a reservoir of our dark unconscious wishes. “Selfish” genes are perfectly compatible with selfless organisms, because a gene’s metaphorical goal of selfishly replicating itself can be implemented by wiring up the brain of the organism to do unselfish things, like being nice to relatives or doing good deeds for needy strangers. When a mother stays up all night comforting a sick child, the genes that endowed her with that tenderness were “selfish” in a metaphorical sense, but by no stretch of the imagination is she being selfish. Nor does reciprocal altruism — the evolutionary rationale behind fairness — imply that people do good deeds in the cynical expectation of repayment down the line. We all know of unrequited good deeds, like tipping a waitress in a city you will never visit again and falling on a grenade to save platoonmates. These bursts of goodness are not as anomalous to a biologist as they might appear. In his classic 1971 article, Trivers, the biologist, showed how natural selection could push in the direction of true selflessness. The emergence of tit-for-tat reciprocity, which lets organisms trade favors without being cheated, is just a first step. A favor-giver not only has to avoid blatant cheaters (those who would accept a favor but not return it) but also prefer generous reciprocators (those who return the biggest favor they can afford) over stingy ones (those who return the smallest favor they can get away with). Since it’s good to be chosen as a recipient of favors, a competition arises to be the most generous partner around. More accurately, a competition arises to appear to be the most generous partner around, since the favor-giver can’t literally read minds or see into the future. A reputation for fairness and generosity becomes an asset. Now this just sets up a competition for potential beneficiaries to inflate their reputations without making the sacrifices to back them up. But it also pressures the favor-giver to develop ever-more-sensitive radar to distinguish the genuinely generous partners from the hypocrites. This arms race will eventually reach a logical conclusion. The most effective way to seem generous and fair, under harsh scrutiny, is to be generous and fair. In the long run, then, reputation can be secured only by commitment. At least some agents evolve to be genuinely high-minded and self-sacrificing — they are moral not because of what it brings them but because that’s the kind of people they are. Of course, a theory that predicted that everyone always sacrificed themselves for another’s good would be as preposterous as a theory that predicted that no one ever did. Alongside the niches for saints there are niches for more grudging reciprocators, who attract fewer and poorer partners but don’t make the sacrifices necessary for a sterling reputation. And both may coexist with outright cheaters, who exploit the unwary in oneshot encounters. An ecosystem of niches, each with a distinct strategy, can evolve when the payoff of each strategy depends on how many players are playing the other strategies.
The human social environment does have its share of generous, grudging and crooked characters, and the genetic variation in personality seems to bear the fingerprints of this evolutionary process.
Is Morality a Figment? So a biological understanding of the moral sense does not entail that people are calculating maximizers of their genes or self-interest. But where does it leave the concept of morality itself? Here is the worry. The scientific outlook has taught us that some parts of our subjective experience are products of our biological makeup and have no objective counterpart in the world. The qualitative difference between red and green, the tastiness of fruit and foulness of carrion, the scariness of heights and prettiness of flowers are design features of our common nervous system, and if our species had evolved in a different ecosystem or if we were missing a few genes, our reactions could go the other way. Now, if the distinction between right and wrong is also a product of brain wiring, why should we believe it is any more real than the distinction between red and green? And if it is just a collective hallucination, how could we argue that evils like genocide and slavery are wrong for everyone, rather than just distasteful to us? Putting God in charge of morality is one way to solve the problem, of course, but Plato made short work of it 2,400 years ago. Does God have a good reason for designating certain acts as moral and others as immoral? If not — if his dictates are divine whims — why should we take them seriously? Suppose that God commanded us to torture a child. Would that make it all right, or would some other standard give us reasons to resist? And if, on the other hand, God was forced by moral reasons to issue some dictates and not others — if a command to torture a child was never an option — then why not appeal to those reasons directly? This throws us back to wondering where those reasons could come from, if they are more than just figments of our brains. They certainly aren’t in the physical world like wavelength or mass. The only other option is that moral truths exist in some abstract Platonic realm, there for us to discover, perhaps in the same way that mathematical truths (according to most mathematicians) are there for us to discover. On this analogy, we are born with a rudimentary concept of number, but as soon as we build on it with formal mathematical reasoning, the nature of mathematical reality forces us to discover some truths and not others. (No one who understands the concept of two, the concept of four and the concept of addition can come to any conclusion but that 2 + 2 = 4.) Perhaps we are born with a rudimentary moral sense, and as soon as we build on it with moral reasoning, the nature of moral reality forces us to some conclusions but not others. Moral realism, as this idea is called, is too rich for many philosophers’ blood. Yet a diluted version of the idea — if not a list of cosmically inscribed Thou-Shalts, then at least a few If-Thens — is not crazy. Two features of reality point any rational, self-preserving social agent in a moral direction. And they could provide a benchmark for determining when the judgments of our moral sense are aligned with morality itself. One is the prevalence of nonzero-sum games. In many arenas of life, two parties are objectively better off if they both act in a nonselfish way than if each of them acts selfishly. You and I are both better off if we share our surpluses, rescue each other’s children in danger and refrain from shooting at each other, compared with hoarding our
surpluses while they rot, letting the other’s child drown while we file our nails or feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys. Granted, I might be a bit better off if I acted selfishly at your expense and you played the sucker, but the same is true for you with me, so if each of us tried for these advantages, we’d both end up worse off. Any neutral observer, and you and I if we could talk it over rationally, would have to conclude that the state we should aim for is the one in which we both are unselfish. These spreadsheet projections are not quirks of brain wiring, nor are they dictated by a supernatural power; they are in the nature of things. The other external support for morality is a feature of rationality itself: that it cannot depend on the egocentric vantage point of the reasoner. If I appeal to you to do anything that affects me — to get off my foot, or tell me the time or not run me over with your car — then I can’t do it in a way that privileges my interests over yours (say, retaining my right to run you over with my car) if I want you to take me seriously. Unless I am Galactic Overlord, I have to state my case in a way that would force me to treat you in kind. I can’t act as if my interests are special just because I’m me and you’re not, any more than I can persuade you that the spot I am standing on is a special place in the universe just because I happen to be standing on it. Not coincidentally, the core of this idea — the interchangeability of perspectives — keeps reappearing in history’s best-thought-through moral philosophies, including the Golden Rule (itself discovered many times); Spinoza’s Viewpoint of Eternity; the Social Contract of Hobbes, Rousseau and Locke; Kant’s Categorical Imperative; and Rawls’s Veil of Ignorance. It also underlies Peter Singer’s theory of the Expanding Circle — the optimistic proposal that our moral sense, though shaped by evolution to overvalue self, kin and clan, can propel us on a path of moral progress, as our reasoning forces us to generalize it to larger and larger circles of sentient beings. Doing Better by Knowing Ourselves Morality, then, is still something larger than our inherited moral sense, and the new science of the moral sense does not make moral reasoning and conviction obsolete. At the same time, its implications for our moral universe are profound. At the very least, the science tells us that even when our adversaries’ agenda is most baffling, they may not be amoral psychopaths but in the throes of a moral mind-set that appears to them to be every bit as mandatory and universal as ours does to us. Of course, some adversaries really are psychopaths, and others are so poisoned by a punitive moralization that they are beyond the pale of reason. (The actor Will Smith had many historians on his side when he recently speculated to the press that Hitler thought he was acting morally.) But in any conflict in which a meeting of the minds is not completely hopeless, a recognition that the other guy is acting from moral rather than venal reasons can be a first patch of common ground. One side can acknowledge the other’s concern for community or stability or fairness or dignity, even while arguing that some other value should trump it in that instance. With affirmative action, for example, the opponents can be seen as arguing from a sense of fairness, not racism, and the defenders can be seen as acting from a concern with community, not bureaucratic power. Liberals can ratify conservatives’ concern with families while noting that gay marriage is perfectly consistent with that concern. The science of the moral sense also alerts us to ways in which our psychological makeup can get in the way of our arriving at the most defensible moral conclusions. The moral sense, we are learning, is as vulnerable to illusions as the other senses. It is apt to confuse morality per se with purity, status and conformity. It tends to reframe practical problems as moral crusades and thus see their solution in punitive aggression. It imposes taboos that make certain ideas indiscussible. And it has the nasty habit of always putting the self on the side of the angels.
Though wise people have long reflected on how we can be blinded by our own sanctimony, our public discourse still fails to discount it appropriately. In the worst cases, the thoughtlessness of our brute intuitions can be celebrated as a virtue. In his influential essay “The Wisdom of Repugnance,” Leon Kass, former chair of the President’s Council on Bioethics, argued that we should disregard reason when it comes to cloning and other biomedical technologies and go with our gut: “We are repelled by the prospect of cloning human beings . . . because we intuit and feel, immediately and without argument, the violation of things that we rightfully hold dear. . . . In this age in which everything is held to be permissible so long as it is freely done . . . repugnance may be the only voice left that speaks up to defend the central core of our humanity. Shallow are the souls that have forgotten how to shudder.” There are, of course, good reasons to regulate human cloning, but the shudder test is not one of them. People have shuddered at all kinds of morally irrelevant violations of purity in their culture: touching an untouchable, drinking from the same water fountain as a Negro, allowing Jewish blood to mix with Aryan blood, tolerating sodomy between consenting men. And if our ancestors’ repugnance had carried the day, we never would have had autopsies, vaccinations, blood transfusions, artificial insemination, organ transplants and in vitro fertilization, all of which were denounced as immoral when they were new. There are many other issues for which we are too quick to hit the moralization button and look for villains rather than bug fixes. What should we do when a hospital patient is killed by a nurse who administers the wrong drug in a patient’s intravenous line? Should we make it easier to sue the hospital for damages? Or should we redesign the IV fittings so that it’s physically impossible to connect the wrong bottle to the line? And nowhere is moralization more of a hazard than in our greatest global challenge. The threat of human-induced climate change has become the occasion for a moralistic revival meeting. In many discussions, the cause of climate change is overindulgence (too many S.U.V.’s) and defilement (sullying the atmosphere), and the solution is temperance (conservation) and expiation (buying carbon offset coupons). Yet the experts agree that these numbers don’t add up: even if every last American became conscientious about his or her carbon emissions, the effects on climate change would be trifling, if for no other reason than that two billion Indians and Chinese are unlikely to copy our born-again abstemiousness. Though voluntary conservation may be one wedge in an effective carbon-reduction pie, the other wedges will have to be morally boring, like a carbon tax and new energy technologies, or even taboo, like nuclear power and deliberate manipulation of the ocean and atmosphere. Our habit of moralizing problems, merging them with intuitions of purity and contamination, and resting content when we feel the right feelings, can get in the way of doing the right thing. Far from debunking morality, then, the science of the moral sense can advance it, by allowing us to see through the illusions that evolution and culture have saddled us with and to focus on goals we can share and defend. As Anton Chekhov wrote, “Man will become better when you show him what he is like.” Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and the author of “The Language Instinct” and “The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window Into Human Nature.”
A Moral Instinct: A summary and guide Stephen Pinker is a linguist and an experimental psychologist. In his article, “ The Moral Instinct”, he argues some not so commonly known points on morality and how we may be wired to acting and thinking morally. Hallmarks of moralization: How do we determine what is a moral issue and what is something that goes against social norms or that might be just disagreeable? Pinker poses that we can follow a few questions to help determine how we moralize issues. -‐ -‐
Is the rule that it invokes feels universal rather than local custom? Do people feel that those who commit these acts deserve to be punished?
Questions: 1. What might be a universal rule and what would be a local custom? 2. What does it mean to amoralize an issue? What are the examples that Pinker gives? Can you think of any other examples? 3. Can you think of an issue that you think is a moral one and your parents do not? Can you think of an issue that your parents believe is a moral one and you do not? The Trolley Problem: Pinker argues that many people first declare an act or issue to be immoral and then think about the justification for immorality. Read his examples in the article. On your morning walk, you see a trolley car hurtling down the track, the conductor slumped over the controls. In the path of the trolley are 5 men working on the track, oblivious to the danger. You are standing on a fork in the track and can pull a lever that will divert the trolley onto a spur, saving the 5 men. Unfortunately, the trolley would then run over a single worker who is laboring on the spur. Is it permissible to throw the switch, killing one man to save five? Consider this scene: you are on a bridge overlooking the tracks and have spotted the runaway trolley bearing down on the 5 workers. Now the only way to stop the trolley is to throw a heavy object in its path. The only heavy object within reach is a fat man standing next to you. Should you throw the man off the bridge? Questions: 1. What is at stake here? What is the sacrifice? What would you do in each situation? 2. Is the first situation different than the second? Why?
The Varieties of Moral Experience In Pinker’s research, there are a few themes from all around the world that come up when asking questions about moral concerns. Although these can be universal themes that arise in moral actions and issues, it doesn’t mean that everyone gives similar weight or value to each issue. We rank and place issues based on our own beliefs of what is most important. Some of the universal themes that Pinker explores are: -‐ Harm: It is bad to harm others and it is good to help them. -‐ Fairness: You should reciprocate a favor, reward those who deserve reward and punish cheaters. -‐ Loyalty: We value loyalty to a group or community with which we have a sense of belonging or connection, and a part of this loyalty is conformity to community norms. -‐ Authority: It is right to defer to authority and respect people with high status. -‐ Purity: Purity and cleanliness is better than contamination and carnality. Read the list of hypothetical acts in Pinker’s article and decide for yourself – how much would someone have to pay you to do each action on the list? Are there some that any amount of money would not be enough?
Moral Codes and Moral reasoning Moral codes are not consistent. There are moral questions or dilemmas that we can’t answer immediately. When we have trouble answering moral questions, we can find ourselves caught in a contradiction in between different values. Once we find our selves in a moral dilemma, we have to consider some of the following issues: -‐
What value (s) should be given priority? o If I believe in both honesty and loyalty, what happens when they push up against each other?
What happens when modern concepts conflict with traditional norms or rules? o What are the rules for email or facebook?
Is morality a universally binding concept? If we establish our own moral code, are there ever any exceptions to the rule? o If I don’t believe in cheating, what happens if there are special circumstances? Can there ever be a time when cheating or stealing would be okay? Typically, when communities or individuals decide an issue to be a moral one, they are looking at both: o The content of the issue – what do we see? What is the dilemma? What is the situation? o
The point of view – how do we see it? Who has this happened to? Is it personal? Does it directly affect me?
Sometimes moral principles can come from the kind of decisions that we make and ultimately how we make them. Consequentialist Moral Reasoning: When we are using this type of moral reasoning, we are deciding on the right thing to do based on the consequences of the actions. Some philosophers believe that we are balancing the contradictions between pain and pleasure, and happiness and sadness, and we will base our understanding of morality on maximizing the overall level of happiness. So, deciding what the right thing to do is based in the consequences of the action. If you can do the greatest good for the greatest number of people, you have made a moral decision.
Categorical Moral Reasoning: Some philosophers argue that issues, dilemmas, or actions have an intrinsic moral or immoral quality to them. So regardless of the consequence, making a moral decision is based on understanding the character of the action itself without being pushed or pulled by the consequences. Regardless of how you might interpret your own moral reasoning, moral questions and morality come up frequently in our everyday lives. The way we tend to approach moral questions is based in understanding ourselves. Our moral reasoning can be helped by what we already know about ourselves, what we know from hypothetical situations, and by creating a new way of seeing the world by making the familiar strange. By using hypothetical case studies, it can help us get to some of our hidden (or not so hidden) principles that lie behind our judgments.
Questions: 1. Can you think of a time where you’ve used consequentialist moral reasoning – where moral decisions are based on the consequences rather than the actual situation. 2. Can you think of a time where you’ve used categorical moral reasoningwhere the moral decision was based on the actual action itself being moral or immoral rather than the consequences of the action?
Justice What is Justice? How do we determine or define what is just? For thousands of years, people have been struggling with issues of justice. Since the days of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, philosophers have been dealing with how to define justice and how it can apply to every day life. Often we decide what is just based on our own definitions of morality combined with following social norms, moral codes and rules. For example, it may not be just to steal a lunch from pi-bites for three possible reasons: 1. Stealing at school is not considered normal behavior. 2. You may believe that stealing is immoral. 3. It breaks a rule at school. We also define justice within the rules or laws within communities or societies. In our Paideia community, stealing breaks a rule at school, so you may be punished at Friday court with having maintenance hours. This punishment may also be considered a just punishment because you believe that the Friday Court system is a just system with just rules. This example might be easy – but what happens if there are certain circumstances that affect the situation? -
What happens if you stole the lunch because you didn’t have money to buy lunch? What happens if the PI bites list forgot to list your name and you knew your parent’s paid for the lunch? What happens if you stole from someone who wastes the lunch everyday? What if you don’t consider it stealing? What happens if you don’t like the rules that you are forced to follow at school? What happens when you think the rules are unfair?
Plato (424-348 BCE) – a classical Greek philosopher who helped set the foundations for western philosophy and science – described justice as an innate human virtue that makes a person consistent and good. He believed in justice as being Virtue Ethical – that we understand justice as an individual character or personality trait, regardless of the situation, social norms or laws. So Plato defined justice as an internal state of the soul rather than following the rules of different communities or societies. He also felt that you could tell that you were being just if you felt that your soul was in harmony. So when you feel healthy, beautiful, or harmonious – it means that you are acting justly in Plato’s mind. This can be difficult to define justice based on this definition – what kind of guidelines can I use to define if a decision is just or not? Defining justice on terms or definitions like harmony, beauty or health are personal responses and rarely can give us specific guidelines to how we should and should not act. Maybe we could see and understand justice when societies are in harmony – but what would that look like?
For Plato, justice is what makes us good people regardless of rules or laws. So, if you have a harmonious soul, you wouldn’t steal someone else’s lunch or cheat off of a math test. Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) – Plato’s student and equal contributor to the foundation of western philosophy – agreed with Plato on his idea of justice being a virtue trait. Aristotle believed that justice was an internal condition of the soul, but he also felt that situations were important. Situations, according Aristotle, can be just as long as every one gets what he or she deserves based on merit or virtue. So for example, if I had a new computer to give away, according to Aristotle, it would be just for me to give it to the smartest kid in the classbecause he deserved it based on his merit. Even though Aristotle believed the situational nature of justice was important, he - like Plato - also believed that it was a character trait. Aristotle believed we should be balanced in what we desire or want – we shouldn’t be greedy or want more than we deserve. The difficulty here lies in the complicated parts of this question - how do I know how much I actually deserve? Who or What determines my fair share? Even thought this may be difficult to determine, Aristotle felt that if we were able to answer these questions, we would be acting justly. Another characteristic of just action includes your intentions along with your actions. Aristotle believed that your intentions were equally important as the act or decision itself. For example, you could act justly in a situation even if the outcome was unjust as long as your intentions were just.
Aristotle argued with both Socrates’ – Plato’s teacher- about the role of knowledge in determining justice. Whereas Socrates believed that we wouldn’t knowingly do something wrong or unjust, Aristotle argued that even thought justice is a character trait we can choose to do wrong even if we know it is wrong while we are doing it Although our understanding of justice may have stemmed from Plato and Aristotle, there are many other philosophers who have developed theories of justice. Some later philosophers embraced the Christian concept of agape, the idea of unconditional and self-sacrificing love for others or for God, as the basis for understanding justice. So, love and universal kindness can also be the basis for moral reasoning and determining just actions. So – How do we understand what is just and what is not? Although it can be reaffirming to talk about a harmonious soul, universal kindness, or even getting what we deserve, how do we determine what all of these things mean in a practical sense? Questions: 1. What could some of the qualities be of a harmonious society? 2. Of a harmonious soul?
3. Can you think of a situation where your intentions were just but the action was not? What happened? 4. Can you think of a time that you felt someone was unjust because they had “taken more than their share” or rewarded without merit? 5. Can you think of a time where you chose to do something wrong knowingly? What were the consequences? 6. Can you think of a time where you unknowingly did something wrong? What were the consequences? 7. Have you ever felt something was unjust in your own life? In someone else’s? What was the situation? What was the condition that felt like it was unjust? What were you able to do about it? Were you (or someone else) able to remedy the situation?
Homework: Bring in a recent article that you feel is an injustice in society. How does this issue affect you? Why do you feel that this is important?
Just World Hypothesis In the mid 1960s, Mervin Lerner – a professor of social psychology in England studied something called the ‘Just World Hypothesis’. This theory is based on the idea that we want our world and our communities to be rational and logical even if it is not. We want to imagine a just world – one where everyone “get what they deserve”. For example, some people believe that those people who are wealthy and successful deserve their success, whereas, those who live in poverty or homelessness deserve their failure or shortcomings. We can find ourselves in this pattern of thinking because we want to be able to predict our own and other’s actions and we would like appropriate consequences. If we believed the world and society was made mostly of chance, it would be very difficult to plan our futures. How would I plan where I would want to go to college or what kinds of job I want? It is hard to plan in a chaotic world and easier to plan in a logical one. Not having control over our selves and our futures can be stressful. Lerner also found that for those who failed at a goal or experienced pain or suffering, they tended to blame their own characteristics that possibly caused the failure. For example, if you don’t get into your dream college, you might blame yourself for not working hard enough in school rather than allow for the random nature of college admissions. Sometimes it can be too hard for us to accept the random and chaotic nature of the world because it may cause pain and suffering for no reason at all. For example, when you start thinking of applying to college, you would like to believe that if we work hard and have good grades then you will get into the college you “deserve”. For many of you – it will be one of the first times that you are seriously planning farther into the future. Regardless of all of the factors (sometimes illogical ones) that go into college admissions, you would like to imagine that there is a rational and logical process to the college admissions process.
Questions: 1. What could be the affect of this theory on how we might perceive unjust actions? 2. How might this theory affect how we understand justice? 3. Case study: Four students were found on campus with drugs. Three of the students were seniors with previous infractions – one senior had been in front of the honor council for cheating, another had stolen money from a student and the third was on the verge of failing out of his classes. Mr. Green, a new English teacher at the school, found the students as he was walking down the school path to the park. The park is at the edge of campus was where many students ate lunch. It was also a notorious spot for students to smoke cigarettes because it was more secluded than other lunch spaces. When Mr. Green found the students smoking, they dropped what looked like a cigarette and smashed it into the ground. Mr. Green yelled at them, asked them if they were smoking pot and forced them to the principal’s office. One of the students refused to walk, so Mr. Green had to forcibly grab his shirt and bring him inside. Once inside, the students denied that they were smoking pot and claimed that they thought it was acceptable to smoke cigarettes in the park because it was “off campus” and they were 18. The fourth student was a freshman who was not 18 and was found by Mr. Green with a cigarette in his hand. Mr. Green claimed he had smelled the pot smoke and knew that the students were lying. Ms. Smith, the high school principal, listened to the case and decided the punishment. Punishment: Ms. Smith reviewed the handbook and it states:“ students are not allowed to smoke on campus”. What was difficult about this decision was that she knew that the park was not a part of school property but she decided that most students used it as such and in this case decided that it would be considered “off –campus school property”. She knew that Mr. Green was new teacher and might not know how to handle a potential drug situation, however, Mr. Green was her brother-in-law. Ms. Smith decided that she would expel the three seniors based on their previous behavior, but only suspend the freshman. She believed that the freshman was pressured by the older boys, but that the seniors were old enough to make the right choices. When Ms. Smith gave the punishment to the students and their parents, the parents of the third senior who was failing his classes became irate. They were benefactors of the school and were shocked by Ms. Smith’s ruling. They claimed that Mr. Green hit their son (when he forced him back to the principals office) and demanded that their son be let back into the school. Ms. Smith decided to let the student back into school. She was worried about a potential scandal with the scuffle between the teacher and student and wanted to avoid any controversy. There was also pressure from the development office to keep the family at the school because of their large donations to the high school for financial aid. Questions: 1. Was justice served in this case? 2. Were the students acting justly? Were the teachers and administrators? 3. What are Ms. Smith’s intentions? Mr. Green’s? 4. What are the students’ intentions?
Ethical Theories Discussing ethics is inevitable. We can’t avoid confronting moral problems in our lives because they affect our physical and mental well-being. We will inevitably deal with choices that can hurt or help others and ourselves, infringe on rights or beliefs, or affect dignity and well-being. You may not want to deal with the moral reasoning behind making decisions, however, ignoring morality doesn’t take away the need to dealing with morality and ethics. For many of us, some of our moral decisions seem fairly straight-forward. We make basic decisions about what is right and wrong everyday – when and how to study, how we talk to our parents, and how we treat our friends. However, sometimes our decisions are much harder and too complex for us to figure out on our own. We can ask advice from friends and family, but we can also look to ethicists who have been seeking out foundations for our everyday beliefs. Sometimes different philosophies can show us new ideas that we didn’t have before or they can reinforce our own beliefs with a stronger foundation than we had on our own. Ethics and morality is an on-going conversation that has been happening for hundreds of years. As this conversation has continued over the years, moral and ethical reasoning have become fine tuned and clarified. The ethical and moral philosophies below are like a chocolate sampler – not all encompassing, but some of the best to give you a taste of moral and ethical reasoning. In many ways, theory can help us understand how people organize their lives, how our actions can match up with what we believe. Theory can provide us with strength during difficult times, show us our own moral blind spots, and open us to new possibilities in our lives. Relativism “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is a common way to define and explain ethical relativism. Rather than just following cultural norms, ethical relativism is from the belief that moral values are relative to a particular culture and cannot be judged outside of that culture. For example, what is considered to be moral in Canada might be regarded differently in the US. According to ethical relativists, Americans shouldn’t be able to judge actions morally or ethically in Canada, unless Americans fully understand the reasoning behind them. Morals and ethics can differ between different countries and within different classes. History also can define how time changes moral beliefs; issues like abortion rights for women and equal rights for non-whites have changed over time. An ethical or moral relativist would not want to interfere with moral beliefs and customs of other countries. This theory is often attractive to many of us – in some sense it allows us to be respectful of cultures and traditions that are different than our own. Many of those who believe in ethical relativism argue that it allows for greater understanding and tolerance of different concepts of morality and that we should not judge anything that we do not fully understand.
Not all theorists agree with ethical relativism and many argue that it is faulty reasoning. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, does not necessarily give us justification for our actions and it also doesn’t clarify if we have to take part – even if we disagree. Also, other theorists argue that even though there are many different theories in what is considered “moral,” just the differences alone do not imply that we can’t make judgments about the moral values held by other cultures. It can become problematic. If we stick with “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” – what if the Romans are intolerant? Enslave others? Abuse women? Do we accept those actions as moral behavior even when they might contradict our own sense of morality?
Ethical Absolutism Ethical absolutism is in contrast to ethical relativism. Some believe that there is a single moral truth by which all cultures and people should be judged. Sometimes these moral truths can coincide with an ethical absolutist’s personal beliefs. Ethical absolutism is the belief that all humans have similar core moral values that are always true regardless of wherever or whenever you are. The idea behind ethical absolutism is that regardless of culture, religion, personal character or other extenuating circumstances, each time you can refer to a set of basic moral values. Can you agree on the following statements as being absolutely and universally true, regardless of the circumstances? • • • • • •
No one should cheat. I should not cheat. No one should steal. I should not steal. No one should kill. I should not kill. Ethical Absolutism is, like ethical relativism, problematic. It can legitimize one powerful culture or custom over another and impose morals on others. It can open the door for proclaiming one culture or people to hold the key to the “moral truth.” For example, from about 1790-1920, the American government favored a policy with the Native American tribes called “Americanization”. It was an effort to help Native American tribes assimilate into American culture. It was based on the idea that if the tribes left their traditional tribal culture they could better function in American society. In 1879, Army Captain Richard H. Pratt thought it wiser to “Kill the Indian and save the man.” Pratt, a veteran of the Indian wars, opened the first federally sanctioned boarding school: the Carlisle Industrial Training School. Pratt said, “Transfer the savage-born infant to the surroundings of civilization, and he will grow to possess a civilized language and habit”. The Carlisle faculty taught Native American students how to be “American,” which meant to cut their hair,
give up their native language and their given names, and to attend Christian churches. The impact of this policy was significant. Most devastatingly, it lessened the role of language for many Native American tribes. The American government believed that the “moral” way to live was the “American way.”
The Ethics of Rights Perhaps no approach to ethics is more commonly used and abused in contemporary ethical debates than the language of rights. In the course of an argument, you’ve probably said something like, “That’s my right.” You might have been talking about what you think, what you wanted to say, or what you wanted to do. Most of us probably agree that all people have rights, but we often fail to recognize precisely what our rights are, why we have rights, and how we justify them. We take rights and our claims about what is a right for granted. We also too often do not take into consideration the history and diversity of the rights tradition. Rights played a critical role in the revolutions of the American Revolution. In early American History, Thomas Jefferson famously wrote in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” By claiming that certain rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” were “inalienable,” it means that we all have these rights and no one can take them away. Inalienable rights also refers to the ideas of natural rights which implies that all men and women have these rights and no government or any other entity has the right to take them away. Within the theory of rights, there are different kinds of rights. When Jefferson wrote in Declaration of Independence, he was referring to what we call negative rights - a right that means we are entitled to non-interference from the government or from some external authority. In contrast with negative rights, positive rights claim that individuals are entitled to goods such as food, welfare or affordable housing. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created by the UN National Assembly in 1948 in response to the Holocaust during WWII. An example of positive rights is Article 25 which states: (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection. Given their place in contemporary political debate, it’s easy to see why rights present such a satisfactory approach to ethics. The idea and language of
rights has been a powerful concept in our country’s recent history especially. It’s inspired the Civil Rights movement, the push for greater entitlements for employees in workplaces and the Women’s Liberation movement. Moreover, it’s also aided minorities in gaining access to employment opportunities and even voting, and access to public buildings for the physically disabled. Understanding rights as an ethical system can present us with problems. Difficulties arise when various rights conflict with each other, and when it is necessary to decide how to recognize and protect new rights. Also, it is so commonly used, that many wonder how much moral power the concept of rights maintains. Controversies continue over the roles of rights in our country – Is medical care a right? Should persons who are openly racist have the right to march in downtown Atlanta? Should gay marriage be a right?
The Ethics of Character In a now famous article, the British philosopher G.M. Anscombe argued that ethics was not a question of duty or some form of math problem weighing the pros and cons of happiness. We shouldn’t be asking “What ought I to do?” in a given situation. Rather, according to Anscombe, we should be asking questions such as “What kind of person do I want to be?” or “How would a virtuous person make certain choices in life?” Like her intellectual predecessor, Aristotle, the Greek philosopher who studied under Plato and tutored Alexander the Great, Anscombe believed in what we call an ethics of character or virtue. Aristotle is arguably the most influential proponent of this approach to ethics and he makes the point that the ability to act ethically requires us to develop our character, a process that takes time and that can be nurtured by teaching and practice. According to Aristotle, we can eventually choose to be virtuous and act ethically because acting ethically – doing what is right – makes us happy and leads to our flourishing. Writing in his classic work, the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle argued: Excellence [of character], then, is a disposition… And it is intermediacy between two bad states, one involving excess, the other involving deficiency; and also because one set of bad states is deficient, the other excessive in relation to what is required… excellence both finds and chooses the intermediate. (Nicomachean Ethics II.7). In other words, Aristotle taught that the ethical life is not automatic, but a “disposition” developed over time. Similarly, we can’t be trained to be virtuous people like dogs are trained. We must be “wise” people who “find and choose” the right way to be in relation to a given virtue. Moreover we must choose between various extreme expressions of a given virtue to practice acting in an appropriately ethical way. For instance, facing a problem in life, we might act too boldly (“one involving excess”) or too cowardly (“the other involving deficiency”) in response to it. But, if we are attuned to how to choose wisely, we will choose the middle (“the intermediate”) way that makes us excellent and virtuous.
A character-based theory presents a compelling case as an approach to ethics. After all, it helps us to focus on clear personal goals for virtuous behavior. We don’t have to be concerned with conflicting notions of duty; we can adjust to the particular needs of a situation. Nor do we need to be concerned with a sophisticated moral balancing act between the pros and cons of a situation. Nonetheless, there are also definitive flaws to this approach. First, how exactly do we know that we’re identifying and practicing virtues correctly? It seems unclear to know what it means to get something right. Secondly, what if we grow up in a community in which those who are teaching us virtues are corrupt or lack virtues themselves? If we need to rely on them to learn what virtue is, then how can we really tell what is ethically correct? The Ethics of Duty and Respect: In contrast to ethical relativism, deontologists (based on the Greek word for duty, “deon”) believe that one can use reason to determine how to act in ways that are indisputably ethical. Deontologists believe that acting morally involves identifying and following a basic set of rules or duties. Arguably the most influential modern ethicist, Immanuel Kant, was a deontologist who promoted a duty-based approach to ethics. Kant argues that what we want – our intentions – matter just as much as what we do. In other words, someone can act out of a sense of duty by doing both the right thing and doing it for the right reason. Adhering to Kant’s theories involves figuring out what our duties are, examining how we choose which duties to follow, and discerning the reasons why we have to obey them. But how do we determine these duties? In what he called the Categorical Imperative, Kant proposed the following claim: “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” Simply put, Kant believed that we could only determine an action was ethical if we believed that it should be extended to apply to everyone as a universal law they must follow all the time – a duty. Can we universally agree at all times we should not lie? Can we universally agree at all times we should not steal? If we want these ideas to become a universal law, we would make it our duty not to steal and we would then punish those who did steal no matter what the circumstance. This is rule-based decision-making – it is again the idea that we should follow the rules that we want everyone else to follow. Kant’s approach can be appealing. After all, it gives us clear and precise rules to follow. We can all agree that everyone should commit to performing a specific action like not lying or not stealing. However, Kant’s ethical theory does present clear problems. Namely, it doesn’t allow for exceptions to the rule. Once you can figure out what your duties are in life according to Kant, you need to follow them. Kant doesn’t fully consider situations in which we might face conflicts between our duties.
For instance, what if we had a duty not to lie, but we knew that lying might protect our friends from getting hurt or even save lives in some extreme circumstances? You would have to reject any circumstantial situations that may have positive impact even though the action was wrong. The Ethics of Consequences Consequentialists contend that you can determine whether an act is ethical or moral based solely on the consequences of the action. In contrast with Kant, who believed that our intentions mattered and that strictly following universal rules was most important, consequentialist thinkers argue that the only thing that matters is the results. The primary proponents of consequentialism were also known as utilitarians. A leading advocate of this approach to ethics, the English philosopher John Stuart Mill argued that, “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure.” In other words, Mill believed the best action is the one that increases the greatest happiness for everyone involved. Mill’s argument, however, does not lead us to conclude that we should play video games or watch our favorite television shows all day simply because they increase our happiness. Instead, Mill makes a difference between higher and lower forms of happiness and asserts that we must aim at higher forms: improving ourselves and society. In practice, utilitarianism requires us to anticipate and measure the pleasure and pain that certain actions might cause and choose the path that maximizes the greatest good. There seem to be advantages to being a utilitarian. After all, like Kant’s philosophy, utilitarianism seems to offer a certain clarity. We can weigh the pros and cons of particular actions and reach a definitive answer on what to do. As long as we minimize pain or achieve the greatest amount of good for the most people involved it is the right thing to do. However, on the other hand, utilitarianism presents real difficulties. First, ethical decision-making is not always as clean as a formulaic math problem that you can plug pros and cons into. We can’t always agree on what the costs and benefits are for all actions. -
How do you really know what maximizes the highest level of happiness for all individuals who might be affected by your actions? Is it actually possibly to know all of the scenarios for maximizing happiness and minimizing pain that could result from your decision before you make it?
And finally, utilitarianism often disregards personal connections or meanings in situations. A precursor to Mill, William Godwin once asked what the ethically right decision to make was should one come across a burning building and have to choose between saving the Archbishop of Canterbury (a very
important figure at the time) and one’s mother? Which decision would maximize the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people? To Godwin, the utilitarian’s answer was clear: save the bishop.
Ethics Based on Religion Religion is an important source of ethical theory and can be a profound motivation for ethical action. Morality based on religion can help us decide what is right or ethical. When we make decisions based on a Judeo-Christian interpretation of religion, it means that we are trying to behave in a way we believe will please God. In this conception of ethical behavior, believers strive to honor God’s blessings by living according to the ethical codes set down in their holy books. Of course, there is far from universal agreement about what those ethical codes actually require. Ethics based on religion can also be called care based thinking based on the “Golden Rule”. The saying “Do to others what you would like them to do to you” (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31) allows you to test your actions by putting yourself in another’s shoes and imagining how it would feel of you were the recipient of an action rather the one doing it. This golden rule is so universal that it appears in each one of the world’s great religious teachings. This also means that man-made laws have to follow God’s teachings. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, considered to be the greatest medieval theologian, he believed that laws had to be more than just a reflection of personal whims in government, but must reflect natural laws and God’s commandments. Aquinas believed that laws are directed by God’s commandments and their nature to the universal or common good rather than just to the individual. It is the vision of the Holy, C.S. Lewis observed, that produced many of the masterpieces of art and music. That same vision motivates men and women to risk everything to relieve the world’s suffering: caring for plague victims, defending the rights of children, guiding slaves and politically endangered persons to freedom, and breaching war zones to feed the poor. (from “A Mind that Grasped Both Heaven and Hell” by Joseph Laconte, New York Times, Nov. 22, 2003) It was religion that maintained the idea that every person, regardless of his or her social, political, or economic standing, was valued in the eyes of God. Such a view has profound implications for politics, for if every person has value, governments cannot easily insist on disparate treatment on individuals according to their social class, their race, their sex, and other categories of differentiation.
Case studies: Read the following case study. Choose an ethical theory and try and decide what is the right thing to do.
You and your friends are sitting in the commons eating lunch. There are about 30 students in the same area eating on the couches and as the other students head outside, they leave half eaten sandwiches, pi -bites bags, cups, cans, and other trash. Two people rip the names off their pi bite bags before leaving the bags on the table even though there is a trashcan a few feet away. When you get up from lunch, the place is a mess. Based on one of the ethical theories: What is the right thing to do? What is the reasoning behind the decision? Is it a hard decision to make? Do you like or agree with the outcome of applying the particular theory? How is the outcome different based on the different theories?
The Ethicist Teachers: you can also find updated dilemmas at: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/features/magazine/columns/the_ethicist/ind ex.html?scp=1-spot&sq=randy%20cohen&st=cse or take a short on-line quiz: http://www.randomhouse.com/quizzes/index.cgi?ethicist Also, some good case studies at NPR podcasts: http://www.npr.org/series/4464216/the-ethicist
The New York Times Magazine runs a regular column called “The Ethicist,” authored by Randy Cohen, a former television writer. In each column, readers describe thorny ethical problems they have faced, and Cohen responds with what he believes is the best solution. Below are several readers’ submissions to “The Ethicist.” Cohen’s replies appear on subsequent pages. As you read and contemplate these situations, try to make your own recommendation on what is the “right” thing to do. As you formulate a response, return to the list of ethical theories (27-32) and try to determine which of them have the most influence on your decision. Problems RECYCLED TERM PAPERS Assigning a term paper for a history class, my professor said we were not to use any papers we had written for other classes; he said this was plagiarism. But is it plagiarism if the paper is my own work? Beyond the legal dimension, is it ethical to hand in one paper for two classes? -- Anonymous, St. Louis
What do you advise? What is the foundation of your advice? Give support from one of the ethical theories from pages 27-32.
HOW TO ROUND OFF I'm contemplating applying to some M.A. programs in journalism that require an undergraduate G.P.A. of 3.0. I averaged out to 2.958. Should I just round that figure off, or is my falling short by .042 a detail I must disclose? -- Noelle Leslie De La Cruz, Piscataway, N.J. What do you advise? What is the foundation of your advice? Give support from one of the ethical theories from pages 27-32.
THROWING A CURVE I attend an Ivy League university where students are graded on a curve. During a midterm, the student next to me was copying answers from my paper. Because a higher score for her would mean a lower grade for me, I intentionally wrote some incorrect answers, waited until she handed in her test booklet and then changed my answers to the correct ones. Was this wrong? -- Brenna Tinkel, Philadelphia What do you advise? What is the foundation of your advice? Give support from one of the ethical theories from pages 27-32.
FORGED PIZZA CHECK My parents were out of the house when my brother and I decided to order takeout. We didn't have any money because our parents had forgotten to give us our allowance for weeks. So we paid with one of my parents' checks, which I signed with my mother's name. Had our parents paid us on time, we would have had the money. What do you think? -- Anonymous, New Jersey What do you advise? What is the foundation of your advice? Give support from one of the ethical theories from pages 27-32. A SLAP IN THE FACE I was on the subway when I saw a frustrated mother slap her child for crying. She didn't hit him hard enough to endanger his life, but the scene suggested something equally scary: an eternity of whacks, verbal abuse and humiliation. I was afraid to say something lest I make the mother even angrier -- at the child. Should I have?' What do you advise? What is the foundation of your advice? Give support from one of the ethical theories from pages 27-32
BAD BOYS ON THE BUS I board a bus in which three young men are engaged in loud and vulgar conversation. As their talk turns more violent, some passengers move away. The young men begin taunting other passengers with racial slurs. After a few more stops, they approach an elderly woman and demand her purse. She
refuses. A few more insults and they leave the bus. The driver remains silent throughout. At what point are you compelled to intervene? Complicating matters, I am white, the young men are African-American and the slurs are directed at people of Asian descent. /J.C., San Francisco What do you advise? What is the foundation of your advice? Give support from one of the ethical theories from pages 27-32.
OPEN COURTS FOR ALL My friend and I play tennis in a neighboring town where only residents who pay a yearly fee of $50 may use the courts. The courts are unsupervised, and one or both of them are always vacant. We are not preventing any resident from playing. Are we committing an unethical act by using the courts? -- Shane Mullane, Westchester County, N.Y. What do you advise? What is the foundation of your advice? Give support from one of the ethical theories from pages 27-32
DEMERIT BADGE My son has been a Cub Scout for three years, and I've been a den leader for one, a wonderful experience for us both. But I was appalled by the Supreme Court's decision upholding the Scouts' right to exclude gay people. I cannot feel proud to see my son wearing a uniform that represents bigotry, and so we are withdrawing from scouting. Many of my friends also oppose this discrimination but plan to continue in scouting anyway. Aren't they wrong to do so? -- Lynn Winter, Port Washington, N.Y. What do you advise? What is the foundation of your advice? Give support from one of the ethical theories from pages 27-32.
BABY SITTER STEALS Last week at the mall, I saw my kids' baby sitter steal a sweater. She's a great sitter in all other ways, but I don't want her passing her habit on to my kids. Is it wrong to fire her? Or to leave my children in the care of someone who might be teaching them to steal or worse? What do you advise? What is the foundation of your advice? Give support from one of the ethical theories from pages 27-32.
COUSIN’S KID’S DENT When my cousin's 12-year-old daughter got out of my car, she opened the door into a parked car, leaving a visible dent. I asked my cousin to leave a note. She said that if she did, she would have to pay for the repair. I said that was the point. She refused. We argued. I drove away feeling terrible. Should I have left a note myself with her name and number? With mine? -- J.C., New York What do you advise? What is the foundation of your advice? Give support from one of the ethical theories from pages 27-32.
GIVE UP YOUR SEATS We are cleaning out our basement, selling a few yard-sale items and giving others to charity, including two child-safety car seats built five years ago. At that time, they met all safety standards, but they fall short of today's stricter standards. Is it ethical to sell them? To give them away? What if a warning is provided? --Jack Cushman, Bethesda, Md. What do you advise? What is the foundation of your advice? Give support from one of the ethical theories from pages 27-32.
DOGGING IT After a year of perfect behavior, our dog, Jasper, was expelled from his dogwalking group when he and another dog had an altercation. (We paid the vet bills and the emergency-room bills for the dog walker.) Are we obligated to tell new dog walkers about this isolated event? Jasper is usually friendly, and his therapist did not consider this to be one of his issues. -- Ted Sutton, Newton, Mass. What do you advise? What is the foundation of your advice? Give support from one of the ethical theories from pages 27-32. Teachers Edition Only Cohen’s Responses – The Ethicist
Go back to your answers. How did they match up with Cohen’s? Blog – read the NY Times on-line and bring in a copy of Cohen’s column. Do you agree with his advice? Post a link on the Blog. RECYCLED TERM PAPERS RESPONSE: You should not hand in a prewritten paper. Your professor's ban is reason enough, but even without it, you should still forswear the practice. As unlikely as it may seem, a paper is not merely a dreary obligation to be discharged; it is a chance to learn, and that's what your prof is trying to get you to do. Submitting a prewritten paper may not be plagiarism -- it is no crime to copy from yourself -but it isn't a boon to pedagogy either. And it certainly violates the spirit -- and in this case, the letter -- of university life. Similarly, even if your own lab work eventually makes it possible, you ought not let a superintelligent bioengineered dog take your exams for you. HOW TO ROUND OFF RESPONSE: Apply with a full heart. The way my sixth-grade math teacher taught me to round off to one decimal place would indeed make your average a 3.0. If they'd asked for a 3.00, then you'd have to express your grade as three digits, rounding it to 2.96. You'd be rejected from journalism school and have to find an honest job. There are limits to the precision of any grading system, including variations from teacher to teacher and from school to school. Listing your average as a 3.0 honors both the letter and spirit of the requirement and would make my sixthgrade math teacher proud. And remember, the admissions office will have a chance to see your full transcript and decide if you qualify. THROWING A CURVE RESPONSE: There is something disquieting about your deliberately harming another person, even a cheat. It is reasonable for you to thwart her deceit -- telling her to cut it out, or covering your paper with your arm, for instance -- but it is overreaching to punish her. Besides, if she doesn't know you've ambushed her, you will neither deter her future cheating nor reform her character. When she gets her grade, she'll conclude only that you're dim-witted, and next time she'll copy from a brighter student. Incidentally, her cheating would have been wrong even at one of our fine state universities. At a saving of thousands of dollars a year. FORGED PIZZA CHECK RESPONSE: I refer you to the ancient doctrine -- how does that go again? -- oh, yes: two wrongs don't make a right. Just because someone owes you money doesn't give you the right to break into his house and beat him senseless until he pays up, as I'm constantly reminding my bookie and my cousin Leo. Nor does it give you the right to forge checks. You'll have to find a more direct way to remind your parents about your allowance.
A SLAP IN THE FACE RESPONSE: In a diverse city like New York, there is no consensus on child rearing. There's not even consensus on talking during a movie. Many parents consider any spanking to be cruel; others see harsh discipline as a duty. (Scriptural justifications for spanking abound on the World Wide Web.) And people who are sure they're right aren't moved by a stranger's remonstrance. But it sounds as if this isn't discipline; it's just someone lashing out at her child. Slapping, after all, doesn't punish tears; it causes them. Ignore the impulse to voice outrage for its own sake and subject your actions to one simple test: ''Will this help the child?'' Addressing the subject directly risks causing offense, especially where differences of race, class and religion apply. And if the mother is capable of this violence in public, she could be capable of much worse at home when she's offended. So proceed with caution. Elisa Koenderman, who oversees all domestic violence cases at the Bronx District Attorney's office, points out that the woman doesn't seem to be breaking any laws. Still, Koenderman suggests intervening, but gently: ''The parent may be acting out of frustration and rage. By saying something -- Hey, take it easy' -you give the parent a moment to stop and think. And it is good to demonstrate that you as a member of society disapprove.'' This point will not be lost on the child. After a few years of getting knocked around, many kids come to believe they deserve their fate. Hearing another adult take issue with the treatment a child is receiving might help counteract that effect. Even if your rebuke doesn't have immediate results, someone else might hear you, and next time they'll speak up, too. And after that, who knows? Not so long ago, corporal punishment in schools was commonplace. Today, several countries have made it illegal for even a parent to spank a child. If you're worried about saying the wrong thing, try distracting the mother instead of forcing a confrontation. Ask her for directions or about how to switch trains. As long as your intervention wins the kid a moment of peace, it's a risk worth taking. BAD BOYS ON THE BUS RESPONSE Anyone who has been on a city bus when school lets out knows that an adult's idea of loud and vulgar may be a kid's idea of high spirits. And so you were wise to avoid a confrontation when the young men were simply being inconsiderate. The harm to others was minor, and you rightly avoided escalating the tension. Censorious stares or moving away are apt responses. When the kids taunt another passenger, circumstances change. They've gone from at least ostensibly self-contained rudeness to harming others, and those others are entitled to your support. You might begin by alerting the driver; he may be unaware of what's happening at the rear of the bus. But once he knows, you can demand that he respond. He is not a police officer, of course, but he
can officially call for orderly conduct. This can be less contentious than speaking directly to the kids. It is when the kids attempt to rob an old lady that every other passenger on the bus is obliged to come to her aid, even in as simple a way as speaking up and demanding that they leave her alone, or asking the driver to radio for help. Several sociological experiments suggest that getting the first person to intercede is the difficult thing. Many people are reluctant to do so, partly out of an understandable fear, but also by a dread of embarrassment. However, once a single person steps forward, others are often willing to join him. I don't want to minimize the risk involved. A group of young men harassing people on a bus is frightening, and it is confusing. (And as you note, our sense of danger is easily skewed by ideas about race.) And certainly, had the young men been armed, there would have been little the passengers could do. But if any of us were attacked in the circumstances you describe, we'd want our fellow passengers to come to our aid; I hope I would have the courage to do likewise. OPEN COURTS FOR ALL RESPONSE I'm afraid you are acting badly. This is a version of what economists call the ''free rider'' problem: is stealing cable really theft? You cost the cable company nothing and prevent no one else from using cable. Yet if everyone were to steal cable, the company would go under -- no more cable TV, no more ''Sex in the City'' (which many economists would consider lamentable, although I don't see why). Hence your obligation to pay your share for any such service. However, while you behave badly, that neighboring town behaves worse by giving you no way to pay your share even if you wish to. The town does have a legitimate interest in financing its facilities and regulating their use, but this can be done without pulling up the drawbridge. Residents-only policies, redolent of gated communities, are disturbingly undemocratic and too often have the effect, if not the provable intent, of excluding minorities and the poor. Happily, in most American towns, public facilities like museums and ball fields, libraries and playgrounds, are open to all. You don't have to show your papers to enter Central Park in Manhattan, even if you hail from Westchester. DEMERIT BADGE RESPONSE Resigning as you did is the ethical thing to do. Just as one is honor bound to quit an organization that excludes African-Americans, so you should withdraw from scouting as long as it rejects homosexuals. That scouting has a legal right of free association does not clear you of this obligation. The right to shun Jews is no less anti-Semitic for all its legality. Those who remain in the Scouts are on shaky ground even if they sincerely seek reform from within. That is a reasonable strategy while the issue is unsettled, but once the Supreme Court handed down its decision, the debate ended. To stay now is to accept -- if not endorse -- its policy. You need not agree with an organization's every principle, of course, but the matter in this case is too fundamental -- and too cruel -- to tolerate. Besides, all too often
those who remain are not actually fighting from within; they're going on camping trips from within. Were you to find yourself transported to 1952, there would be no honor in lamenting Jim Crow and then sitting down at a segregated lunch counter and ordering a tuna sandwich. Resigning need not mean giving up the struggle. Ex-scouts can write letters, rally support and seek to reform scouting in order to rejoin one day. In the meantime, there are other, more tolerant, youth groups. The Girl Scouts and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America have no similar homophobic policies; neither do many foreign scouting organizations. Scouts Canada, for instance, is particularly humane, not only rejecting sexual orientation as a criterion for membership but also authorizing specialized troops, including ones for Mormons, Cantonese-speakers and gay Scouts. Any chance of your becoming the first Long Island outpost for Canadian scouting? BABY SITTER STEALS RESPONSE: Can you fire someone for what they do off the job? Everyone is entitled to a private life, even an imperfect one. If the offense is not job-related, it is none of the boss's business. An arrest at a political demonstration, say, or for tax fraud, needn't affect the job performance of a lathe operator or a cardiac surgeon. But caring for children is different. A sitter does more than protect kids from physical danger; she teaches by example. And while it is a wonderful thing for kids to master real-world skills, shoplifting is one you might not be eager for them to study. If after talking to her you're convinced that this was a one-time crime not to be repeated, then give her another chance. But if you believe she'll be playing Fagan to your kids' Oliver Twist, fire her. Your obligation to your children supersedes your obligation to her. COUSINâ€™S KIDâ€™S DENT You should have left a note with your name on it. Your car, your dent. The driver of the car is not entirely analogous to the captain of a ship -- you probably cannot perform back-seat weddings -- but while the car is under your control, you bear some responsibility for any damage it does. How to apportion that responsibility between you and your cousin's daughter, I leave to you and the cousin to sort out. (This certainly has the makings of a lifelong family quarrel.) But one person who is not at all responsible is the guy whose car was damaged, and it's not right to leave him in the lurch when you were involved in putting him into that lurch. I understand your reluctance to inform on a 12-year-old, but the ethical thing to do then is to take more -- not less -- responsibility on your own shoulders. GIVE UP YOUR SEATS RESPONSE Your intentions are honorable, but at least two of your yard-sale choices are ill advised. There is something unseemly about selling subpar baby seats to the poor (or the overly frugal): surely we don't want a society with one set of safety standards for those with money and a set of inferior standards for those without.
Giving away your car seat might remove the taint of financial gain, and providing a warning allows the recipient to make an informed decision. He's made the wrong decision, however, if he decides to use the car seats, according to Liz Neblett of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In addition to today's stricter standards, ''the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association recommends that seats not be used after six years, and some manufacturers have adopted a five-year standard because of the possible degradation of material,'' she says. Don't be swayed by the argument that an inferior car seat is preferable to none, either. ''There are organizations in almost every state that make seats available free or at reduced prices to those who truly can't afford them,'' Neblett says. Certainly, as standards are upgraded for products, we needn't discard all of our old stuff. For example, you might ethically sell a used car that lacks air bags. But in this case the N.H.T.S.A.'s position is wise, car seats being relatively inexpensive and children being relatively fragile. DOGGING IT RESPONSE When the words ''emergency room'' appear in a question, the words ''full doggy disclosure'' must appear in the answer (along with a less disingenuous synonym for ''altercation''). The new dog walkers are entitled to know what they're getting into, and the better they understand Jasper, the better they'll be able to do their job. You should provide an honest account of your dog, placing his anomalous misbehavior in context by also detailing his many fine qualities -- he's affectionate, he's good with kids, he volunteers at a soup kitchen, he's a terrific dancer -- whatever they happen to be. But such a list must include his biting, something you would want to know if you were taking up work as a dog walker. You might also want to research your potential legal liability should you, knowing Jasper has once bitten someone, conceal this information. But all this obfuscates the real matter at hand: your dog had a therapist? I can't even persuade my imaginary Uncle Milt to go to counseling -- and talk about issues!
Altruism Altruism can be defined as a kind of love. However, it is different from familial or romantic love. Altruism focuses on the relationships between people and concern and empathy for others. The idea is that altruism is often the product of an emotional response to the distress of another person. It has to involve selfless concern or sacrifice without wanting reward or recognition in return. If you give money to the school to fund financial aid and want the scholarship program to be named after you. Many would argue that the donation, however generous, is not altruistic. Altruism would be better described as an anonymous gift to the school – with no recognition, no tax benefit, or any gratitude shown in response. It would be an empathetic act without reward in return. In theory, altruism might sound like a positive and meaningful way to live – loving and sacrificing for others. However, some find this level of love and empathy for others impossible to achieve. Can we really do selfless acts of love for others without receiving something in return? Are there really any true actions that are selfless? In 1964, a woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death near her home in Queens, NY. Here is an excerpt of the New York Times article published in 1964 after her death: For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens. Twice their chatter and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time he returned, sought her out, and stabbed her again. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called after the woman was dead. Still shocked is Assistant Chief Inspector Frederick M. Lussen, in charge of the borough's detectives and a veteran of 25 years of homicide investigations. He can give a matterof-fact recitation on many murders. But the Kew Gardens slaying baffles him--not because it is a murder, but because the "good people" failed to call the police. "As we have reconstructed the crime," he said, "the assailant had three chances to kill this woman during a 35-minute period. He returned twice to complete the job. If we had been called when he first attacked, the woman might not be dead now.”
The Kitty Genovese story shows us an example of how our failure to act can affect others. The circumstances of her death and the lack of the response of her neighbors to the crime sparked studies into altruistic behaviors and social psychology. Psychologists began to study why some people can act freely with altruistic behavior and why others cannot. In the case of Kitty Genovese, they
found that the people who didn’t call the police fell under a category of something called bystander effect – that when in large groups, sometimes we fail to take action because we think that someone else has a better idea or a better solution. We can be afraid, coerced and forced not to take action. When we think about altruistic behavior, we can see it as an act of love without any reward or even at potential risk or loss to our own selves. It can be seen as love – an extension of love that links us to a greater community, that allows us act in difficult situations. Most people believe that we are not hardwired to be altruistic and that what we ultimately do may depend on the situation and circumstances. We can take risks and act with love and empathy or we can be bystanders, be coerced by others or convinced by ourselves that altruistic action isn’t necessary. These categories aren’t clear-cut and it often it can be difficult to imagine how we would respond under pressure. It doesn’t have to be as serious as Kitty Genovese. Think of this story: “ I was with a friend of mine hanging out after school. My friends started to talk meanly about a girl in our math class – making fun of her clothes, make-up and started calling her a slut. I knew it was wrong and I felt bad but I didn’t say anything.” What makes altruistic behavior hard in this situation?
What is the risk?
Evaluating Risk Sometimes when we want to do the right thing in a given situation, it requires us to take risks that can push us out of our comfort zone. Sometimes we can stick closely too closely to our comfort zone and not take manageable risks in making difficult decisions. In the examples above, each of those stories can be used as an example of staying in the comfort zone. Neither one of those students telling those examples went out of their comfort zone in either situation. The idea of evaluating risks isn’t for us to be making dangerous or reckless risks, but to understand where we are when we are making difficult decisions. We can have different zones of risk taking. They are: Comfort Zone: This is the place where you feel most comfortable – either with friends or family. Often there is not a conflict and if there is you respond in a usual manner. There isn’t just one comfort zone – we all have different levels of comfort for different situations. Your comfort zone may not match your some of your friends or even family. For example, if my comfort zone is not speaking up out against my friends or family, then I might find myself avoiding conflict. Can you think of what you emotionally and physically might feel like in this zone? emotional responses:
physical responses: Risk Zone: This is a place where if you find yourself, you can feel emotional and physical responses to being uncomfortable or the feeling of wanting to go back to the comfort zone. This is not a usual way of acting for you and you usually don’t find yourself in this zone. One side effect of being in this zone is if you find yourself more frequently here, your comfort zone usually expands to include those actions or responses. For example, if my comfort zone is usually to not speak out against someone getting teased, being in the risk zone would mean that I would speak up or try and stop the teasing. But this varies with each person and each response. Our comfort and risk zones can change all the time. Can you think about what you emotionally and physically would feel like in this zone? emotional response:
Danger Zone: This is a place where you feel extremely uncomfortable and your body and mind is telling you to go back to your comfort zone. We’re not often in this zone because our minds and bodies are telling us that this is an unsafe place to be. The idea isn’t to be in the danger zone, but to recognize where we can feel comfortable taking risks and understanding that when we feel danger or real fear it can be an appropriate response. So, for example, if my comfort zone is usually not to speak out about other kids getting teased, being in my danger zone might be if I aggressively confronted the bullies. Remember, our danger zones are all different – from person to person and situation to situation. Can you imagine what it would feel like emotionally and physically in the danger zone? emotional responses:
physical responses: Even though Kitty Genovese’s story didn’t happen on Paideia’s campus we all have stories of either feeling left out, invisible or discriminated against because of race, ethnicity, class, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and mental or physical disabilities. On a piece of paper, please write down anonymously a story of a time where you felt discriminated against or saw someone else be discriminated against and how you responded. Identify the zone you were in – was it the comfort zone? Risk zone? Danger? We would also like you to write how you wished you or others around you (friends, peers or adults) responded. Please do not write down names. This story will be shared in the larger group. For example: “ I was sitting on the bus and I was watching the older boys in the back of the bus make fun of these two younger students. They were teasing them and hitting them in the back of the head, taking their backpacks and going through their stuff. I knew the younger boys and I liked them, but I never said anything. I wish I had spoke up but the other boys were really intimidating and no one else said anything, not even the bus driver. I guess it was my comfort zone because I was afraid to speak up and the boys might have been aggressive with me.”
Loving Your Enemies Excerpts: Martin Luther King Jr. Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, on 17 November 1957 Text reading exercise: While reading through the passage, pick out one sentence that speaks to you. In groups of 3/4, share your sentence and explain why the sentence stood out to you. 1. How does Dr. King define love? How does he use religion and personal values in his definition? 2. What does he say are the benefits of “loving your enemies”? 3. How powerful of a force is love, according to Dr. King? 4. How might you use his philosophy of “loving your enemies”? Can you think of a scenario where Dr. King’s philosophy would benefit you? ..And this is what Jesus means when he said: "How is it that you can see the mote in your brother’s eye and not see the beam in your own eye?" Or to put it in Moffatt’s translation: "How is it that you see the splinter in your brother’s eye and fail to see the plank in your own eye?" And this is one of the tragedies of human nature. So we begin to love our enemies and love those persons that hate us whether in collective life or individual life by looking at ourselves. A second thing that an individual must do in seeking to love his enemy is to discover the element of good in his enemy, and everytime you begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points which will over-balance the bad points. … The Greek language comes out with another word for love. It is the word agape. And agape is more than eros; agape is more than philia; agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen. And this is what Jesus means, I think, in this very passage when he says, "Love your enemy." And it’s significant that he does not say, "Like your enemy." Like is a sentimental something, an affectionate something. There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like. I don’t like what they do to me. I don’t like what they say about me and other people. I don’t like their attitudes. I don’t like some of the things they’re doing. I don’t like them. But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love
everybody, because God loves them. You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul. And here you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when he says, "Love your enemy." This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it. Now for the few moments left, let us move from the practical how to the theoretical why. It’s not only necessary to know how to go about loving your enemies, but also to go down into the question of why we should love our enemies. I think the first reason that we should love our enemies, and I think this was at the very center of Jesus’ thinking, is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. [tapping on pulpit] It just never ends … Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love. There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate. He comes to the point that he becomes a pathological case. For the person who hates, you can stand up and see a person and that person can be beautiful, and you will call them ugly. For the person who hates, the beautiful becomes ugly and the ugly becomes beautiful. For the person who hates, the good becomes bad and the bad becomes good. For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does. You can’t see right. The symbol of objectivity is lost. Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater.
Sorokin’s Good Deeds Pitirim Sorokin (1889-1968) was a Russian- American sociologist who founded the Department of Sociology at Harvard University and was a professor there from 1930 to 1955. In the last years of his life, his work was devoted to understanding altruism and love and the impact it can have on society. Sorokin’s theories claim that we can better our society by spreading love and altruism. He believed that altruistic love was a constructive element in creating a model for social relationships. The idea is that love and altruistic behavior can create an understanding of universal connectedness that allows for progress for all of us, not just some of us. A part of his research included something called “good deeds.” Sorokin believed that performing good deeds could create and invoke love towards one another, maybe even love for our enemies. The idea seems somewhat simple. By repeating good deeds – they don’t have to be profound, overly emotional, or even towards someone we love or like – we can awaken friendly emotions. By doing good deeds towards someone it could bring us from a place of hate, then to indifference, and finally possibly to warm friendship. Sorokin’s believed that it might not happen for everyone, but for it could for many. He believed it was possible to change our relationships from hate to love with good deeds and action. So – let’s see if it works. Let’s try it. • •
Find someone who you might dislike, hate, be mad at – it could be anyone. Decide what you will do for the next two weeks. It can be saying hello, sharing notes, a smile in the hallway. The action has to be genuine and real. It can’t be fake. Think about what you might do or say and plan out one act per day to perform.
In groups of four discuss the following. Be ready to share back with the rest of the class. Practice your listening and dialogue skills • What seems hard about this exercise? • What makes you hesitant to do it?
• What is the best thing that could happen? What is the worst thing that could happen?
Why Ethical Decisions Can Be Tough: Competing Ideas About What Is Right It’s not very often you come across someone who deliberately chooses something wrong. Tough choices can often really be about the conflict between two “rights” rather than a “wrong” and a “right.” Some ethicists debate over whether we can deliberately choose an action that is wrong or bad. Even if a choice or action has “bad” outcomes, it may be that we don’t choose what is bad just to be bad. Perhaps if we understand a situation completely, we may see that our choices are really between difficult “rights” rather than right and wrong. Think of a time when you did something “bad”. Did you choose the “bad” option for just for the sake of being bad or was there more at stake? In many cases, the really tough decisions we face are because each side is firmly rooted in one of our basic core values – and we can’t choose both sides. Rushworth Kidder believes that it is helpful to create paradigms – or two conflicting sides – in order to deconstruct an ethical dilemma. It can help us understand that our ethical dilemmas are not unique events but ultimately manageable problems that look similar to other problems and allow us to get at the heart of the matter. It wouldn’t be a problem or a dilemma if we didn’t have our core moral values clashing against each other. This isn’t to say that there aren’t rights v. wrongs – there are plenty of cases where the issue is between a right and a wrong. Often, if they don’t fit into these paradigms of right versus right, then they most likely are right versus wrong.
Individual versus the community: The needs and interests of one person or a small group of persons are pitted against the claims and interests of a larger society. Truth versus loyalty: One’s personal honesty or integrity is at odds with one’s loyalty to a group. Short-term versus long-term: Real and important requirements for the present come up against interests and benefits that can be experienced later only if the immediate interest is deferred. Justice versus mercy: Fairness, expectations, and equal application of laws or rules are opposed to empathy, compassion, and a desire to make exceptions.
Can you think of examples of each of these conflicting rights? List them on the board together. What makes these issues specifically right versus right? Case Studies – Conflicting Rights As you read the case studies, see if you can identify the right v. right conflict. Case 1: A student on the overnight trip was found smoking. When the teacher asked the student if there was anyone else smoking, she said no. Later after the trip, the teacher found out that there had been 2 other students smoking. The students’ defense was that they thought that they were off campus and could smoke because they were 18. The teacher who caught the student was also upset that he was lied to. The last time a student was caught smoking on campus, he was given 2 weeks of lunch confinement and 2 weeks of after-school work hours. Two of the girls who were caught smoking play varsity sports. What is the punishment? What is the conflict from the students’ perspective? From the honor council? Case 2: A student was caught cheating because the answers from her sheet were exactly the same as the student’s next to hers. It was unclear to the teacher who cheated: did the student with the better grade willingly show her answers to her friend, or did the student just copy without the other person’s knowledge? When confronted about the cheating, both students denied any cheating and felt like the teacher was punishing them needlessly. The student who did better on the test is doing better overall in the class, while the other student struggles in the class and might fail the term. The student who is doing worse in the class has been in front of the honor council twice before for cheating. Is there wrongdoing? If so, who is to blame?
What is the punishment?
What are the conflicting rights? Should both students be punished equally? -
How do we make good choices in hard situations?
One of the most practical ways to use ethical theories is when we make decisions. When we struggle with making difficult decisions, we can use different methods of decision making - creating lists of the “pros” and “cons” or asking a friend or parent for advice, for example. Processing difficult situations in this way allows us to be reflective about ourselves and what we value. According to ethicist Rushworth Kidder, we are really asking ourselves a series of questions about our core values. Dilemma exercise This exercise is for us to try and break down our decision-making process. You need to think of a real life dilemma – a problem or an issue to which you genuinely do not know the answer. Dilemmas are not just hard choices or difficult situations. They can involve struggling with both sides of the issue and not being able to fall on a particular side. While you are thinking about your dilemma, think about the following questions: 1. What is hard for me in this decision? Are there conflicting values or rights in this problem? 2. Does it challenge some of my personal values? 3. What are the risks in this situation? Does this compromise some of my values, my families values or my community values? Am I afraid of looking embarrassed in front of my friends or family? 4. Do the risks outweigh the benefits? 5. What are the motivations for me to make a decision or choice in this problem?
Will the choice I make create collateral damage for people who are not involved in the problem? How will that affect me?
If I deliberately do not act or decide in a problem, does that have greater consequences well? Does it outweigh the benefits of making a decision?
Practical and Emotional reasoning In decision-making there are two parts to our reasoning – the practical and the emotional. For example, if I don’t know whether or not I should go to the party on Friday night - a practical reason to go is that I have a ride and an emotional reason would be that I want to hang out with my friends. On the flip side, a practical reason not to go would be that I have homework to do and an emotional reason not to go would be that I don’t want my mom to worry about me. Going back to the original dilemma, separate the reasons in favor of the issue (one side) in both practical and emotional and rate each one with importance from 1-10 (10 being the most important). Practical Reasons
Now, do the same of the opposite (not in favor) side of the issue. Remember to rate each reason with importance from 1-10. Practical
In pairs, break off and discuss the following: What did you find? Did you have more practical or emotional issues? What were the most important issues for you? Were you able to see your dilemma clearly? Did you come to a decision?
Being Invisible What does it mean to feel invisible? Does it mean not being loved? Does it mean not being seen or heard? Does it mean you are powerless? It is important for us to understand who we are, based on our values and our decisions we make in or lives, but it is also important to understand how others view us. In some situations we can feel confident and happy, such as when we are with friends or family on holidays or when we have scored points in a basketball game. Often we are most comfortable with familiar friends and find confidence and ease doing things we are good at. These are the moments where we have a voice, when we are seen clearly by others, and when we feel heard. But what happens when we don't? What happens when you feel invisible - as if an essential part of who you are is being ignored? The feeling of being invisible can happen at any time and in any place. It might come when speaking in front of a large group, or being in a class in which you get bad grades, or being on a team where you might not be the star. Exercise: List or describe four different situations where you have felt invisible and four situations where you feel seen. Be able to share one example. Invisible
• • • • • • • • • • • • • •
What is your physical and emotional response to feeling visible? I talk loudly I laugh a lot I stand taller I feel good about myself I feel like I can do anything I start to show off I make sure others are looking I look for recognition – verbal and physical I tell my parents I try and help others I want to be around others I smile a lot Other_________________________ Other_________________________
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
What is your physical and emotional response to feeling invisible? I turn red in the face I look down and try not to make eye contact I pretend to be busy with something else I act “ditzy” I act “silly” I talk louder I avoid contact with others I get angry I blame others for making me feel invisible I ask for help I don’t let others help me I can feel my body tense up Other______________________________ Other______________________________ Other______________________________
What do you think are the 3 most common situations or reasons why people can feel invisible? 1. 2. 3. Do you think that other people have the ability to make others feel invisible? Why or why not?
The Facebook Case As a role play – read the story in the mindset of a particular character. You can be one of the following: Ms. Jean – math teacher Michelle Bowman - student Janet Greene – Michelle’s friend John Colbert – Michelle’s boyfriend Alison Lewis – Michelle’s friend Mr. Roberts – high school principal Honor council When you read the story, try to focus on your character. What is happening for that person in the story? What kind of emotion or stress are they going through? What would it feel like to be in their shoes? -------------------------“Crap! I have had it with that class!” Michelle threw down her books and her backpack. Papers went flying everywhere. Alison, Michelle’s best friend, was sitting on one of the couches in the commons and got hit by Michelle’s backpack. “Christ, Michelle, what the hell is going on?” “I have had it with Ms Jean’s Algebra test – this is the third test I studied for and failed. I didn’t even pass with a D – I now have a 45 average!” yelled Michelle as her eyes filled with tears. “ I really don’t know what more I can do, I study, I do my homework, and I participate in class. She sucks and I want to drop the class.” Michelle flopped down with discouragement and tried to hold back her tears. She was in the commons during break, and the last thing she wanted was someone watching her cry. She didn’t like to be emotional around other people, and she didn’t like admitting that she had failed another test. “ Michelle, maybe you need to talk to Ms. Jean – I know that she can be intimidating, but I heard from some other kids that they talked to her and she dropped two of their failing grades. I think that if she did it for them, then she would do it for you too.” Alison tried to be as encouraging as she could, but she knew Michelle. They had met in kindergarten and had been friends ever since. Alison knew that once Michelle made up her mind to be pissed, she would hold a grudge for the rest of the year. “ I don’t know – right now I could give a crap. I am done trying to pass and trying to kiss her ass. I want to get out of that class – it’s not even the material that is hard. I just think that she doesn’t know how to teach – and I am not the only one! I think that there is only one person – John, who has an A and the rest are just getting by.” Michelle’s tirade
started to bring some of her other friends, who crowded around both Alison and Michelle. Janet, another close friend of Alison and Michelle, came by and started in on the conversation: “Yeah, I had Miss Jean last year. I barely passed, it was only because my dad hired a tutor so then I was able to learn the material. I don’t think she is a good teacher and I don’t think she really knows what she is doing. Michelle, you need to get out of the class.” “ I guess so,” said Michelle, now less mad and more disappointed. “I will talk to Mr. Robert about changing my schedule. I should be able to do it – I know other people who have switched out of her class for less.” Michelle slumped down in the chair. “I can’t deal with the rest of the day. Can we go to lunch a little early?” Michelle looked around at her friends to see who would be willing to sign out to go eat. “I’ve got AP Bio next - my teacher will check where I am”, said Alison, giving Michelle a sympathetic look. Michelle looked at Janet. “Yeah, let’s do it. I only have study hall and I finished my homework last night. No one will check.” Janet and Michelle left early to eat lunch at Willy’s. Maybe her day would start looking up later – but all she knew was that she needed a mental health break right now. ….. Later on that evening, Michelle knew she had to show her parents the failing grade. They sat around the table for dinner with Michelle’s older brother, who had graduated the year before. Mike, Michelle’s brother, was a straight A student whom teachers loved. He was a star in math and was the captain of the basketball team two years in a row. It was his first year at UGA and he was home for the weekend. “ So, Mom and Dad, I failed another Ms. Jean test.” Michelle said it really fast and tried to blurt it all out in one long sentence. “I know you wanted me to study harder and pay attention in class, but I did and I was doing my homework every night. It’s not like I am not trying, but I don’t think that Ms Jean is giving me a fair grade and I want to drop the class.” There was a long uncomfortable silence. Michelle wasn’t sure if her parents were listening or if they hadn’t understood what she had said. She sat there with her face down to her plate and waited for an answer. There was a long sigh from her mother and an immediate grimace from her father. Mike didn’t say anything, but Michelle couldn’t look him in the face. She knew he thought she was dumb and a slacker and didn’t want to deal with him. “So, what is your average right now?” asked her mother as she continued to eat. Michelle’s mom was pretty soft-spoken, but Michelle knew that the worst was to come. It was pretty rare that Michelle would get yelled at, but it was almost worse to get the disapproving and disappointed looks from her mom. Michelle continued to look at her plate. She didn’t dare look up. “I think I have an F. But I really think that Ms Jean has singled me out – she refused to give me extra help when I asked, I came late one day and missed a class and didn’t want to give me lecture notes. Actually, she yelled at me for no reason in front of the whole class.” Michelle’s dad head perked up – even though she knew he was mad, Michelle knew that her dad was her champion. She was “daddy’s little girl” and could usually get whatever she wanted from him.
“Unfair?” said Michelle’s dad, “ How so?” “ Well, she really embarrassed me in front of the class – for example the other day when I came in late because of another test, she let a kid in without a pass, but made me the example when I walked in late. Also, her lecture notes are really hard to understand and she doesn’t allow for questions until the end of class. I have questions and then it is hard to remember them all at the end” said Michelle in a more whiney and babyish tone of voice. Mike broke his silence at the table. “Oh yeah, I remember that,” he said, giving Michelle a supportive look. “When she didn’t like someone, the whole class knew it. My year, she didn’t like Joe Baker. All year she picked on him. Everyone knew that they didn’t get along. She finally ended up kicking him out of the class. Dad, she is a tough teacher. She isn’t all that nice.” Michelle’s dad looked at both of them. “ Michelle, it is pretty serious to accuse a teacher of being unfair to you. Is this really true?” Michelle’s mom looked at her waiting for the answer. Michelle looked at Mike and for the first time in a while he was giving her a sympathetic look. Michelle paused for a second and wasn’t sure if Ms. Jean really was singling her out, but she knew she couldn’t stay one more minute in that class. When she looked at her parents, they actually looked sympathetic rather than mad about her grades. Michelle looked both of her parents straight in the eye and said, “Yeah I do. I can’t be in that class anymore. It is really unfair.” She started to tear up at the table and started crying into her napkin. Her mom got up from the table and gave her a hug and her brother gave her a friendly punch on the arm. Michelle’s dad stood up and immediately made a call to Mr. Roberts, the high school principal. Michelle could hear him in the next room making an appointment for the next morning. She wasn’t really sure what she had just gotten herself into. The next morning Michelle sat in her first period class waiting for the meeting with her dad and Mr. Roberts. She could feel her stomach doing flip-flops. She couldn’t really focus on anything else. Maybe Ms. Jean wasn’t really singling her out – but she wasn’t sure. It felt like she was, and Michelle wasn’t the only one who felt the same way. Ms. Jean had the reputation for being a difficult teacher who wasn’t sympathetic or friendly. She was hoping that the conversation between her father and Mr. Roberts would be relatively easy and she would be able to drop the class. Maybe her dad wouldn’t get too involved with the unfairness stuff. Mr. Roberts has been the high school principal at the Medfield School for 20 years. Medfield is a small school and usually he knows the students pretty well. For the most part, the students at Medfield are upper middle class students with a strong family support system. When Mr. Roberts got the call last night from Michelle Bowman’s father, Luke, he was not surprised. Michelle has been a good student, but she has gotten herself into trouble from time to time. She is known to skip class, miss homework assignments, and last year she was suspended for two days because she cheated on her final exam. Mr. Bowman walked into Mr. Roberts’ office with a look on his face different than before. Immediately, Mr. Roberts knew that Michelle’s dad was here not because of a discipline or grade issue.
“Mr. Bowman, it is nice to see you. I am glad that you were able to come in today.” “Thanks, I appreciate you seeing me.” Mr. Bowman sat down and looked a nervously around the room. “I wouldn’t normally come, but I thought this was important.” “ How can I help you?” Mr. Roberts knew that Michelle’s father was nervous, but he couldn’t tell why. “Is something wrong at home?” “ Actually, I am concerned about a teacher. Ms. Jean. Michelle feels that she is being singled out by her in class – isolated for bad grades, discouraged in her work, and humiliated in front of other students. I want to get Michelle out of the class, but I also want to talk about the behavioral issues from this teacher.” Mr. Bowman’s voice began to get louder as he spoke. His face was flush and started to wipe his palms on the front of his pants. He felt uncomfortable talking to the principal, and as he starting talking he could feel himself getting angry. “Has this Ms. Jean had problems before? – My son, Mike, he said that she had isolated and discouraged students before.” “Well, I am sorry to hear that Michelle is having such a hard time,” said Mr. Roberts. “I have not heard of any problems between Ms. Jean and her students, and especially not with Michelle. I am actually really surprised that this is happening.” As Mr. Roberts gave his explanation, he noticed that he started to talk in circles. This was not the first complaint about Ms, Jean. In fact, Ms. Jean had been the object of student complaints for at least the last five years. Students were afraid of her, didn’t want to take her class, and she had at least two students drop each semester. Mr. Roberts didn’t share this information with Mr. Bowman. He wanted to deal with Michelle’s issue and talk to Ms. Jean separately. “ I think it will be better if Michelle can drop her class,” said Mr. Bowman, rising out of his chair. “I would like her out today”. Mr. Roberts sighed. “ Ok, well, let’s see what we can do.” He turned around in his chair to check the schedule on the computer. “Um, well it looks that Michelle can’t take another math class that period and if we switch her to another class it would require her to change all of her classes. I don’t think this is a good idea, but I could try and come up with an alternative.” Mr. Roberts looked up and saw Mr. Bowman towering over him. His face was red and angry. Mr. Roberts started to feel nervous and found himself immediately standing up. He didn’t like feeling intimidated by parents. Mr. Bowman had his hand on the door, ready to leave. “Please send the alternate schedule home with Michelle and we will discuss it at home,” he said. “Thanks for your time.” He did not let Mr. Roberts respond to his goodbye and left with a huge sense of relief. Mr. Bowman was not a man who enjoyed confrontation and had wanted to leave the meeting as soon as it started. ….
Michelle went to her 4th period class with Ms. Jean. It seemed okay – Ms. Jean was her usual unfriendly self, but nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe the meeting with her dad and Mr. Roberts had gone well and that she would be out of the class tomorrow. “What? Are you sure?” Michelle sat in a chair in Mr. Robert’s office.
“Wait this can’t be right. You let other students switch out before. I should be allowed to switch”. Mr. Roberts looked at Michelle. He let her continue and waited for his turn to explain. “ This is totally unfair. I can’t stay there. She really hates me.” Michelle looked to the floor and started to cry. She really started to feel like things were working against her. Maybe Ms. Jean was the reason why she couldn’t switch out. “ Michelle,” he began, clearing his throat nervously, “we can’t switch your schedule. It is mid-year and you wont be able to make up the work in time. We would not be allowed to give you credit for the work you have already done.” He waited to see if she would respond. She didn’t. He continued. “I spoke with Ms. Jean and she said that she would be willing to work with you. I also told her about how you felt picked on” “Wait what? You did what?” Michelle’s voice rose in panic. “Why did you do that? Now she knows – I can’t stay in that class. It will be worse!” Mr. Roberts looked at Michelle with some sympathy. “I talked to Ms. Jean and she knows that if there are any more issues between the two of you, she will be under strict observation. I will intervene if there is a problem.” Michelle stopped crying and got quiet. She rolled the wet tissues in her hand back and forth. She couldn’t really listen to Mr. Roberts anymore. She could feel the tissue start to fall apart in her hands and let it drop to the floor. Michelle felt alone – as if no one was on her side. What happened to her dad? Didn’t he ask Mr. Roberts to switch her out? What happened? This was not how it was supposed to turn out. All she wanted to do was leave. Mr. Roberts cleared his throat. Michelle looked up at him. “There is something else, Michelle.” Michelle waited – what could be worse than what already happened? “ Yesterday, you and Janet Greene left campus during 4th period without approval.” Michelle sat on the couch, tissue in hand, waiting for the next words. Mr. Roberts didn’t blink. “ You have a week of confined lunch and detention. Bring home this slip to your parents.” Michelle took the slip from his hands and left the room without another word. …. Ms. Jean had been at the school for 15 years. She came midyear during her career and had stayed on the faculty. She didn’t mean to be a teacher – never wanted to be a high school teacher. Emma Jean was a math whiz - she had been one since she was a kid. Her plan was to go to college and find a profession where she could do math all day. maybe NASA or another kind of lab. But, her career plans didn’t turn out the way she thought. Emma had a hard time getting a job in a lab and didn’t really have the qualifications to do higher- level math. She started teaching as a last resort. She liked math, but didn’t really like students. Students had been complaining about her since she got here – she tried to relate to the kids, but every time she tried it would backfire. The last time she tried talking to the kids, she remembered that they laughed at
her and ignored what she was saying. It felt easier to be the “strict” teacher rather than the nice one. It was not a surprise to her when Mr. Roberts called her into his office after school. She just wondered which student had complained about her this time. Emma Jean thought that this year might be different, but clearly it was going to be same as ever. “So for you to continue on here at Medfield, we need you to be observed by a mentor teacher for the rest of the year. Emma, you really need to learn how to connect with the students more”. Mr. Roberts hated this part of his job, but he knew it had to be done. “Emma, you are officially on probation. We are taking the complaint made by Michelle Bowman very seriously. If there is another complaint, we will discuss the possibility of not renewing your contract.” Mr. Roberts wasn’t sure how much Michelle was telling the truth. However, he knew Emma Jean’s reputation. Even if Michelle had not been completely honest with her parents, it didn’t really matter. This probation was a long time coming. “So I have a mentor teacher?” Ms. Jean didn’t seem to be too upset. So close to retirement, Emma Jean was counting the days until she would not have to come back to school. “Michelle Bowman complained?” She started to wrack her brain. She thought she had been supportive of Michelle and had helped her when she missed class. Emma knew that Michelle was failing, but didn’t think it warranted a complaint about being singled out. “Will she stay in the class?” Although she was disappointed, she found herself angry at Michelle Bowman. Hadn’t she tried to help her? She liked Mike Bowman, Michelle’s older brother. Maybe it was because Michelle just wasn’t as smart. Regardless, Emma Jean wouldn’t try and help her again. “ When does it start? Will I be docked from pay?” Emma thought the more distant she could be the better. Crying wouldn’t help the situation at all. …..
The next day, Michelle wondered how she was going to get through math. Ms. Jean knew it was she who accused her of unfair treatment and on top of that, Michelle was already failing the class. Stepping into the class felt like stepping in a field of landmines – she wasn’t sure where to go, who to look at, what to do. She grabbed the first seat in the room. Ms. Jean took one look at her and Michelle felt her face flush. “Michelle, where have you been?” Michelle looked around the room and didn’t say anything. “ Michelle, I asked you – where have you been, where is your pass?” Michelle felt frozen to the chair – her mouth sealed shut. “Well, I don’t expect much from a student like you. I know you cant seem to grasp the material or do much homework, but I thought you might at least be able to make it to class on time. I guess I was wrong.” Ms. Jean turned her back to the board and Michelle left the room as fast as she could. Michelle could hear Ms. Jean say to the rest of the class “Well, she’ll get another detention.” She thought she could hear some kids laughing. She thought she heard Ms. Jean laughing. ….. Bing. I cant believe she did that WTF.OMG did you die? Bing. Yes I think so. Everyone saw it. Everyone laughed. When did u hear about it? Bing. I got a txt during 4th from Janet. Bing. I hate her. I wish I could make her disappear from Medfield. Bing. I have to finish my homework. Text me later. After 10 when my parents go to bed. Bing. Ok. Thx Alison. Talk to u ltr. Bing. Ltr – Michelle …. “Janet, listen to this” Michelle sat up in her chair at lunch off campus. “I started a new Facebook page last night”. Janet was eager to hear about what Michelle had to say. Janet and Michelle just began being good friends, but Janet liked the attention. Michelle was popular with most of the students at Medfield and dated John Colbert, the captain of the basketball team. Michelle seemed confident and sure of herself. Janet made sure that Michelle liked her – it was pretty rare that Janet would say no to Michelle. She drove Michelle to parties, skipped class with her, and broke curfew with her. “What is the page for,” Janet asked. “I thought you already had a Facebook page?” “This is different – I am making it for Ms. Jean. I think it would be funny to make her own Facebook.” Michelle started to laugh at the idea – “How great – we would be able to complain about Ms. Jean online. I am thinking of the pictures we could post.” Michelle’s mind went to a pretty unflattering picture of Ms. Jean running around on field day. Janet started to laugh. “That is great! I can’t wait to see it. Then everyone at school can
add on anything they want. We should try and get people to take her picture with their camera phones in class – get them to post things while they are in class…” Janet’s voice trailed off. She wasn’t sure if she had gone to far. “ Yeah – let’s do it. I am so tired of her screwing me over. Come over after school so you can help make it better.” Michelle started to feel good – more confident than she had in a while. It felt like she had more control over what had happened. Ms. Jean had made everyone laugh at her. Now she could do the same. “John – can’t you add more content for me? Please? I don’t have time to do it today” Michelle pleaded to John in her softest voice. She saved this voice for when she really wanted something done. She uses it on her dad and John. Neither said no to her very often. “ Michelle, I can’t. I added those pictures and the music for you the other day, but I can’t do it anymore. I am way too busy, and by the way, you don’t really even use the site anymore.” John looked away – he didn’t really like the site. He knew it started out as a practical joke, but it started to get out of control. Kids were using it to cheat on Ms. Jean’s tests and quizzes, and some people had started to make up stories about her and kids had started to get pretty serious. One kid even wrote how he wanted to see her dead. He wasn’t sure what was real or not, but it had definitely started to get out of control. “John, you know I still use the site. I don’t write a lot of comments anymore, but I had a funny picture from math class today that I wanted to go up. Also, Janet had a funny idea – she wants to put up Ms. Jean’s home phone number so people can prank call her.” Michelle looked up at John and waited for him to laugh. He didn’t. “You know, Michelle, this has sort of gotten out of hand. Did you see the posting on the site the other night? They started saying Ms. Jean should be fired and one kid said he swore he saw Ms. Jean selling pot on Ponce the other day. It’s started to get out of control.” John didn’t like saying no to Michelle. They had been together for four months and he started to think he was falling in love with her. He hadn’t said anything, but was thinking about telling her soon. He didn’t want to screw things up with her, but he didn’t like the page. It sort of creeped him out. “ Fine. Don’t do it. I don’t care. Anyway, I will get Janet to post it” Michelle started to walk away with her arms folded across her chest. She didn’t really care about the posting, but didn’t like to be told no. She was pissed and walked away. It wasn’t how John wanted to end the conversation, but he didn’t have a choice. Michelle was long gone before he could even call out to her. ….. Alison had started to feel herself drift away from Michelle. They had been friends since kindergarten, but they didn’t really talk in the same way. They had classes together, ate lunch together sometimes, and saw each other at family parties, but didn’t really hang out at school. Alison started to hang out with other friends that she felt had more in
common with. She didn’t really go to parties or drink and didn’t really want to be a part of that kind of crowd. Michelle started to get a reputation for drinking at parties. She and Janet were at all of the parties, and last year on Spring Break there were rumors that they had gotten into the wrong group of friends. A month had passed since Michelle had been embarrassed by Ms. Jean, and Alison knew that Michelle had the page. She had been on the page before and was really surprised at how many people had visited. She was also surprised to see Ms. Jean’s personal information on the site and the comments that people made. She wasn’t sure if Michelle really knew what she had started, but didn’t know how to ask her. Now didn’t seem like the time. ….. “So yeah, I thought you should know.” Greg Smith sat in Mr. Roberts’ office and was dying to leave. He wanted to run out of the room – he started to regret telling Mr. Roberts about the website. He asked so many questions, that Greg felt that he was the one getting in trouble. “ I don’t know a lot – all I know that is one the last post, someone posted that they wished Ms. Jean was dead. There were some racial slurs and a comment about stealing from her and getting into a fight in the parking lot.” Greg paused. He didn’t want to tell about the part of test answers. He had been to the site before and had taken some answers to one of her tests. Greg didn’t really think it was cheating – they were just discussing the material. He left that part out, though. Greg wasn’t sure that Mr. Roberts would understand. “How long has the site been up?” Mr. Roberts’ voice got louder and louder. “ Who has been on it? Who started it?” Greg wasn’t about to answer the other questions. He knew it was Michelle Bowman because he had heard it from someone else, but he thought that Facebook was anonymous. They cant tell who wrote what – so Greg didn’t think he had to tell anyone anything. Just telling Mr. Roberts was enough, or so he thought at the time. “ I don’t know, I just found it and thought it would be good to let you know.” Greg looked away, it wasn’t the whole truth, but maybe it didn’t matter how long he knew. Maybe it was good enough telling Mr. Roberts. By the time the IT department could find the site and take it down, two other students had gone to talk to Mr. Roberts. They told Mr. Roberts about some of the comments on the site, but felt uncomfortable letting other students know that they had told. Mr. Roberts told those students that he would not tell the other students that it was they who told. This is the information Mr. Roberts collected in his investigation: Alison knew what was happening but didn’t tell anyone. She didn’t confront Michelle about the website and thought that most of the bad comments would be taken down eventually. Alison did not write anything on the site and checked it only probably 2-3 times. She did not admit to knowing anything until Mr. Roberts confronted her. She also did not tell Mr. Roberts that it was Michelle who started the site. Alison knew that if
she was called in, so was Michelle. She told Mr. Roberts that she knew about the site, but that she had not written anything and when she didn’t like the comments, she stopped visiting it. Alison isn’t really sure why she is in front of the honor council. John originally helped Michelle put up funny pictures and mean comments on the page, but stopped when he read the racially charged and violent comments towards Ms. Jean. He did not tell anyone what he knew and did not stop Michelle from posting more material. He knows students who posted material about cheating and about the violence, but has refused to tell Mr. Roberts. He didn’t really know all the people who were involved. He did not write any comments on the website – he only did what Michelle asked him to write. Michelle started the website at home. She originally meant the website as a practical joke. She did not intend to make the website a place where students would share test and quiz answers. Michelle admitted she made the website because she was mad and felt humiliated by Ms. Jean. After she got in trouble for skipping and was forced to stay in the class, Michelle admitted that her parents didn’t trust her anymore when she would talk about the class. Not only did she feel not supported by her parents, her brother told her to suck it up and get through the class, and Mr. Roberts ignored four other complaints by her and two other students. Michelle felt like this was a way where she could deal with feeling ignored and humiliated. As far as she knew, Ms. Jean never saw the site and although there were violent and racist comments on the site – no one had ever physically confronted her. Michelle admitted that it wasn’t the best way to vent her anger, but felt like she wasn’t responsible for the content she didn’t put on personally. She felt sorry that it had some people had written really offensive material online, but she didn’t know if she ultimately was responsible. Janet helped Michelle start the page. She posted material and comments throughout. She was the one who with two (with other friends) posted the personal information on the site and wrote the racially offensive emails. Janet didn’t really feel that bad – Ms. Jean didn’t ever read it, and she also had been humiliated by Ms. Jean in class last year. No one listened to Janet when it happened, so she thought that it was only fair that she would be able to talk about a teacher off campus however she wanted. Janet never did anything on a school computer and she doesn’t think that the school can punish her for something she has done off campus after school hours. Greg Smith is not friends with Alison, John, Michelle or Janet. He has been to the page before a number of times and posted some information. He also used the test answers on the site to help him in class. He decided to tell Mr. Roberts about the site because he heard that someone else was going to, and he wanted to be the first to do so. The racial slurs and the violent comments bothered him, but he did use the site to get answers from one of the tests. He looked at the test answers, but they weren’t really useful to him on the test – they were the wrong answers. He doesn’t really think he should get in trouble – he didn’t admit to looking at the answers and he thinks that because he told Mr. Roberts what happened he should not be punished.
Mr. Roberts sent these five students to honor council. He knew that they were involved but because they weren’t sure about who wrote the racially offensive and violent comments towards Ms. Jean, these students were brought in front of the council. This is a difficult decision for him to make. He is not sure how much control he has over what happens outside of school. He knows that some students do drugs, drink, bully, and smoke off campus and he has not be able to punish them. In the past, he has never punished a student for off-campus behavior. The reason why he has brought these students to honor council is because he feels that this kind of behavior is particularly damaging to the Medfield community. The violent and racist attacks on Ms. Jean feel different. Although he can understand the frustration of the students, those attacks contradict the honor code and the code of the school. Also, Mr. Roberts finds some value in making an example of some students – he believes that bad behavior could be deterred by making an example of the few who do bad. Ms. Jean believed that all the students involved should be punished, even the students who did not write on the page. She feels that even the students who knew about the website were just as guilty as those who wrote. After she saw the website, she actually felt afraid to be at school and with students. She was planning on retiring in five years, but decided to change her mind and retire early. If the school doesn’t respond the students who racially and violently harassed her, she is planning on pressing charges and suing the school for racial discrimination. Ultimately, she feels that the school is responsible for the safety and well-being of the faculty and staff. As a member of the honor council, you are being asked to decide the following: -
Who should be punished if any at all? Take in consideration the nature of the offense – it was off campus at someone’s home and the students that wrote some of the most offensive material are unknown and will not be punished. Should Michelle be held responsible for what other students wrote? Should John be responsible for writing what Michelle wanted to post – even though he stopped writing and looking at the site? Should Greg be punished? He is one of the first students who told Mr. Roberts about the page. Should Alison be punished? She didn’t write anything on the website and visited only a few times. She knew about it but didn’t tell on Michelle. Should Mr. Roberts take into account the threat of Ms. Jean suing the school for harassment? The school already had one incident of sexual harassment two years ago and wants to avoid another at all costs. What about the students who wrote the offensive material on the site? How will they be punished? Does it seem fair that those students who wrote will not be punished at all? What do you think about Ms. Jean’s statement – that Alison and John are just as guilty as those who wrote the offensive material. Will you take this into consideration? Will you take Ms. Jean’s behavior into consideration, that she humiliated
students in the past? As the honor council, you get to decide the verdict for each student.
Running on Empty by Robert Phillips As a teenager I would drive Father’s Chevrolet cross-country, given me reluctantly: “Always keep the tank half full, boy, half full, ya hear?” The fuel gauge dipping, dipping toward Empty, hitting Empty, then –– thrilling! –– way below Empty, myself driving cross-country mile after mile, faster and faster, all might long, this crazy kid driving the earth’s rolling surface, against all laws, defying chemistry, rules, and time, riding on nothing but fumes, pushing luck harder than anyone pushed before, the wind screaming past like the Furies . . . I stranded myself only once, a white night with no gas station open, ninety miles from nowhere. Panicked for a while, at standstill, myself stalled. At dawn the car and I both refilled. But, Father, I am running on empty still.
Ethics by Linda Pastan In ethics class so many years ago our teacher asked this question every fall: if there were a fire in a museum which would you save, a Rembrandt painting or a old woman who hadn’t many years left anyhow? Restless on hard chairs caring little for pictures or old age we’d opt one year for life, the next for art
and always half-heartedly. Sometimes the woman borrowed my grandmother’s face leaving her usual kitchen to wander some drafty, half imagined museum. One year, feeling clever, I replied why not let the woman decide herself? Linda, the teacher would report, eschews the burdens of responsibility. This fall in a real museum I stand before a real Rembrandt, old woman, or nearly so myself. The colors within this frame are darker than autumn, darker even than winter –– the browns of earth, though earth’s most radiant elements burn through the canvas. I know now that woman and painting and season are almost one and all beyond saving by children.
Mother to Son by Langston Hughes Well, son, I’ll tell you: Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. It’s had tacks in it, And splinters, And boards torn up, And places with no carpet on the floor –– Bare. But all the time I’se been a-climbin’ on, And reachin’ landin’s, And turnin’ corners, And sometimes goin’ in the dark Where there ain’t been no light. So boy, don’t you turn back. Don’t you set down on the steps ‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard. Don’t you fall now –– For I’se still goin’, honey, I’se still climbin’, And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
The Sun Never Says by Hafiz Even After All this time The sun never says to the earth “You owe me.” Look What Happens With a love like that. It lights the Whole Sky.
Much Stands Behind Me by Rainer Maria Rilke My life is not this steeply sloping hour in which you see my hurrying. Much stands behind me I stand before it like a tree. And I am only one of many mouths, and that the one that would be still the soonest. I am the rest between two notes that are somehow always in discord, because death’s note wants to climb over; But in the dark interval, reconciled, they stay there trembling, and the song goes on, beautiful
A Ritual to Read to Each Other by William Stafford If you don’t know the kind of person I am and I don’t know the kind of person you are a pattern that other made may prevail in the world and following the wrong god home we may miss our star. For there is many a small betrayal in the mind, a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood storming out to play through the broken dike. And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail, but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park, I call it cruel and maybe the root of cruelty to know what occurs but not recognize the fact. And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy, a remote important region in all who talk; though we could fool each other, we should consider – – lest the parade of our mutual life gets lost in the dark. For it is important that awake people be awake, or breaking line may discourage them back to sleep: the signals we give – – yes or no, or maybe – – should be clear; the darkness around us is deep.
Escape by D. H. Lawrence When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego, and when we escape like squirrels turning in the cages of our personality and get into the forests again, we shall shiver with cold and fright but things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in, and passion will make our bodies taut with power, we shall stamp our feet with new power and old things will fall down, we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like burnt paper.
Monologue by W.S. Merwin from The Pupil Heart as we say meaning it literally and you do hear it when we speak for the voice addressing you is your own though we know now that the you we are speaking to is not the person we imagine yet we go on telling you day after day of the person we imagine ourselves to be forgetting as we tell you learning even from joy but forgetting and you hear who is speaking you hear it all though you do not listen
The Rites of Manhood by Alden Nowlan It’s snowing hard enough that the taxis aren’t running. I’m walking home, my night’s work finished, long after midnight with the whole city to myself. when across the street I see a very young American sailor standing over a girl who’s kneeling on the sidewalk and refuses to get up although he’s yelling at her to tell him where she lives so he can take her there before they both freeze. The pair of them are drunk and my guess is he picked her up in a bar and later they got separated from his buddies and at first it was great fun to play at being an old salt at liberty in a port full of women with hinges on their heels, but by now he wants only to find a solution to the infinitely complex problem of what to do about her before he falls into the hands of the police or the shore patrol --and what keeps this from being squalid is what’s happening to him inside: if there were other sailors here it would be possible for him to abandon her where she is and joke about it later, but he’s alone and the guilt can’t be divided into small forgettable pieces; he’s finding out what it means to be a man and how different it is from the way that only hours ago he imagined it.
the window by Alicia Ostriker the window, at the moment of flame and all this while I have been playing with toys a toy superhighway a toy automobile a house of blocks and all this while far off in other lands thousands and thousands, millions and millions – you know – you see the pictures women carrying their bony infants men sobbing over graves buildings sculptured by explosion – earth wasted bare and rotten and all this while I have been shopping, I have been let us say free and do they hate me for it do they hate me
The Bean Eaters by Gwendolyn Brooks They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair. Dinner is a casual affair. Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood, Tin flatware. Two who are Mostly Good. Two who have lived their day, But keep on putting on their clothes And putting things away. And remembering . . . . Remembering, with tinklings and twinges, As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths, tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.
Growing by Kenneth Rexroth Who are you? Who am I? Haunted By the dead, by the dead and the past and the Falling inertia of unreal, dead Men and things. Haunted by the threat Of the impersonal, that which Never will admit the person, The closed world of things. Who are You? Coming up out of the Mineral earth, one pale leaf Unlike any other unfolding, And then another, strange, new, Utterly different, nothing I ever expected, growing Up out of my warm heart's blood. All new, all strange, all different. Your own leaf pattern, your own Flower and fruit, but fed from One root, the root of our fused flesh. I and thou, from the one to The dual, from the dual To the other, the wonderful, Unending, unfathomable Process of becoming each Our selves for each other.
Supplements: Chalk Talk Originally developed by Hilton Smith, Foxfire Fund; adapted by Marylyn Wentworth. Chalk Talk is a silent way to do reflection, generate ideas, check on learning, develop projects or solve problems. It can be used productively with any group—students, faculty, workshop participants, committees. Because is it done completely in silence, it gives groups a change of pace and encourages thoughtful contemplation. It can be an unforgettable experience. Middle Level students absolutely love it—it’s the quietest they’ll ever be! Format Time: Varies according to need; can be from five minutes to an hour. Materials: Chalk board and chalk or paper roll on the wall and markers. Process 1. The facilitator explains VERY BRIEFLY that chalk talk is a silent activity. No one may talk at all and anyone may add to the chalk talk as they please. You can comment on other people’s ideas simply by drawing a connecting line to the comment. It can also be very effective to say nothing at all except to put finger to lips in a gesture of silence and simply begin with #2. 2. The facilitator writes a relevant question in a circle on the board. Sample questions: • What did you learn today? • So What? or Now What? • What do you think about social responsibility and schooling? • How can we involve the community in the school, and the school in community? 3. The facilitator either hands a piece of chalk to everyone, or places many pieces of chalk at the board and hands several pieces to people at random. 4. People write as they feel moved. There are likely to be long silences— that is natural, so allow plenty of wait time before deciding it is over. 5. How the facilitator chooses to interact with the Chalk Talk influences its outcome. The facilitator can stand back and let it unfold or expand thinking by: • circling other interesting ideas, thereby inviting comments to broaden • writing questions about a participant comment • adding his/her own reflections or ideas • connecting two interesting ideas/comments together with a line and adding a question mark.
Wagon Wheels Brainstorm Facilitation Notes Developed in the field by educators. Purposes • To stimulate lots of generative thinking in a very short time. To stimulate powerful thinking between people who might not know each other. To create a “vivid image bank” of a new idea in action to inform the planning process. • To develop a sense of team with a common purpose. Set up Four chairs back to back at the hub of the wheel and four chairs on the outer circle facing the chairs at the hub. • Facilitator selects four ideas to explore. Directions Have participants bring paper and pen and fill in the seats in the wheel(s). Ask them to take notes of both their own ideas as well as their partner’s. The people on the outside of the wheel will be moving one seat to the right at each rotation; people at the hub remain in their seats. Explain that they will be working on one topic with each partner for approximately 5 minutes — i.e. they will work with 4 different partners during the activity. For each topic have the participants reach a common understanding of what the topic means and then brainstorm what it would look like in action. At the end of each rotation, ask each participant sitting on the outside of the wheel to rotate one seat to the right. After they settle down, give them the next topic and ask them to reach a common understanding before brainstorming. Going Deeper Have participants pick their favorite ideas for each topic and write them down on post-its. Make sure they label the top of each post-it. Put large flip chart sheets with the topic title on the top around the room and have participants post their favorite ideas on the appropriate sheet. Create focus groups to further explore a specific topic and to plan how to put the powerful ideas into action. Orchard Cove Protocol Developed by the NSRF Vermont Center of Activity, at Orchard Cove House, Shelburne Farms, Vermont, July, 2004. This protocol is useful when there’s a complex topic or set of questions that need attention from the group in a relatively short time. It divides the labor of thinking about the issues, but brings those thoughts back for general discussion that the whole group shares. In place of the standard “reporting out” summary, it engages the whole group in structured response to each report. The result should be enlarged understanding of the topic and/or greater clarity about the questions. This will work best with a relatively small group of 6-8. A larger group would need to conduct two separate protocols simultaneously, and add a summary reporting discussion before Step 4. 1. Paired Walkabout Participants choose topics to discuss in pairs. 2. Insights Each pair confers on no more than three “major insights” they had during discussion. These may be questions or statements; the purpose is to offer the
group some progress on thinking about the topic. The pair writes its insights on chart paper or prepares to say them. 3. Reporting Out Each pair presents in the â€œSave the Last Wordâ€? format, using the insights as the selected text. (If they have not written the text in step 2, the facilitator should scribe so the whole group can see the text.) Group members each take 1 minute to respond, and the presenting pair concludes with a 3-minute response. 7-10 minutes per round 4. Topic review The facilitator invites the group to review the original list and the insights list, in a general discussion to see what new understanding has emerged. This is a chance for the group to look for connecting themes, new directions, or emerging consensus or solutions. 10-20 minutes 5. De-brief The group discusses the protocol itself. How useful was this process? Five minutes
Writing Assignments #1: A Dilemma Describe a case or situation that involves ethical issues and choices. The situation you describe can be an actual one, or it could be one that might occur. Include enough detail to make the case interesting and real. Describe the people involved so that readers of your case can actually picture them. Write at least 1 1/2 to 2 pages in presenting your case. You case should involve one of the dilemmas identified by the Institute for Global Ethics. Identify which dilemma your case presents. Elaborate about the competing interests of “rights” at issue in your case. We hope to talk in class about some of the cases students write. If you would prefer that we not talk about your case, please indicate so at the end of this assignment. #2: A Case & Two Ethical Theories Write a case and apply two of the ethical theories summarized above to it. Make your case interesting. Describe the issue or dilemma in detail. Give us some idea about the persons involved. What are they like? What is difficult for them? What excites them? Show your understanding of the two ethical theories you use by indicating what outcomes each would produce. Be specific in applying the logic of each theory to the facts. #3: Love Write 1 & 1/2 to 2 pages about love. Notice the ways you can approach this topic. You can endeavor to define love; You can try to describe love; You can use nouns (for example, affection, tenderness, steadfastness, etc) You can use verbs (for example, to love is to endure, to stand by, to care for, etc.) You can use adjectives (for example, accepting, passionate, kind, patient, etc.) You can use metaphors. Love is an ocean, or a flower, or a mama bear, etc.; You can tell a story; You can write a poem; or You can do a combination of these. In writing about love, it may be helpful to consider how one’s capacity to love and to be loved changes and matures as one moves through life. How might the love of a teenager differ from that of a married couple with high school children? How does the love of a person who allows one of his or her kidneys to be removed so that it might be transplanted in another differ from the love of newlyweds? #4: A conversation with a parent:
We’d like for you to have a conversation with your mom or dad about what ethical values that parent learned when he or she was your age. We hope that this talk will be a natural one where there is give and take on both sides. Let the conversation go where the two of you would like it to go. If you feel that it gets off-track, bring it back by asking another questions. Use dialogue skills when appropriate. Ask authentic questions and practice not knowing. Listen reflectively. Try to be nonjudgmental. You might want to start with a very specific question. Instead of asking, “What ethical values did you learn when you were my age?” ask about a specific time or event that interests you. Your question may come from one the stories your mom or dad has told you. You will find answers to specific questions, especially questions that you’re really curious about, to be more interesting, more engaging, and more revealing. Here are other questions you might pose: 1. Tell me about a time the you feel you made a bad decision. What happened? What did you learn? 2. What was peer pressure like when you were my age. How did it affect you? 3. Did you ever do something with your friends that you would not have done by yourself? 4. Did you lie very much? 5. Did you ever steal something? What? 6. Was it hard for you to differ with your friends? 7. Was there anyone besides your own parents who taught you valuable lessons? What did you learn from that person? 8. Did you ever feel that your parents nagged you about certain things? What were those? Write a summary of the experience of talking with your mom or dad. #5: Self Awareness Reflection Write two pages in which you reflect on what you have learned or noticed about yourself in answering the questions about values and objectives on pp. 10-12 of the course materials, and in choosing your three favorite quotes from pp. 27-30. Your answers to the questions on pp. 10-12 and your selection of quotes may give you clues about the following: The kind of person you long to be; How you actually experience yourself when you face situations that are difficult for you; What are your recurring patterns or habits of action when facing competing interests; and How you handle frustration and disappointment. We can only act from “where we are,” so figuring out where we are can be enormously helpful to our growth and fulfillment. So start with the qualities or objectives that you chose in question 1 on page 10, then reflect on how your answers to questions 2, 3, and 4 affect your efforts to move closer to your objectives. Then reflect further on why you chose the three quotes that you did. For some reason, those quotes spoke to you. Dialogue Exercises
Below are dialogue exercises. Some will be assigned in the syllabus. Others you can do if they seem right for your class. At the end of an exercise, it is often helpful to lead a reflection period in which members of the class can comment about how their exercise went and what they might have noticed or learned from it. These reflections can help teachers and students learn from each other’s experience. Students will experience these exercises differently; there is no intended outcome other that having done the experience. As you lead these reflections, you might practice reflective listening yourself so that you hear fully what each student is saying and so that each student may feel “heard.” 1. Check In (open ended): Each person summarizes how he or she is in the present moment. Everyone else listens. No one “cross talks” - that is, no one comments on what another has said. And those who are listening try not to “rehearse” or go over in their minds what they will say when their time comes. The purpose of the check in is to encourage each person to be present and attentive to others. The purpose of no cross talk is to encourage openness. If students fear that another student might make a funny comment about something they have just said, they will not be as open. Students are asked to check in about themselves. One might be tired, another bored, a third thinking about an upcoming test, etc. Wherever they are is where they are.
2. Check in (specific): The same rules apply – no rehearsing and no cross talk – but the students might be asked to check in about a specific issue, topic, or phrase. For example, the question might be about their interview with their parents or something other assignment. It could also be about a phrase in a poem. 3. State full name and place of birth: Each person is to say his/her complete name and his/her place of birth. That’s all. One’s full name and place of birth are special. Saying both can bring up feelings and other insights that might otherwise be submerged. This exercise is followed by breaking the class into triads to talk about why these names were given. Afterwards, the entire class can reflect on this exercise. 4. Space and arrangement exercise: Experiment with different ways of arranging the class and yourselves as teachers in relation to the class. Some possibilities to explore include: a. All students standing in a line with the two of you in front; b. All students standing one behind the other with the two of you on either sides or pacing about; c. Standing in a square; d. Standing in a circle; e. Standing is a circle holding hands; and, f. Others that might occur to you. 5. Facing ritual: Move chairs to back so that the middle of the room is clear. Ask students to stand and to spread out evenly in the room. Then tell the students that in a moment you are going to ask them to face north and to be aware of the people and places in their lives that they associate with that direction. Then say that you will do the same for the directions east, south, and west. Ask them to do this exercise in silence. Tell them you will face each direction for an amount of time that is comfortable (30 seconds, a minute, etc.) and that will allow them time to make the associations. If the students are giggly or nervous, you might suggest that they be aware that they are giggly and nervous, and again ask them to do this exercise quietly. When they are ready, begin. 6. Reflective listening exercise in pairs: Each student talks for a specific time period (which will kept by the teachers) about a topic suggested by the teachers. For the first reflective listening exercise, it’s probably a good idea to let each student talk about something that is important to him/her. The other students listen. At the conclusion of the time period, the student who was listening summarizes what he/she has heard, trying to emphasize in particular the most important points of what was said. The student who was speaking clarifies any points that the listening student missed. Then, at the go ahead of the teachers, the students reverse roles. It may be best to limit the talking period to one minute the first time students try this exercise. 7. Check in coupled with reflective listening: Students are asked to check in about a particular topic. One student begins. After that student talks, the student to his/her left summarizes what the first student said, then checks in. This process repeats, moving to the left.
8. Reflective listening where participants disagree: Reflective listening can be used in many contexts. For example, if two or more students are having a conversation in which different points of view are coming forth, each student could be asked to “reflect back” to another student what that student said before presenting his/her own point of view. Chose a topic in which students are likely to disagree, then pair them as best you can so that each student is paired with another student who does not share his/her views on the topic. Here are some possible topics on which students might disagree: a. That students should have to clean up their own bathrooms at school; b. That downloading music from the web is wrong; c. Others 9. All points listening exercise coupled with asking authentic questions: Tell student that you’re going to do a listening exercise in which you want them to listen with all of their skills, that is, not just their ears and mind, but also their heart and their intuition. Suggest that they “turn on” their minds, their hearts, and their bodies to hear the story that one of you will tell or role play. Ask them to notice not only what you say, but how you say it, what your body “says,” what is left unsaid, why you might be saying what you’re sayings, etc. When you’re finished, pause, and provide time for the students to ask authentic questions. They are to listen to your answers to authentic questions with the same openness. 10. Sharing in triads. Each student speaks for a specified time about a topic or issue given by the teachers. The other two students listen without commenting. At the end of the time periods, the first student stops, and the second begins, until his/her time is up and the third student talks. The purpose of this exercise is to allow the student who is talking to go a little deeper into him/herself. It is important for the two students who are listening “to hold the space” for the other student. Depending upon the topic, going deeper into oneself could be challenging for some students. This exercise shows us how we can listen without having to speak in response. 11. Other ladder of inference examples: You could create short situations that involve the following situations and see what inferences students make: You wave or say “hi” to a passing friend who does not respond; Two of your classmates were choosing up sides for a basketball game and you were the last person picked; You ask someone out. The other persons says “no” without giving a reason. You get a note to come to the head of the high school’s office; You pass your best friend in the hall when you are late for class. Your friend is crying. A classmate that you don’t like makes a snickering kind of laugh when that classmate passes you in the hall; You overhear your mom and dad arguing, but can’t make out what they’re saying; You called a friend and left a message, but the friend has not returned your call; You led a big Volunteer Paideia project but have not been recognized and praised by any teacher or administrator; Your photography is being exhibited in the Commons, but no one has told you how unique and marvelous it is. You’re really interested in an assignment in biology class, but the teacher passes over
it quickly and with little interest him/herself. 12. Repeating question exercise in pairs: This exercise helps the participants discover more about themselves. For a given time period kept by the teachers, one student asks the other student a question. When the second student answers, the first student says, “Thank you,” and asks the same question over again. This process is repeated until time expires, at which point the students switch roles. The student asking the question does not comment on the answers. For example, a repeating question might go as follows. Student #1: What are you critical about? Student #2: The way other students cut in line ahead of me. I can’t stand it when that happens. I want to go and yell at them. Student #1: Thank you. What are you critical about? Student #2: The way my younger brother chews his food with his mouth open. Student #1: Thank you. What are you critical about? Student #2: The way some people talk in Monday Morning Meeting when they really have very little to say. Student #1: Thank you. ..... 13. What you notice and don’t notice exercise: This exercise could help students be more aware of others and of circumstances that they don’t usually notice. It could be written or discussed in pairs or triads, with or without reflective listening. Students could be asked to be aware of what they notice in Monday Morning Meeting, at the mall, during lunch at school, when they’re in a part a different part of town, during a typical day at school, etc. The exercise could also be done as two repeating questions in pairs. The first question could be, “What did you notice when you go to the mall?” The second question could be, “What do you not notice?” Ask each question for five minutes. 14. Awareness exercise – What happens with you when you hear an argument? This exercise could be done in a several ways. Students could talk about this in triads or pairs. Teachers could stage an argument and then let students reflect on their responses. 15. Awareness exercise – Notice your body: Sit still, close your eyes, notice your breathing and slowly scan through your body from top to bottom or bottom to top just to see what you notice. 16. Something difficult to talk about exercise (The fourth chain exercises): In this exercise students break up into triads. Each triad has a 4th chair, or a place where a another person could be sitting. The student then talks to that empty chair as if the person the student has an issue with is sitting in it. This exercise gives the student an opportunity to bring up a topic that might be difficult to talk about and to choose words that might make the conversation be productive. 17. Finding new grounds for agreement exercise: This could happen in the role play about the book theft case which is to take place in the last week of the course. Essentially, what you’re looking for here is for the participants in a dialogue to find new areas of agreement as a result of participating in the dialogue itself. They might come, in other words, to a conclusion that none of
them had entertained or thought about at the beginning of the dialogue. 18. Mediating between two friends exercise: The goal in this exercise is to allow students to practice mediating. Such a skill could be important when two other friends are so upset that they cannot practice dialogue skills. 19. Alternating repeating question exercise: This exercise has to do with the practice of being nonjudgmental. Students break into pairs. One student asks the other for five minutes this alternating set of repeating questions. “How are you critical of yourself or others?” When the other student answers, the first student then asks, “How could you be nonjudgmental in that instance?” After the answer, the first student goes back to the first question. A conversation between students might go as follows: Student #1: “How are you critical of yourself or others?” Student #2: “I’m critical of myself for not studying harder.” Student #1: “Thank you. How could you be nonjudgmental in that instance?” Student #2: “I don’t know. Maybe I could try to understand what’s going on in my when I decide to stop studying.” Student #1: “Thank you. How are you critical of yourself or others?” Student #2: “I think some students are just so stuck on themselves that they can’t notice anybody else. It makes me sick. Sometimes I want to hurt them.” Student #1: “Thank you. How could you be nonjudgmental in that instance?” 20. Four A’s text and movie protocol
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After watching one of the movies, write the following on the board: What assumptions did you make while watching the movie? What did you agree with in the movie? What did you want to argue with? What parts of the movie did you aspire to? Have students write in the various categories ideas and moments of each movie. Then look at what everyone has written and have the class split up into four different groups. Assign each group one category and have them come up with a general consensus of what the class felt about the movie and whether or not they agreed. Come back to the group and discuss. 21. Letter to a loved one Have the students pick a person in their lives whom they love. It can be a brother, sister, mom, dad, friend, boyfriend, etc. Have them write down why they love them and why that person means so much to them. They can write down what they admire about that person and anything else that helps them think about love. Have the students put the letter in the envelope and mail them. Let the students understand that people can respond in many different ways. The letter is not about getting a positive response from the other person, but just as an expression of love.
22. Zones of Risk, Comfort and Danger Have the students draw a diagram of concentric circles in the following way: - The middle circle is comfort, second is risk, third is danger. - Have students think about what things in their lives fit in each circle. Think about the aspects that feel really comfortable, those that feel like there is some risk involved but generally positive, and those aspects that get your hackles up, makes you feel defensive, cloud your judgment and make you want to retreat. - The Danger zone makes it hard for us to work – it is full of defenses, fears, and red-lights that it is hard to accomplish anything. - Decide on the size of each zone based on all these considerations. Do you work a lot in your comfort zone, your risk zone? Do you work only a little in your danger zone? - What does it feel like in your danger zone? Do you immediately move back to your comfort zone? - Are there some things that have moved from danger to risk, from risk to comfort? Why?
Check-ins • Shaking hands across the room. Walking straight across the room to shake and greet the person. Students then can be asked to switch chairs. Requires focus and interaction with students who might not interact. •
Switcheroo – a take on musical chairs. One person in the middle says something that is true about him or herself i.e. “Switcheroo if you have been to Europe” and the people who it is true for get up and try and switch chairs. ( there is one chair missing and the person who does not find a chair stands in the middle and does the next statement).
Walk up palms up – make a circle with palms flat – each student will close his eyes and walk across the circle to try and match palms. One at a time – no talking and the person tries to walk to the spot across from him.
Personal space – walk towards partner and the partner tells the person to stop when he or she feels uncomfortable ( too close in personal space). Then can talk about the variations on the level of closeness depending on the type of relationship.
Listening games – when pairing up to discuss something or as a larger group – have the student after voice what the student before stated.
New Years Resolutions – what are they, why they chose them
Two truths and a lie – a student says 3 things about himself, two of them true one a lie and the students have to play 20 questions to figure out which is the lie.
“tell me a time when you felt loved “ – in connection to the story
Show and tell bring something in to share with the rest of the class – an emotional show and tell. Students have been asking questions – as a symbol of acknowledgement.
Ladder of Inference – have the kids make up their own skits about the ladder of inference o Mother and son in a car, an older man walks by the car mother says “ roll up the window”. o Have the kids create their own skits and then talk about their reactions and how they fall on the ladder of inference.
Triads o Triads – one person talking, one listening, one person asking reflective questions o Staged argument – type up and print out – argue in front of the kids and have them dissect it and try and see if they can do better.
Movie Discussion ORID – Objective, Reflective, Interpretive, Decisional Objective Questions: o What is an image from the film that struck you – giving visual images with a brief description only. o Share something you remember hearing during the film – a line said, the noise of the computer hitting the wall, etc. o Name a difficult decision the character you focused on made ( again only a brief description of what the decision was – no interpretation or judgment – be low on the ladder of inference) Reflective - Begin to have them tune into how it made them feel
o What is an emotional reaction you had during the film ( brief description of 1 scene and state what the emotion was – not why or anything further) o Which character’s anger response reminds you of how you sometimes react when angry – state the character’s response and name ( nothing more) Interpretive – start to interpret the feelings of the characters and perhaps your classmates o Why did your character make the decision you mentioned earlier? o How did your character feel after making this decision? Decisional – they take what they have learned and explicitly say or write for themselves how they might use this new knowledge for decision making o What would you have done or might you do in your character’s situation? o How can you use this movie or discussion to help you with decision making in the future?