Reprinted from Education Week: Teacher Leaders Network, Sept. 12, 2012
Courting Controversy: Why (and How) We Teach Ethics
We teach ethics to our 8th grade students—and we do it from the very start of the school year. A lot of our colleagues wince at that. Aren’t we nervous about teaching a subject usually reserved for parents? And whose ethics are we teaching, anyway? Here’s how we respond.
As the study of morality, ethics is not the teaching of a specific set of beliefs. Rather, ethics is about learning to analyze and evaluate beliefs. As long as you communicate that clearly—and practice it in your classroom—there’s no need to worry about “whose ethics you’re teaching.”
Middle school students engage in ethical decision-making daily. Listen closely to nearly any student’s social musings and you’ll hear a lot of talk about justice and injustice, about “right” and “wrong.” Students constantly evaluate their experiences in this way, critiquing the fairness of the dress code or debating whether iPods should be allowed in class. Why not harness this interest for an intentional unit? Read more…