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Ellen Feig

Professor, Bergen Community College

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Can one teach young people to be moral? Is morality something that must be taught in the home? Is it innate?

Currently I am working on a professional development platform focused on teaching college students ethics and morality. Young people seem to be incredibly disengaged from others, have little sense of what it means to be moral, gracious or ethical and don't care. How can we teach morality or is it something that is innate?

Topics: ethics morality
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    Jan 25 2013: So after engaging with all of you, I have a thought - what if we, as a group, try to define the concept of morality and how it grows or is processed? This discussion below has really pushed me to readdress many of my own preconceived notions and I would love to continue this conversation
    • Jan 25 2013: It's a noble aspiration, to try to define morality. It seems to be a hot topic among most people. What is actually right or wrong? However, I don't think that kind of thing can be decided by a group of people. Some will inevitably disagree, and there's really not much of a standard you can base it on. It all boils down to "Because I think so." Any morality come up with by humans is by definition subjective. There's no objective criteria to judge different moralities by. Unless of course you believe in God, then it's a whole different ballgame.
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        Jan 25 2013: True - but if this is the case why do we, on the whole, act morally? If our morality is purely subjective, wouldn't it go to reason that most people would simply act out their dreams and fantasies. It interests me where behavior starts
        • Jan 26 2013: I believe in God, so my answer is that because we're all children of God, we all naturally have a bit of Him in us. That's why we instinctively kind of know what's moral or not. But we can ignore that sense, change it, or get confused with all of the different voices in the world. Do you know what I mean, though, that kind of gut feeling before rational thought that something's just right? You help someone, and you just feel good.
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      Jan 25 2013: If young people seem to be disengaged and have little sense of what it means to be moral, gracious, or ethical, you may want to discuss with your peers what brought this about. It appears to be a culture change. Morality is (generally) defined as knowing and doing what is right. As I have stated earlier, a persons concept of right and wrong is determined by many factors, largely governed by the environment in which one is brought up.

      As an educator, you must know what is right and wrong in your own eyes. If you are uncertain yourself, you won't be able to convince anyone else. Don Anderson's list is a good place to start. I would add Integrity to the list. Paraphrasing Lorelei, you need to be the role model. People learn by example, not by words.

      There are plenty of examples in today's society where immoral or unethical behavior has torn lives apart. If you want to teach morality and ethics, the consequences need to be known. Those examples are a good place to start.

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