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?

  • Jan 23 2013: Morals and Ethics are not taught, they are accepted by observation of others behaviours and a decision on what your behaviour will be. That is, what you will allow yourself to do and what you will not.
    You are the only person you shouldn't lie to, although I understand that some people have decided that they can live with that behaviour.
    In my case, none of that came from any religious affiliation since I walked out of Sunday school when I was 8 because I just couldn't believe any of that crud.
    One of the worst characters in my past was the son of the local Baptist preacher. Everyone was happy when that flake moved out of town. Another kid had parents that beat him regularly but he turned out better than most.
    I think that everyone goes through a period where they explore all the big questions in life. You know, why am I here, what’s the universe all about, what is the purpose of everything.
    Naturally, you find out that there are no real answers to this and everyone is still searching.
    But nature abhors a vacuum so you fill it with what you decide is your moral code...how far you will go but no further, and what you will do and not do.
    Once you have it, most of us keep it for the rest of our lives. Some of us act as role model for our kids with the hope that they take the hint and develop their own moral code along the same lines.
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    Jan 27 2013: I can't get enough of the Talks you have posted. Every one is important and Barry Schwartz drives the point home.

    I feel, everyone enters this world ' hard-wired ' for goodness, empathy, trust and love. "Being a baby is like being in love in Paris for the first time after you’ve had three double espressos.” (Alison Gopnik)


    Once in this world, I feel, that morality, like everything else, is learned from observation as of birth. It is learned, first from one's parents, who are initial and emotive teachers, then from teachers (objectively) at school. Teachers often play a critical role because their job and privilege is to ACT ' in loco parentis'. Since our contemporary world has come to suffer from a large number of fractured families, most values must be instilled in children by teachers and mentors at schools. The teaching of morality is only possible through being the example for the child to emulate and by imparting self awareness on the children in relation to each other.

    It is taught through proper socializing of a person rather than instructional, academic or any form of enforcement.

    Discipline, physical or emotional, is counter active. While it forces obedience in the immediate, it desensitizes the person to empathy on the long run

    It is a matter of building an ' inclusive' society instead of an ' ex-clusive ' society in which individuals are socially isolated and bullied or shunned, as allowed by the 'group'.

    Morality is born and thrives in an environment of trust. Every child must feel safe in the common social environment and feel a belonging to a healthy environment.

    So actually, " Kindness, care and empathy are an essential part of EVERYONE'S job, even when and if their job does not include this in it's description. Having the moral will to do right by other people, and beyond this they should have the moral skill to figure out what 'doing right' means."(Barry Schwartz)
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    Jan 27 2013: I believe that morality is something that you hopefully are exposed to and raised with as a young child. At a certain point or time in everyone's life they have to become responsible for themselves and their actions. Great people raise bad people and bad people raise great people.

    What you and I think is moral may not fit the same criteria as what others believe. We are all products of our environment. And in this world there are more environments that anyone can imagine so, what you may consider to moral others may not.

    Morality is as individual as DNA.
  • Jan 25 2013: Based on studies in anthropology and evolutionary psychology, nature provides us with a first draft of the moral mind which include five channels - harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, purity/sanctity. The first draft is malleable and is then revised by family and culture. For further information, follow the link below.

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      Jan 25 2013: Thanks Brian - I want to spend more time looking at these five channels as it seems like a very interesting way to deliver the concept
      • Jan 25 2013: Thanks Ellen. To further enhance your discussion regarding "Is it innate?" I would also look at Sapolsky's entertaining lecture on TED at;


        He compares the moral emotions and behaviors of aggression, The Golden Rule (reciprocity), and empathy between us and other species and the unique way we exhibit them. Good Luck!
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    Lejan .

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    Jan 24 2013: Most of our fairytale culture is based on the idea to teach moral concepts to young people, yet there is no guarantee that what is taught will be taken. As moral itself is no constant entirety and is constantly changing and mixed by religious, political and social 'belief systems', it is a task on its own for each generation to do their best in trying to hand over what deems right for them in that moment in time.

    If you, as you describe, deal with young people who already 'don't care', your question is without doubt a good one!

    When I look at myself, I got all of my 'moral core values' exclusively within my family and at very young age. And this without being directly taught, like, 'Today my dear we will teach you about 'lieing', 'stealing' and 'envying' .. :o)

    It was the overall 'atmosphere' and exemplary living of all the family members - besides my older brother, of course ... :o), which was carefully guiding into directions I was able to choose from. At times with consequences if my choice wasn't welcome, yet also with understanding and support at times where I had to find my own ways.

    I personally belief, that a positive childhood in love and care is the most influential factor for the development of a strong moral compass and that 'outside' institutions like childcare, kindergarten and schools are hopelessly over-strained to compensate for that.

    If I just look at the increasing number of children in Germany with speech disorders due to a lack of communication within their families, I would not be surprised, if 'their' moral development is lacking enough 'input' too.

    As children and in terms of behavior we are choosing our role-models instinctively. This can be parents, grandparents or close relatives or even friends of the family. Important, I think is, in either case the continuity and closeness of this relationship for 'moral behavior' to transfer, as it comes as a trial and error process as well, which needs 'supervision' and constant 'correction'.
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    Jan 23 2013: Don -- as a teacher and a parent I consider myself a moral person, at least through my own perspective. Each and every day I teach, I consider the words coming out of my mouth and how they are received. As far as thinking anyone without a degree is scum, my father did not graduate from high school and was one of the smartest people I knew.
  • Jan 23 2013: My observation may be small and simple, but I do see there are differences in how people define morals. It is their behavior that defines their true morals. Theory is only theory. Religions teach specifics of behavior and the result is intended good relationships. These could be called morals of the teachings. What one really does is either in harmony or out of harmony with moral teachings.

    With that said we could ask young folks what they think of the ages-old teaching, "Do to others what you expect of others to do to you" The higher road of humankind thinking may be the widely accepted and ultimate definition of morals. So therefore, is a person in harmony with these higher values? It is these morals we hold as basis for good or bad behavior.

    Why not ask a young person to think about how they want to be treated? Ask for an honest answer. What is their understanding if in society no one cares? What are the repercussions if no one cares? Get them to think and request from them an honest answer. We don't have to stand idle as morals decline. What real threats to themselves if morals continue decline. Real social and civil problems really do come down to personal individual behavior and we humans cannot escape that fact.

    So responders, how do you reach young persons? This is the profound question asked.
  • Jan 27 2013: I think everyone enters the world hardwired for selfishness, acquisitiveness, and rudeness. Babies want what they want when they want it and cannot conceive of the possibility that someone else has needs. After that, society takes over and what we define as morals are actually guidelines on how to better achieve our personal goals. I think we have two sets of "morals"; the ones we would like to be true and the ones that society actually values and rewards. It sounds as if you wish to teach the former while the students are more in tune with the latter. The only way to change someone's moral outlook is to provide convincing concrete evidence of the efficacy of your choices. I doubt that's possible. Society is what it is and reality may not align with what we'd like it to be. You might approach it as a kind of game theory, showing the long term benefits of ethical/moral behavior over the short term benefits of unethical/immoral behavior but even the terms moral and ethical are fairly fluid.
  • Jan 27 2013: Have you read any of Robert (Bob) Altemeyer's works on right-wing authoritarianism? He's done excellent work in the field, and integrated social dominance orientation (Pratto and Sidanius) with his theoretic support. Let me know if you take a look at it, and it interests you.
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    Jan 25 2013: Our values dictate our morals (how we behave) and ethics is the language we use to discuss our morality with others.

    There is a lot of work out there about morals and moral development. You can start with a pioneer, Lawrence Kohlberg and his stages of moral development. However, his model does not always stand up to research and it is pretty well confirmed that his model does not apply to female moral development. Just do a lit search.

    Absolutely we must teach morals all the time. I get students ready for a profession. In this profession sometimes they need to support the value and morals of others which means they must suspend their own values and morality. It is a huge leap for many. But they cannot act on their values and morals because they now understand the values and morals of the profession. They better behave as a professional or they will not achieve professional status.

    There are many many professions with distinct professional values and to be a professional, you must act in accordance with the profession, which means you must integrate professional values to behave morally within that profession.

    Here is a sample of a values clarification sheet that can begin the discussion of values, morals, and ethics in the classroom.
    http://www.sofia.edu/resources/crc/pdf/values.pdf. I would recommend you clarify your institutional values before initiating this kind of thing.
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      Jan 25 2013: I agree Linda and have read Kohlberg. To model behavior I have begun creating service opportunities which they get credit for
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        Jan 25 2013: What I can tell you is you need to make sure to articulate outcomes to assign credit. The DOE is coming down heavy on credit and credit hours. Good luck.
  • Jan 25 2013: Yes, you can teach young people to be moral, however the most strong influence comes from parents at the most early ages of the child development. So once again: Yes, morality is something that must be taught at home. And to answer your last question: I don't think morality is purely innate or purely learned, I believe a small part is innate and the rest is learned.

    If young people seem to be incredibly disengaged form others, and have little sense of what it means to moral, gracious or ethical, and don't care, the blame is on their parents, because they didn't pay enough attention to their kids when they needed it the most. What most parents do, is to endorse their kids to the public education system hoping they don't have to pay too much attention to them, leaving all the load to the teachers, and then, when a teacher becomes strict, they go to the principals office and make a fuzz, complaining about that evil teacher, who dare to correct the poor little child who is so innocent... And I want to make it clear that I am not a teacher, but this is what I see as a common denominator, so in my humble opinion that is why universities are full of students that don't have a clue about what morality or ethics mean, and they don't give a dime.

    Like I said, I believe is possible to teach young people to be moral, however I don't think college students can learn this subjects by theory and lectures, what you require is something more physical.
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      Jan 25 2013: As a parent and a teacher I agree with your assessment...when I taught high school I would get phone calls from irate parents when I gave their kids a bad grade; they blamed everyone - me, the school, society- but never themselves or their child. I do think that in order for there to be a moral society we must first take responsibility for our actions.
  • Jan 25 2013: The American Mental Health Association believes there is an ever increasing rate of mental disfunction even though more and more public money is being spent to correct the problem(s). And many people in this discussion have described a disconnect of individuals with society. This disconnect is, IMHO, much of the problem. Many people in our society today are disconnected but everything is fine for them because agencies pay the bills. Years and decades ago this was not so. For example, parents named godparents for their children in case something should happen to them (the parents). In other words, people relied on the community for support and survival, not an ever extending hand of governmental and NGO agencies.
    So why would I agree to connect with society if I can apply for and receive aid from an agency? Can't I just do what I want? And doesn't being a member of society mean getting along with the status quo? The problem is, the status quo isn't perfect so many don't want to slither through this human muck. We are imperfect, frail, guilt ridden, and not anything like a perfect, omni present, omni powerful God who will never forsake us.
    To this I say, Forgiveness is divine. Prayer is used to remind and remind. Failure is what we do but not and end. So let us try, try, try again and again. Amen.
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    Jan 25 2013: Hi Ellen, here is my concept:

    I have been digging into my ancestry (including getting DNA ancestry) and during my search I came across the “The Nine Noble Virtues” and I can’t think of better virtues to follow and teach.
    1. Courage
    2. Truth
    3. Honour
    4. Fidelity
    5. Discipline
    6. Hospitality
    7. Self-Reliance
    8. Industriousness
    9. Perseverance

    There is nothing about religion in them, nor can I see anything a religion would abject to.
    They are thought and discussion provoking.
    For example: Is truth something you seek, tell, or accept?

    Do you have the "courage" to accept the "truth" that you eat poorly, and have the "discipline" and "perseverance" to change? And can you be "industrious" enough to find food that is healthy and taste.

    I wonder if optimism should be a 10th virtue.
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      Jan 25 2013: These are great - do you know where they came from?
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        Jan 25 2013: Yes, hehehe my Viking ancestors.
        That is right there were noble Vikings, in fact as I’m discovering the Vikings were not as history generally depicts them.
        They had tools 100s of years ahead of Europe, one blacksmith made swords 2,000 years ahead of Europe. Russia is named after the Swedish noble Vikings (called Rus) that traded along the Volga River.

        You can Google “Nine Noble Virtues” and get more information, history and interpretations.
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    Jan 25 2013: Children need to be taught rules of decent behaviour so that they will grow up to be responsible citizens. There are certain moral rules and values that has to be inculcated in children during the formative years so that they would be able to make choices that benefitial to them and to the society.
    This is the responsibility of parents, even though teachers and schools are stakeholders.
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      Jan 25 2013: I agree but I think it is important to remember that children spend most of their day with their teachers and peers in school
  • Jan 25 2013: Morality is a very personal yet vague notion. Every society has or had thier own form of norms that would be equated to morals. I believe parents play an extremely important role in the moral growth of their children. Sharing personal stories and learning points work to a certain extent.

    Proviidng quantity time as opposed to quality time made a difference to me as a child. Whenever I wanted to talk or such, my dad would always be there for me, even though he was pulling in minimum wage and long hours. HE instilled in me a great sense of responsibility as well as a sense of morals that have put me in good stead with my peers. While morals may shift, the values we give as significant figures in children's life enable them to evolve.

    As an educator, I applaud you in your attempt to teach ethics and morality. It's not easy. Especially as they come to you at this age, where they have already 'tasted' the world.
    The Scouts have a term that Scouting means 'Doing". Nothing beats a lesson on morality than to get into the trenches and do physical work.

    Using lesson times to work at the homeless shelters/orphanages to make new furniture or to even organise long term stints as "Big Brother' to the underpriviledged and other such programmes will really help them to shape their ethics and sense of morality. It did for me.
  • Jan 24 2013: Morality - Its time to redefine morality like anything else as things have changed over course of time. When these words were created situation was different - I think most kids or younger people or people who wants to understand Morality or value of Moral science get confused with what is being told and what is happening. In Older days as there was no diversity among common people what was told to one person was acceptable and was practised almost by entire society but now coz its world of globalization every community is diversified so every one has different moral values for e.g. For Person from one cultural background killing animal for food is bad moral values and for other its part of life. So this brings in agreement with few comments which says "Moral values cannot be told" but on other hand because society need some rules and moral values to sustain itself -, we need to redefine moral values according to modern society. Once our modern society does that I think it will be easier to make new generation understand what are moral values
    • Jan 25 2013: I agree. But how are we going to define these new morals?
      • Jan 25 2013: Thats where schools come in - so far by large morality is taught through religion in one or other form but if kids are taught moral science with facts and little more scientific way it can solve the issue. Few hiccups can occure while preparing the curriculm in start but I guess thats achievable. Now about little older generation or "teens" - I think it will be hard but can be tried through ways which suits them and we all know social media is great on this . Make things cool for them and they will adapt it - force it and they will rebel against it. But in nutshell new scientific and factual moral science has to be part of curriculm starting grade 1. I hope i was able to make my point clear.
        • Jan 26 2013: The problem is that I don't think you could ever get people to agree on what's right and wrong. You could get schools to teach philosophy/scientific method for sure, but as for "This is wrong, this is right" I don't think you could ever get that to work.
  • Jan 24 2013: I think morality is innate until ego intrudes. '' In the land of innocent there are no gods "
    I have serious doubts that morality can be taught, what can be taught is a set of dos and don'ts and it never works properly and shouldn't. Morality is absorbed 24/7 from environment, any kind of environment : political social family ....nature.
    Nature is the best teacher, if we are truly attentive. I would say the only teacher.
    The practical advice may look like : ' live as you teach ' . Whatever we are teaching our children our attitude morality spirituality goes trough us and is absorbed by them without words mediation, directly , then comes back to us ...and so it goes on and on.
    Something like this ... :)
  • Jan 24 2013: I think we still attempt to instill morals like we
    always have. It is true, as you say, that we are
    "Bombarded with sex, foul language, violence,
    and overall chaos," but we still have moral
    standards. I think these standards are ingrained,
    innate, and we couldn't get rid of them if we tried. I agree that the bombardment has to have
    had some effect on how moral our behavior is at
    times, but short of becoming a dictatorial society,
    that's just how it's going to be. Teaching kids to
    think analytically and to be self-reflective will help
    to some degree.
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    Jan 24 2013: We have a good and evil side in all of us. Which side becomes dominant is partly innate and partly what we learn from each other. Environment conditioning plays a major role.

    We learn from many different forums. School is one. Media is one. Home is one. Church is one (if you go). Peer pressure is one. Role models are one. Internet is one.
    Today schools teach that God isn't important, most likely doesn't exist. So we get our signals from science; "survival of the fittest" and "we are a cosmic accident" are loud and clear. Video games that require killing to win the game add to the "survival of the fittest" notion. And when the media tells us that the world is coming to an end, what is right is what will keep you alive.
    The idea that there may be divine retribution kept our parents in line. They thought about what they were doing because there may be far reaching penalties involved. Today, penalties are only evident in wrongdoing if you get caught. Getting away with what you can get away with is growing like a plague. Fortunately, most people still have integrity. But when push comes to shove, morality is no longer the main issue. It's all about survival. This is a hard thing to bear when you are trying to teach what is right because people have so many different notions about what is right.

    Before you can instill morality, you must first establish is this all there is to life, or are we part of something much bigger than ourselves! "All is fair in love and war" and "Might makes right" are very strong statements. Is this true, or is there more to it than that?
    • Jan 25 2013: I feel like atheists and agnostics want to have their cake and eat it too. Everybody wants to do the right thing. The problem is, when you take God out of the equation, there's no way to tell what's "right" anymore. There just isn't. So many people are trying to, but it just can't work. The end result of atheism is that we are animals, there is no purpose to life, so you might as well do what you want and have fun. There can be no right or wrong as atheists, but I feel like nobody wants to admit that. Those of you who are atheists, what do you think? Am I completely wrong here?
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    Jan 23 2013: I don’t believe schools stop teaching morality, because teachers have no morals.
    I’m sorry but morality is more than accepting other nationalities and sexual preference, appreciating art. Liberal arts are without ethics they not even accept any religion and treat women as a subclass, and anyone without a university degree as scum.

    Yes the young need to learn to live by all the noble virtues, but schools would warp the meaning of them to fit their own egos. So how about teaching students to be professional in the work place and good at their carrier.
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    Gail .

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    Jan 23 2013: I have MANY really VIVID memories of being a very young child - from being in my crib as an infant, my first time in a high chair, my first steps, the first time I ran, and the time that I realized that I knew more than my parents about what the world looked like and how it worked.

    I would say that children can teach morality to parents from the time that they are able to articulate ideas - however roughly. The problem is that parents think that they know better.

    To give you context, my grandfather died with I was 4. My family was upset. I wasn't. I understood that though he was no longer around, he wasn't "Dead dead". I tried to tell them that "He's dead, but he isn't DEAD dead". I could feel him in the greater reality of which I was. They were upset and put me down for a nap. They disregarded everything that I was trying to tell them.

    That's when I realized that they didn't know about the real world. (which is how I saw it). It's a world where things that you call morality are known. Their world (the physical one) was so incomplete that it was isolating and scary. It was full of mistakes. But they didn't believe me. I was four, after all.

    It took a lot of years to get back what I was taught how to dispense with (at my own expense). That which our culture calls "moral" is not very moral in my estimation. If it were, I wouldn't be living in a white christian man's world. I would be afforded full humanhood with the right to own my body - as would homosexuals and other groups. I wouldn't be subjected to laws that serve Christianity and denigrate me.

    I learned how to disrespect others by learning that my view (that was right) is really wrong and couldn't be trusted.

    I'm not interested in learning "morality" from those who have no idea of what morality is.
  • M K

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    Jan 23 2013: I like to believe that morality can indeed be taught to the newer generation. However I do not believe that morals and ethics can adopted by force. An instructor such as yourself should know the familiar disposition of being lost as a young student finding their own path in life. I suggest talking to a professor in Philosophy, as their teachings are exactly that.
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    Jan 23 2013: As you are working with college students, here is one resource: http://www.fordham.edu/academics/office_of_research/research_centers__in/center_for_ethics_ed/index.asp
    Moral behavior is taught by parents, teachers, and everyone a child encounters. Because it has been such a longstanding interest within education, there must be a lot of curricula on which to draw for any grade level.

    Ethics is best taught, I think, by bringing forward cases, or situations, in which kids can discuss what to do and from the different situations deduce basic principles.

    I don't agree that young people have little sense of what it means to be moral, gracious, or ethical. Most are exposed to standards and expectations at home which may be different from what any particular person considers best behavior. They refine their views under the influence of peers during adolescence and the teenage years.

    Kids love talking about what is fair and are acutely conscious of whether adults in their lives are treating them fairly and respectfully.
    • W T

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      Jan 23 2013: Your comment made me remember a conversation I had with a group of teenagers at a middle school.

      We were discussing freedom, and one of them was really upset that he had been thrown out of a Walgreens. He was furious that he and his friends could not go into the Walgreens and hang out, afterall, this is the United States, and there is freedom to go wherever you want to.

      I asked him several questions about the intent of his visit to the Walgreens, and what he and his friends did once they were in the store.

      Then I explained the difference between freedom, and a free-for-all.

      In his teenage mind he felt like the victim. He was seriously upset at beeing thrown out of Walgreens.

      After the discussion was over, he understood the other side of the coin.

      As an educator, I have always found these "teachable moments" very valuable in the classroom.
      Young adults are very observant, but they are not good at discerning other's points of views, or how their actions or lack of actions may be perceived by adults.

      They are so bent on their rights, they fail to think of other's rights.

      And I think as educators, we have to be aware of this type of dangerous thinking, and be on the lookout for these teachable moments where we can reach out and help our young people understand what is truly fair.

      Your point Fritzie is a very valuable one.
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        Jan 23 2013: Middle school is a great age for engaging kids in getting more nuanced views of words and ideas, to cultivate a disposition to be thoughtful and to consider the other side.
  • W T

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    Jan 23 2013: Parents usually teach their morality to their children. Sometimes by word, sometimes by actions. Sometimes by both words and actions.

    And, even though some children are raised in an environment that might not be helpful for rearing what some would call a moral child, still the child can choose how they will lead their life as they grow older.

    I don't think you can really 'teach' morality. Although, some individuals change for the better after undergoing, for example, a Bible study with a religious group, or therapy of some sort....etc....

    Some on TED have stated before that what is moral to one person, might not be moral to others.

    There are alot of different lines of thoughts related to your great question....I'll have to follow the topic and see what others say.
  • Jan 28 2013: ...when everything is working on Fear, Opportunity and Greed...connect the morals and ethics with the same..homeopathy gives sweet to support medicine, we need to reverse...selling sweet but not in sweet...

  • Jan 28 2013: Who cares whether or not it is inate if you can teach it. Here's how. 1) Tell your pupil how important it is that there is altruism in the world, talking about ghandi or however you want to inspire this do-good feeling. 2) Drop a bit of money (enough to be meaningful) in a place where you know where your pupil will find it. 3) If the pupil finds it and gives it to you, give them some and emphasize how good of a person they are for giving the money back. Even give them some of it and also donate some of the money on their behalf to some cause to which they might be sympathetic. Let them see how it helps them and others. If they keep the money, catch them and make them feel extremely guilty (don't wuss out) verbally. Regardless, you are trading incentives/reinforcers for a learning opportunity. I would say that often people are verbally reminded of morals, but don't get many chances to practice. I say give them a few practice opportunities and show them how good it feels to help people and do good. No disrespect to those that want to talk about the philosophy of this, but regardless, if you can teach it, teach it. If you want more, talk to a behavior analyst (yes, they exist, are good, and are expensive).
  • Jan 28 2013: Consider that if you want to change behaviors, you need to change the operating reward systems. If you can do that, you can get at least the results you want, if not actual attitude change.
  • Jan 28 2013: moral and ethical values are essential tools of human nature. we are born greedy. the pleasure is seen in material, this is a basic wrong direction where people crazily participate and ruin the harmony of nature. present generation is not taken care in this subject since the parents as well schools are busy in their own commitments. less attention is paid to inculcate self esteem and character. this is built on moral and ethical nurturing. the growth of discipline and understanding of human relation takes place. nation with moral beggars is better than unhappy millionaires.
  • Jan 26 2013: Its not a problem its nature of every animal and human is civilized animal and thats why we have schools wherew we can start teaching kids and so called education system has to be lil strict in discipline. Kids can be taught not adults or teens especially when there is no discipline in modern society
  • Jan 26 2013: yes morality is innate, there have been many studies that show that even animals have morals, and most of them are connected with society, in that when you behave morally you will not be ostracized from the group and have to fend for yourself. there was an interesting bbc documentary quite a few years back no (sorry don't remember the title) that examined the flaws of game theory. basically in a single encounter sure you're likely to get more from acting in your own interest, but in a society where interactions tend rarely to be once off (and even if they are there's also your reputation from previous one-off interactions) both parties come out ahead when both parties play nice. they also found that punishing those who do not play nice leads to great sharing and increased future benefits for the one punished, as well as the 'victim'.

    that said we have the potential for both - ie were are innately moral but we also innately try to get the upper hand, and children need lessons in that regard, to reinforce that their innate feelings of fairness get followed while the innate urge to try to get away with having more is understood to be self-defeating.
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      Jan 26 2013: Very interesting re: game theory as I was of the belief that games (and competition) teach one to further their own interest rather than the interest of the whole. Having just spent some time reading about the conflict in Sudan, there are some strong global examples of the immorality that comes from acting to further one's objectives while ignoring the needs of the group.
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        Jan 27 2013: Game theory actual includes consideration of games in which there are repeated interactions as well as games in which the best outcome is achieved only if the parties recognize and act on their mutual interests. There are zero sum games in which every win is paired with a loss, but there are also games that are not zero sum.
      • Jan 27 2013: "Very interesting re: game theory as I was of the belief that games (and competition) teach one to further their own interest rather than the interest of the whole."

        Depends upon the type of game such as win/lose , win/win, or lose/lose. Chess - self (individual) versus other (individual), war - us (ingroup) versus them (outgroup). We tend to define our morality in terms of the "whole" or "other" by our ingroup such as self, family, friends, town, tribe, city, state, country, and mankind. As ingroup gets larger, the activation of our emotional brain (limbic) tends to decrease or becomes completely inactive because we were designed to be local by evolution. However, culture can accentuate ingroup/outgroup differences and can lead to the "other" being defined as stupid, lazy, evil, etc. (limbic) or maybe we are just "ignoring the needs of the group" (apathy, nonlimbic). Isn't that all of us, Ellen? Thanks for letting me respond to your thoughts.
        • Jan 27 2013: chess only if you go for a single game though. you start a league where multiple interactions are likely and cooperation is likely to spontaneously appear. it even happened during the first world war, confounding the generals as peace was breaking out along the front, with soldiers deliberately missing and warning the other side before they sent off artillery.

          agree with you about the group/other, as does steven pinker evidently as he lists the increasing size of our groups as one of the 4 possible reasons as to why violence has been steadily declining for millenia. mark twain also seems to agree as he said "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness".
        • Jan 28 2013: sorry can't reply directly to your most recent comment, please see below.
      • Jan 27 2013: found it over the weekened, a bbc horizon episode entitled "nice guys finish first". it's on the tubes.
        • Jan 28 2013: Thanks Ben. Great points regarding multiple interactions leading to cooperation. Regarding group/other, I was actually taking a more pessimistic view of our chances for a more peaceful world because of our evolutionary limitations. However, after watching Pinker's talk on TED, I realize he makes a strong case for the decline in the rate of violence because of technology, increased standards of living, and trade which increases the size of our ingroup. However, couldn't one make the case that technology has amplified both the power and accessibility of weapons that can destroy so therefore even though the rate of violence has decreased historically the probability of a catastrophic event has increased?
      • Jan 28 2013: i see what you mean in that 1 person could have a much larger effect than in the past, however the repercussions have also grown. if there was a catastrophic event the perpetrator would have nowhere to go these days, so even if a strong party such as a state approved of the action, they wouldn't be able to actually give support because it would be known and they'd suffer all manner of boycotts and other forms of lashback. recently the bank UBS chose just to pay nearly $2 billion (not million!) in fines over their libor scam rather than contest them, my guess is that this is because they know they'd lose a lot more if their practices became more widely known. with elections too back in the day you only ever had to give the impression of being decent when your picture was being taken, but nowadays there are recorders behind every vase to catch you in the act before you get the chance to do anything heinous.
        • Jan 28 2013: I hope you are right. All we need is one attack and the results could be catastrophic, especially if the attackers see the rewards in the afterlife versus this life, Thanks for your response.
  • Jan 25 2013: http://djcandylovebeat.wordpress.com/157-2/

    my blog site has it all please read all of my posts i wrote articular challenged for the earth as i see through the eyes of all of you
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    Jan 25 2013: I do not think that morality is innate. I strongly believe that It is learned from our environment, as shown by the fact that our moral codes have changed throughout history.
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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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    Jan 25 2013: Ellen, have you read this book by Dr. Kent Keith?
    It might be worth a read in your case.

  • Jan 25 2013: The teacher must be a charismatic leader. The students must look up to the teacher. Then the students will learn the teacher's morality.

    Prove rationally and demonstrate through storytelling the negative consequences of immoral behavior.

    Reach for their guts.
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    Jan 24 2013: .
    Morality is the rules of human symbiosis in our soul.
    It contains our instincts (the successful experiences of our ancestors saved in DNA) plus new rules made today.

    The instinctive part is innate.

    The new part acquired today should be taught, the earlier the better.
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    Jan 24 2013: We've had a few discussions on the age divide and the sudden rise of the disconnect with our young but reading further along has shown there might be different avenues.
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    Jan 24 2013: Makes me wonder how we change this as a society? Can we change it?
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      Jan 24 2013: Ellen, people will find it easier to keep track of who you are replying to if you use the Reply button that appears to the right of their names. A box will then pop up below the comment to which you are responding and your new comment will be indented under the comment to which you are replying.
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    Jan 24 2013: G'day Ellen

    We once had churches & their related religions in the west guide us in this area but that has deminished over the last number of dacades & now young people have very little guidance in this area.

    Morality & ethics isn't a natural process that we just take on, like any other process it has to be learnt. Morals & ethics can be taught in the home however this will only work to the degree of respect, we really need a social base that we can respect like we once did to learn from, you can't learn from a disrespectful mode of thought as one must have respect to learn freely from.

    There is so much media out there showing the young how to be less respectful & emoral these days as well which doesn't of course help with young minded values. The answer isn't easy of course but obtainable if one is willing to at least see the cause of such immoral & unethical values.

    • Jan 24 2013: Organised religion has nothing to do with morals.
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        Jan 24 2013: G’day Geraldene

        If you mean that organised religion isn’t moral because of religious wars, numerous acts of paedophilia, building up wealthy church states while the poor go hungry & so on & so on yes I would agree. I’m not religious myself however religion did teach us morals when we were young especially in concern with the Ten Commandments of course they did this while being immoral themselves which we were blinded too.

        I still think we miss & still need a structure social body to learn from but of course something a little more moral & ethical than what we had.

  • Jan 24 2013: lol! What a great opener! I hope it's the start of some great discussions for you and your class..
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    Jan 24 2013: Agreed...I think everyone has had pretty horrible teacher experiences where a teacher has tried to instill their ethics or morals and you're right that it is hard not to do so. The key really is to get across that we all see things in a contextual light, through our own experiences and viewpoints, and that is a good thing. Debate and questioning is what makes us human beings...this thread has actually forced me to relook at some of my own classroom technics and has also made me think that there are alot of smart people who together could change the world.
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      Jan 24 2013: I did not mean, actually, that it is hard for a teacher not to try to instill her ethics or morals on others. I meant that you show your values in how you behave and the environment you create in your class. Students, if they respect you from observing you, may take you as one of their role models.

      I don't know that everyone has had such horrible teacher experiences. I had teachers whose values were different from mine, certainly, and relatives as well, but among all these their values were so different that it never seemed more than a menu of possible beliefs.

      One value that came forward strongly to me is that teachers (like most any group) are very different from one to the next. But many people, I notice, believe that everyone in the profession is fundamentally the same- in some negative way.
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        Jan 24 2013: You're joking right Fritzie?

        I still think it's a calling and still honorable but Ellen has raised an idea that we have been discussing "Performance ratings" but it makes me uncomfortable as it could alter the teacher in some way.
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          Jan 24 2013: Evaluation of performance is a part of most professions. When I was a secondary level teacher, I was observed and evaluated by the principal and also reviewed by students each year.

          At university assistant (untenured) and associate (tenured) are reviewed by their peers and by students. Full professors are reviewed by students, certainly, and I have known full professors to get a talking to by their departments if something, like teaching, seemed not to be going right. Any level of professor is reviewed on his/her research by funding sources and peers.

          I don't know the system at community colleges. For example, I don't know what proportion of the instructors are tenured.

          I don't think it is fair to assume without empirical evidence that tenured staff stop being interested in new ideas. At a university tenured staff often prioritize research and focus their new ideas there. I don't know whether community colleges have a research expectation of their teachers.
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        Jan 24 2013: We had a debate down here in Nz about whether a teacher should be paid relative to their performance ratings which had a few of us up n arms as the current government wants to rip our education system apart and push for charter schools.
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          Jan 24 2013: I did not realize you were talking about merit pay. That is a challenging issue and off of Ellen's current topic. I think we had a thread on this recently, didn't we?
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        Jan 24 2013: Oops, I smiled when i read your reply, definitely off topic though i never saw the recent thread on it. I better get back on topic. If there is such a good self regulatory system in the States then is some teachers and professors disconnected as well as some of the kids?
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          Jan 24 2013: I don't understand your question. I was responding only to the question of performance evaluation.

          There is not a great system of performance evaluation, if that is what you are asking, but performance evaluation in education gets a huge amount of attention at the school, district, state, and national level. That is what the outcry is about with respect to testing kids so much, even as practical tests are unable to measure what we want children to understand and be able to do and the part of growth over which the teacher could be said to have control.
          It's not that people are not being evaluated and that no one is thinking about accountability. As Pat would say, the big problem is a valid and defensible set of metrics that are economical to administer and easy to understand.The issues in higher ed are different. At major universities, path-breaking research and the quality of scholarship are often prioritized over teaching. Systems of rewards reflect those priorities.
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        Jan 24 2013: Thanks Fritzie, Sorry about the Q, I don't fully understand where i was going myself but something is there that i can't put my finger on and when this happens it can sometimes comes out in strange esoteric mumbo jumbo. It will probably come to me well after Ellens conversation has ended. This is very interesting as my countries latest peeve is with helicopter parents disrupting the natural flow of child development in risk taking by constantly hovering over them.
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    Jan 23 2013: Believe it or not my daughter actually was caught plagiarizing last year...an English prof's daughter? Pretty mortifying and the bigger issue was that most of the class did it
    • Jan 24 2013: Dear Ellen,
      I'm eves-dropping on this conversation at the moment, but this comment I just had to reply to.
      Thank you for helping me feel a little bit more normal about being a parent. It seems I am the only one who is happy to admit that doing homework is a conxtant shouting/ begging/ bribing struggle in our house. I seem surrounded by mothers whose children 'just know they need to do it'. Hmmm. If your daughter can be human too, there is hope for me.
      I'm sure she's brilliant, it's the damn cut and paste- too easy with the internet and computers. When I did my papers, it was hand writing.

      On topic, I think humans are essentially 'moral', but ethics will vary between cultures etc, including within jobs (think bankers vs doctors)

      I currently live in SE asia, and I think it's pretty unethical to push in front of my young children to get on a train, but not the little old ladies here. I was raised in a different culture.
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    Jan 23 2013: I find that many of my colleagues, especially those tenured (I am one year away from tenure), are reticent to try anything new; even the discussion of teaching ethics/morals through literature was dismissed. Much of the resistance may be the simple get tenure/burn out syndrome but I can't put my finger on the disinterest - do they really not care anymore? I am off on a tangent here but even though I am a member of a teacher's union, I have to say that I see the benefits of having a performance based system.
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      Jan 24 2013: Some pieces of literature, lend themselves to teaching some ethics/morals.
      I mean, how do you stop a teacher from discussing ethics/morals in a classroom? And I would imagine that in college, the discussions/conversations with the students may even lead to many paradigm shifts among the class members.

      As for performance based systems, how would you go about evaluating a college professor's performance?
      As a university student we always had to turn in an evaluation of the teacher at the end of the semester.

      And Ellen, please hit the reply button on the right by my name to reply to this comment.....otherwise I will not know you replied to me. thanks
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    Jan 23 2013: As far as lack of knowledge...I was teaching the Joyce Carol Oates story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" which is dedicated to Bob Dylan; not one student out of 30 knew who he was. Now I am teaching a seminar on the Beat Generation writers up to Ken Kesey and not one student heard of Jack Kerouac or On The Road - in fact they have no clue what the Beat Generation was. Any history is learned via the Internet or in snippets of less than 160 characters. The good and redeeming news is that once introduced to these works they are blown away and intrigued...
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      Jan 24 2013: One of the great things a teacher can do is bring to the foreground, as you have, some of the big ideas that would be easy to miss in self-education.

      In terms of your broader project, teachers cannot help but convey values, I believe. My interpretation of the resistance below is that some respondents believe you mean that teachers would lecture students on what to do in a host of situations (rather than engaging students to allow their ideas to evolve in discourse). Many people who engage regularly in TED Conversations have had horrible experiences with their teachers in their early educations and are inclined on considering teachers and schooling to assume the worst in terms of competency, character, empathy, and so forth.
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    Jan 23 2013: Well, that's a scary thought. Can you give some examples of what you mean?
  • Jan 23 2013: I would suggest you look at Jonathan Haidt's TED talk concerning the difference between liberals and conservatives. He discusses moral intuitions which are innate based on studying commonalities across various cultures of the world. There are six or seven moral channels or "first drafts" that are then tweaked by family, society, and the context of the issue. You can also look at Sapolsky's TED talk at Stanford to identify some of the same moral channels in other species. So it appears the answer is that we are born with an evolutionary first draft.that is mediated by our environment.
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    Jan 23 2013: Good points Alan and I struggle with that but address it by saying that everyone has a bias, that we see things through our own context so all I can do is showcase the morals essential to different cultures. A great example occurred with some of my Korean students - in Korea there is simply no such thing as plagiarism. In fact it is considered an honor to have others site and use your work. Accordingly my Korean students constantly hand in papers that are cut and pasted or sometimes are the same paper as their friend. Rather than judge this ethic or moral we discussed how each culture has its own standards so is it our right to judge? You are correct as it is a tricky situation
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      Jan 23 2013: I know some educators who do not have a problem with accepting cut and paste projects.
      They simply just want the students to trudge through the assignment, without any concern of how they get it done.

      Do you think they will read the papers once they are handed in??? Doubt it!!

      I remember we had deadlines to meet as we completed research papers.

      We had to turn in 3 x 5 cards with main points we would be addressing, and where we were getting our information.

      I think that the internet has made it so easy for kids to plagiarize (and it starts in elementary).....this must be a big challenge to college professors such as yourself.
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    Jan 23 2013: What is intriguing to me is the fact that I am being met with resistance from other educators...I really think we need to start addressing what are the ills that our society face. My students, and my own children, have become incredibly self involved with little knowledge of the history that has come before or the journeys others have taken.
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      Jan 23 2013: The resistance you are getting is resistance to what exactly?
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    Jan 23 2013: Whether or not morals are innate is something for the brain scientists to sort out.

    In my classroom, I teach limited morals: no cheating, no stealing, no lying. I know that many of my kids cheat and steal and lie outside of my clssroom (and occasionally inside it), but they can recite the lessons without internalizing them.

    We discuss the reasons and the advantages gained when we follow morals in the classroom. My job is not to teach morals much beyond that, though. It gets messy quickly if I try. Whose moral standards would I teach? What do I do if I am told to teach a moral standard that opposes my own? Sticky quickly.
  • Jan 23 2013: Honestly, I must say, having religion has taught me a lot about morality.
    (Not saying that following all those commands in Bible makes me "moral".
    And sometimes I fail to follow some of them.)

    Living in a country where Confucian ideas prevail also has influenced me to behave morally.
    (Whether I like it or not, I should respect adults and use the honorific as long as I'm here in Korea.)

    Having quite strict parents also has had good effects on me: They’ve encouraged me to help others.

    Those three "influences" are almost main ethical barriers that keep me doing the right thing.
    Those are surely much more powerful than “oxytocin”.

    I don't think people are naturally born to be moral.
    "Ethical stimuli", like surrounding by morally appropriate or encouraging environment can contribute to moral behaviors.

    Not to mention, when challenged, my logical ground for thinking, "this" or "that" would be moral would fundamentally depend on my intuition: My mom didn't teach me like this.
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      Jan 23 2013: Elizabeth - my Korean students are by far the most respectful students as they would never think of not doing their work or reading or of talking in class. This cultural difference is intriguing to me on many levels
      • Jan 24 2013: Yeah, hopefully, in a good way, they are polite and respectful..

        Cultural difference could be one of powerful factors that shape one's moral code.
        Or...could be vice versa.
        By no means, it should oppress one's freedom.

        Koreans, just like most of other Asians, happen to care more about others and further, our society than each individual (Well, nowadays people are getting more ego-centric, though)

        Although being respectful to the elderly is a good thing, if one can't find a way to live in harmony with this moral code, he would no doubt regard his culture as unnecessary.

        For me, comparing my country to other countries, like America, helped me a lot to think more about Ethics and Philosophy. By thinking critically, I got to understand the reason why I should do this or shouldn't do this.
        I don't necessarily follow all those moral duties in my country, and some are distorted and not being respected in some way.

        Nonetheless, I believe this cultural power helps establish good ethical models for young generation in my country in a way that it embraces our society.
  • Jan 23 2013: Morality can and should be taught at home. Home is the best learning environment for childre. Parents have to set good examples of morality so that it will be easy for their children to learn.
  • Jan 23 2013: Let's say morality is a set of culturally specific external values or principles that become animated when internalized at an individual level and are evidenced by behavior. If that's the case, morality is really just a set of rules with effective PR. If that's what we're talking about, the success rate of teaching morality will probably be the same as the success rate of teaching any system of rules, and for all the same reasons. Nature nurture debates are circular and take us nowhere. Better to think about what we actually want to achieve and then decide the best route to get there. Far better, in my opinion, to teach empathy. This can be taught. Empathy shapes behavior towards others far more effectively than rules. And best to start early. Where might that leave you? Perhaps looking into how young adults can be taught empathy. And then discuss morality later. When it comes to rules, you can be sure that they have very strong ones of their own. And have fun with it. Roll into class one day late, don't apologize, say you couldn't be bothered to plan anything so they'll just have to sit in silence. If that's not what you usually do, you'll get a response. Use that response to spark a discussion about how they want to be treated. Use that as a bridge to evolve the discussion into how our behavior impacts others, what we mean by respect, whether it goes both ways and so on. Those are approaches I've found effective and best of all fun...
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      Jan 23 2013: Today I tried the following...I pretended that I couldn't find the classroom, came in harried and then told them that I am not taking attendance, they are adults and can decide if they want to waste their money and not come to class or come to class, they are not going to have due dates for anything and then I gave them a freewrite where they could not use capitals, grammar or proper spelling. They absolutely freaked out without rules and regulations and every one of them used periods and capitals.
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    Jan 23 2013: That is good advice as it bolsters your knowledge..thanks Don
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    Jan 23 2013: Ellen,

    You are clearly one of many that are exceptions, just by you starting this conversation shows that to be true. And I freely admit my views have been warped by my 6-12 schooling and by the current university where I work. Although the university is rated nicely it is also the lowest paying university in the state, so low there are lot of employees live below the poverty line. And I had go and go, but that would server no purpose.

    Anyway I did have a great mentor at my first job, and for student development I’m thinking a focus on work place behaviors would the greatest benefit to them. Being professional to co-workers, even when there is personality issues, developing a good work ethic, and not doing anything unethical even when a boss ask you to. Building trust and a good reputation is hard work, and is worth it.

    One piece of advice I got when I first start was to read two articles on your trade at least once a week, and have found it to have been great advice.
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    Jan 23 2013: I agree with you Mary - thanks Random
  • Jan 23 2013: The basics of morality are taught at an early age, after all. To teach and inform on what's right from wrong is one of the most important roles for a parent raising their toddler. However, those are just the basics. When it comes to being gracious, ethics, and then trying to understand how your morals can define who you are, things tend to become complex. I believe that in some way, these characteristics can be obtained if one is spontaneously exposed to them and chooses to understand their importance. Instead of teaching them on how to be good and do the right thing, I think there'd be more of an effect if (whoever it was being the "sage" in this case) just puts emphasis on the importance of good morals and ethics. To discuss the change it CAN bring in a society, to discuss it's rarity and so on and so forth. Just open the door, they'll do the walking.
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      Jan 23 2013: "Just open the door, they'll do the walking"...........now that is wonderful advice....

      There is also a talk I saw once, where the speaker, addressing college students, makes the point that in life, it is best to teach others with stories, and then let the individuals make their own application.

      I cannot think of any better way to respect another individual's dignity and freedom of choice.

      We humans are a work in progress.....
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        Jan 23 2013: Stories can indeed be a wonderful way to start conversations.
  • Jan 23 2013: Since most of the so-called "morality" we have today is wrong, false, misused, broken by those who teach it and who have taught it, along with many not even knowing themselves what morality is, what exactly would someone like yourself teach others?

    Sounds to me like you believe or might want people to be "gracious, ethical, and what you term moral" in a world where that simply does not pay, benefit them or help because those who have given us these "moral codes" break them every day (for whatever reason) and have rigged the game 100% percent against those who would follow your terms.

    What I was taught (lied about) was 180 degrees different from Mark down the street, a few blocks away.
    I could tell he was taught something good and I wasn't. I knew by the time I was 3 years old, that I was one totally fucked up human being, even though I had no words to describe, explain or tell anyone with. I also, through some kind of child intuition, knew that I didn't know. If that makes any sense. It's difficult to explain even today.

    Today, I make my own morals, my own code.
    It really aligns with what I had heard other people say, had read what other people wrote and that was that the true power of life, is that one can do whatever they want to do.
    The added feature for me, is knowing today that there is no such thing as karma. That is why the power of life can be so frightening.

    Maybe a good place to start would be asking them to attempt to define morality themselves without being the slightest bit brainwashed with any ideas coming from someone else. That would taint the experiment, so to speak.

    Some one said, "morals and ethics are not taught." Bullshit. I am empirical proof that they can be beaten into you.
    They aren't just hygenically "observed.

    Ultimately, no one can tell anyone what their morals are to be. They have a right to work that out for themselves.
    If anyone thinks they do, then we are right back to where we are now and how we got here.
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    Jan 23 2013: Don't know what kind of teaching you are talking about....however I feel Role Modelling is the best way of such teaching and that should start from home..
  • Jan 23 2013: isn't this kind of old to be lacking in moral training? My mother was always dragging me to church. My dad was in WWII and he would talk about the battle of the bulge, and that people are more likely to surrender if they know that they will be well treated and well fed. Certainly we have had rules on behavior in everything I have done.
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    Jan 23 2013: One could get your students to write on a piece of paper with no names whether they feel Sandy hook elementary school or any elementary or creche is considered by them to be "Sacred ground from deep within themselves" If there is a good response then the obvious would be to ask them why.

    I suppose one would have to stress it's not a test or poll or something they would understand, not a stat on their "like" or "Dislike" profile and state it's a Q for yourself as well but then I'm not a teacher. Ask them also not to dwell on the incident but on how they feel towards these areas in their lives.

    Is there a loss of reverence towards things with the young or were they not taught it?
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    Jan 23 2013: It is true that morality is contextual in nature but as Mark states all religions/faiths do abide by the golden rule.
    • Jan 23 2013: No they don't
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      Jan 23 2013: The religions/faiths might abide by the golden rule Ellen, but the individuals in those religions don't necessarily live by it.

      This I think contributes to young people's confusions. They see so-called religious people proving false to their faith's teachings, and so they reject religion because of the hypocrisy they see.
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        Jan 23 2013: I think you are right about that - I was speaking today to some colleagues who are devout Catholics and they were espousing the argument that the reason we are seeing so much gun violence is due to the fact that religion has been taken out of school. Wow, is all I could say...that has nothing to do with gun violence
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          Jan 23 2013: I think that at times people cannot fathom what is happening in the world. So, they go about explaining it away with what little they have come to understand or know to be true in their own life.

          There is so much we just don't know Ellen......

          I think what Random said, is good advice for you and your students:

          "Maybe a good place to start would be asking them to attempt to define morality themselves without being the slightest bit brainwashed with any ideas coming from someone else."

          When you get them talking, you might be surprised at what you hear.

          You have your work cut out for you.....best wishes!
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          Jan 23 2013: I would to say something about religion at school . I'm teacher of history and social science and I am from Poland. Religion was introduced to polish schools in 1993 , few years after the overturn of communist regime. And for teaching religion, teaching morality it was very bad decision - how we see now . I belong to the generation which had to go to churches to learn principles od religion, it was forbidden at schools. But we- as children, students - had more respect for these principles . Now the most of pupils and students have religion at schools and there are a lot of problems with ethical behaviour, with respect for different nations and culture. So religion at school it's not a solution
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    Jan 23 2013: Thanks Fritzie...