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Required ethics courses (keep reading the explanation to see how I would define ethics) for everyone, focused on peer to peer learning.

I believe that all of our problems as a human society can be greatly curved if everyone were required to think ethically during their adolescent years. Ethics courses should be a requirement in schools, just like history, or math class.

Now, let me explain what ethics are NOT (My interpretation). (1) Ethics can never be a hard set of rules that everyone is expected to follow. Any dispute, disagreement, or misunderstanding is unique to itself in some way. (2) Ethics are not morals. The morals I hold come from my environment and the people who influence my life through the years. A few of your morals may differ from mine, and we may never see eye to eye on some things. Example: Republicans vs. Democrats.

What ethics ARE (or, what can be universally learned): (1) Realizing and accepting the fact that another individual may have different morals and core beliefs than you. AND, furthermore, accepting the fact that just because one feels differently than you do, doesn't necessarily make either of you "wrong". (2) Finding a way to put yourself in someone else's shoes and attempt to feel how they feel, especially when you can't seem to understand how and why this other individual "can't get what you are saying through their thick skull." To go back to what I said before, one's unique environment, among other things, help shape their moral code. (3) Never forgetting that EVERY life is just as important as the next. It is so true, that everything we do, no matter how big or small, has some kind of impact on more than just one's self. This would be especially useful for our global political figures to study up on.

If you watch (TEDtalk) John Hunter on the World Peace Game, you can see how young children find out for themselves how to treat others in a fashion that is extremely admirable. I believe that EVERY person wants to be a contribution to society, and not a burden, or evil villain, but we need to allow everyone to educate themselves, through learning from their peers.

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    Jul 14 2011: Here is an interesting video: http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_our_loss_of_wisdom.html Barry Schwartz "A few sources of hope: We ought to try to re-moralize work. One way not to do it: teach more ethics courses."
  • Jul 11 2011: I completely agree with you that ethics would be a valuable--maybe even a cornerstone--component of adolescent educational curriculum. Just thinking on my own education, however, raised a few interesting introspective points.

    First, how early should one start educating children about ethics in those terms? Putting a name on the nebulous idea of values and justice in social interactions changes it, a la the uncertainty principle. Once they are old enough to understand the three points you put forward, is it better to introduce ethics as a core subject, one worthy of capitalization and being put into a block schedule in primary school? That would allow children to start to think about ethics as something on a grander societal scale than just the day-to-day value systems that they've already been grounded in, but could also scare off a lot of children from looking at it more closely--it's a regrettable part of our educational system, but until Sir Ken Robinson's ideas take hold, one that seems unavoidable.

    I think the solution to all of this (at least, the solution as it presented itself in my own life) is to make ethics an informal discipline in younger children (in many cases, I think this is and can be done well through literary studies), but to introduce as soon as possible philosophy as a subject of study. Through studying philosophy, especially in collaborative classes, children learn to think about ethics through conflicting viewpoints, to question the beliefs and values they were raised with, and to own and command their own intellects and own judgments. It's an idea I'm very fond of, because it also solves the tricky issues that arise when we attempt to teach morality as such--the classroom becomes a political and ideological battleground, which furthers no one's education. But philosophy? The genius is in its innocuousness.