A friend of mine wrote her PhD thesis on a very interesting subject which dealt with the thorny problem of cheating in school. She examined the future lives of the students who had cheated. She wondered how these students would fare in their future work lives, taking into consideration their behaviour in school, which had not been adequate. Her findings and her subsequent work teaching human resources and leadership in local universities intensified my understanding of the importance of working with young students with regards to their behaviour, helping them to understand the difference between right and wrong from a very early age.
It is perhaps too late for people to understand what it means to be ethical at the ripe old age of 30/35 when they are sitting down to do an MBA or Masters degree in a renowned business school –in an institution where the teaching of ethics may be nonexistent or non-obligatory. Those mature students needed to understand correct behaviour at a young age, they needed an introduction and understanding of ethical behaviour all the way through their educational paths.
A recent article I read on teaching students to be ethical caught my attention. The author explained how, for the last 10 years, she has attended conferences where the same question – « whether ethics can be taught » has been asked time and time again. She wonders whether we shouldn’t be asking for guidance on how to teach this indispensable subject, rather than asking the question as to whether it is necessary.
Although this article was aimed at business students and business schools there were aspects, in my opinion, that apply to all school systems and students of all ages. The author suggested that schools should make room for ethics, should go beyond what is right and wrong and help people to understand the reasons and impacts of their behavior. Giving students the courage to ask the right questions and the confidence to make what they believe to be the right decisions, was a suggestion I found to be invaluable.
Our students are growing up in a world that is complex, they are inundated with information, both real and fake and it is difficult for them to distinguish between the two. The rest of us are equally confused (count me among the confused) as it has become so hard to distinguish between fact and fiction in these complex times. That being the case, as educators and adults, we bear the responsibility and the duty to give the example of how to live life in an ethical, correct way.
Deep discussions between educators and students where we give our young people the confidence to ask us the difficult questions, where they feel they are heard and understood, where they hear from enlightened speakers with proven credibility, where they are taught to be courageous in the face of difficulty- that is our job. Perhaps, if we get this right, our students will be the forward thinking people encountered in the future in enlightened workplaces, universities and business schools. If so they will make the world a better place and we will have carried out our mission to educate our students to be a force for good in our world.
Career and Guidance Counselor