Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Teaching ethics? Apparently not.

Last week Evan was only at school Wednesday morning. (Tragedy for Evan (with updates)). Yesterday evening I asked him how his first day back went. He said that it was okay. He was nervous so he took a Tylenol with Codeine and that helped.


We had another one of those confusing running around in circles conversations like when I tried to explain why hanging out with criminals was a bad idea (Evan -- master of the "real world").

The main points in the circle were:

Me: Codeine is addictive when taken to control anxiety.

Evan: I won't get addicted because:

  1. If I were going to get addicted it would be to something that makes you feel good -- like meth.
  2. I won't take meth because I know it is not just about fun and energy and losing weight. It can really mess up your teeth.
  3. I like codeine not because it makes me feel good but because it helps me just not feel.

Me: Right. You are taking it to control anxiety. Codeine is a good pain killer, and is not addictive when taken to control pain, but it is addictive when taken to control anxiety.

Evan: But I won't get addicted.

I really can't tell if he is having fun messing with me or if he believes what he is saying. He really seems to believe it -- and he did really take the codeine. (Okay...So how did he get it? That's my fault. I left the bottle of legitimately prescribed medication on the counter instead of putting it back into the lock box).

He changed the subject to tell us all about how a friend at school told him that he could make $150/hour as an on-line psychic. He went to the site and signed up! I asked him if at the very least the site had a clear statement about being for entertainment purposes. "I don't know. I am not liable for anything." I considered trying to explain the concept of fraud and expressing that it was unethical to participate in it, but I did not.

So here is my worry -- Evan's responses to people tend to be honest and nurturing. He does not lie and genuinely feels badly if he hurts someone. He is considerate of other people's needs. He also fails to recognize any ethics beyond this. As soon as he moves away from personal relationships he feels no obligations whatsoever. The only reason for obeying the law is the possibility of getting caught. Fraud, cheating, plagiarism -- these are not wrong.

My biggest worry is Evan's confidence that he can play with fire and not get burned.

He genuinely seems to see the ethical commitments of my family as naive.

So today I am really asking...Does anyone have any idea how to respond to this? Is there a response?

Teaching Ethics II


  1. You work with kids. He seems to have empathy which can't be taught. It's either there or it's not. It can be faked for a while but not for long. It's a positive sign, I think.

    I think some of it is a generational thing. I don't agree with the "family values" of the religious right but values such as the ones you mentioned are different.

    Look at who's running the show these days. Who do these kids have to emulate? DeLay? Rove? It's all about winning, no matter how. Parents assaulting each other at soccer matches? My God.

    I'm ranting sorry. You have much more training than I but I see some of in my girls as well.

    I had to explain to the youngest (10) why she couldn't use a calculator for her long division. I don't think she understands yet. My doing her homework or covering up for her if it isn't done would be cheating. Sitting and helping her problem by problem or writing a note to her teacher for good cause isn't.

    My grandson has never learned any of this. As a result, he's spent much of his adult life in jail while I'm raising his kids. It's sad and I wish I had answers. I don't except to start early to instill real values and stay with it.

    Not much help, am I.

  2. You're in a little different spot than most of the people I've met. I'd like to add you to the blogroll beause I think you have something of value to say. How would you feel about that?

  3. Thanks Granny!

    I have mentioned that I am in education and I do find Evan's attitude echoed in my students. With my students though I confess I choose to believe that they don't REALLY believe it. I want to think that they cheated because they panicked or they defend a-morality or relatively in class because it sounds like a sophisticated thing to argue.

    Sigh. Maybe they do believe it...

  4. As far as the internet psychic thing. We have strict controls placed on our computers. I have added an internet filtering system that is available free online which doesn't even let them go to psychic, gambling or porn sites (I can e-mail you a link if you like)

    The 13 year old gets an hour per day but he has been told that the internet in our home is a priviledge not a right.

  5. We have filtering software on our computers -- unfortunately Evan has his very own computer.

    Things are looking up though -- he had his first "client" and was troubled by it. He told me that he could have kept the woman on-line longer and made more, but it didn't feel right. Hopefully he will just decide not to do this at all.

    It is so hard to know when to control and when to let them make their own mistakes. Might write about that tomorrow.


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