“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”
December 19, 2016
Dear LoMA Family,
One of my favorite courses in college was ethics, a philosophy class that studied what was right and wrong and how we know. While we all generally have a good general moral sense of what is right and wrong, too rarely do we take time to consider where these values come from and how good values can come into conflict. For instance, how do people resolve the moral dilemma that occurs when one has to decide between protecting a friend and telling the truth?
According to Notre Dame’s sociologist Christian Smith, young people today are thinking about these issues less than previous generations. He has recently come out with a new book on the moral values of young people based on interviews with hundreds of young people around the country. The results were not promising. When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot. When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong. But, aside from these extreme cases, moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school, or cheating on a partner. “I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,” is how one interviewee naively put it. Whether they know so or not, these situations represent just some of the many moral decisions people make every day. I would guess that for our kids, most of these decisions involve honesty and treating others fairly. But even when we do something as mundane as deciding where we shop, we are making moral decisions. For instance, I stopped eating at McDonalds thirty years ago because of its role in deforestation and it labor practices. Who we choose to support with our spending money has moral implications.
In explaining how they make moral decisions, most of the young people Smith interviewed said that it was just a matter of individual taste. Their naïve responses ranged from “It’s personal,” to “It’s up to the individual. Who am I to say?” and “I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel.” I would like to think that these people were not really so thoughtless. When my bicycle wheel was stolen last week, I was not saying that it was a “personal” decision of the thief or “who am I to say” that it was wrong. Stealing is wrong. Lying is wrong. Cheating is wrong.
I know that the great majority of LoMA’s students are moral. They show this when they follow the rules, act honestly and take care of school property. Nevertheless, I think it is important that they give thought to what makes things moral and how to handle moral dilemmas when different values come into conflict. That is why we use The Book of Questions in advisories, study oppression in humanities, and Supreme Court cases in history. LoMA students need to know that their actions have moral implications and that there is a very real difference between right and wrong.
Dear LoMA Family,
This week’s Shaka entry is a collection of anecdotes from a Junior Advisory about times they have made decisions for moral reasons. Enjoy.
One time I had to go to school for a Regents exam, but I had a championship basketball game at the same time. But of course I chose the exam because I needed to take the test to pass and get long-term success.
One time my friend was supposed to fight, and I had to turn in these two assignments, or I would fail. I had to choose what to do. What I did is tell him to come with me and so I could finish those assignments to make myself pass. Two birds, one stone.
I have learned to make better choices. When my grades were low, I chose to start hanging out with people that would help my future by bringing my grades up. Surrounding myself with better people worked, even though I lost some people I thought were friends.
I had to face a big decision in school, I chose to hang out with the right people and go to class. We can mostly do the work and just have fun. I was thinking about how they will affect me in the school year and the future. This is when I think I felt like joining after-school activities to make myself go to tutoring. This is what happened when I thought of the future of my life.
I’m currently on high honor roll, and been in honor roll in the past. Throughout my life in school I have always passed with flying colors; grades have always been the utmost important thing for me to be focused on. Last year I got really depressed over my grades to the point of thinking of giving up and spending my days with no friends and no future, but now I’m a part of this family. When I see my friends in the same state I used to be in and I cannot do a thing about it, it crushes me. It makes me question if I’m a good person if I don’t help others. And the answer is no, I’m not, and neither is anyone else for that matter. Even when I cannot help others, I can at least help myself, and to comfort them and tell them, “you’re not going too fast”, “you’re going to be standing right beside me in graduation”, and “you’re going to be whoever you want even though you’ll potentially be stuck in an office working on a computer wondering what happened”.
I had to make a decision whether or not I would take the blame for my “friends” and get sent to Juvenile Detention, or tell on everybody and be “free” while my “friends” serve their consequences. My “friends” and I were caught stealing from school and were arrested. We were being charged with a multitude of felonies and were taken in to be questioned. The pressure was hot, and there was a lot of things going through my mind. “What are they going to say? Will they tell on me? Will they have my back and hold it down?” I wanted to stay loyal to my friends- to take the blame. I pay the bid. I had to think about what to do and what to say.
We all face a moral dilemmas at some point in our lives, whether it’s something big or something little. I was faced with a moral dilemma the other day. I had to pick between my schoolwork, or my best friend. I’ve always been told since a young age to put my schoolwork before anyone else, because at the end of the day, your hard work will take you somewhere in life.
During my short amount of time to choose between either my best friend or my schoolwork, I chose my best friend, not knowing how long how long she would take. I realized quickly my choice was not wise, and it left me in a sticky situation; I was so caught up in my friendship I forgot I had to make up a test that I wasn’t present for and wound up having only ten minutes to take the test. I failed to finish it. The moral of my story is to think wisely before you make your decision. Yeah, your best friend is important, but does he or she really care about what’s best for you, too, or just for them?
Make thoughtful choices,