The role of education in ethical development

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    Profile photo of Shannon Kelly
    Shannon Kelly

    Please write a response to the following quote, “Therefore, if we wish to bring a more compassionate-and therefore fairer society-it is essential that we educate our children to be responsible, caring human beings.”

    Profile photo of renata-massion

    The most obvious answer would be to simply tell children how to become ethical. But who is to say they will listen? Upon further inspection it is evident that we must investigate effective leadership qualities. I have had many teachers tell me that they have no ability to teach, only the ability to facilitate an environment in which learning is possible. It has become clear to me through eighteen years of constant ethical lessons (and I am quite sure that I will continue my growth as an ethical being until the moment I die), that although someone can tell me in vivid detail, utilizing ardent language, an ethical lesson which they wish to instill into my mind, it is much more difficult to truly understand, appreciate, and apply the lesson, until I have seen an example within the context of society. This is not to say that we all must be perfect examples of ethical beings in order to create this kind of society for our children. I have learned just as much from the examples I choose not to exemplify than those that I wish to emulate. These “bad examples” will always be present in society due to the fact that it is quite impossible to completely purge society of all unethical beings.
    Children are not lumps of clay, waiting to be molded into the visions society has created for them, they must be treated as human beings that are functioning members of society. Therefore, when the Dalai Lama says in his book Ethics for the New Millennium, “I trust it is clear that I am not calling for everyone to renounce their present way of life and adopt some new rule or way of thinking. Rather, my intention is to suggest that the individual, keeping his or her daily way of life, can change, can become a better, more compassionate, and happier human being. And through being better, more compassionate individuals, we can begin to implement our spiritual revolution.” (Page 174) it is clear that he is not only referring to adults. It is not only the job of the adults to make these changes, this is expected of children too. In facilitating an environment in which learning is possible, and expecting that every living being begin to orient themselves towards ethicality we can begin to create a society in which ethical behavior is not extraordinary, but an expected occurrence.

    Profile photo of Lexi Julien
    Lexi Julien

    Konrad Lorenz is a rather well-known zoologist, whose work during the twentieth century helped to develop the concept of imprinting. His most famous project involved hatching several geese in an incubator and raising them without a mother of their own kind. What Lorenz discovered was that since he was the first being they saw, the goslings imprinted onto him as though he was their mother. Even when introduced to older female geese, the goslings would only follow Lorenz. Lorenz concluded that the process of imprinting was an emotional instinct, and he also found that after 32 hours of not being introduced to a large being, a gosling would never imprint to anything. Imprinting is a survival mechanism in animals—by imprinting to their mothers, they receive her protection and they mimic her ways as a learning process for how to survive in the world. When no imprinting occurs, young animals perish shortly after being born.
    Humans, science has shown, do not go through the process of imprinting. But when we look at what the core principles of imprinting are, our consciousness mimics these characteristics as it develops. When we are young and rather unknowing about the world, we are easily influenced by the outside forces around us. We often see children mimicking their parents, little girls putting on makeup like their moms and kids spouting off their parents’ opinions as their own. The foundation of our consciousness and values is set at a young age, and this is why we must instill ethics in our children starting at birth. But how do we do this? It is simple—go back to imprinting. When Lorenz discovered that the goslings had imprinted to him, he had to mimic the actions of a mother goose in order to assure the goslings would grow up to be geese capable of surviving in the wild. Lorenz even crouched down and waddled in his laboratory to show the goslings how to walk. If we want to raise our children to be ethical beings, we have to do just what Lorenz did—walk the walk. The only way for someone to become ethical is to see ethical principles in action and feel the effects of ethicality for themselves. If we act ethical around our children and demonstrate good values, they will immediately pick up that behavior and copy it, imprinting it into their own consciousness. No one becomes ethical by themselves. We develop our sense of selves through our interactions with others, and if those interactions are with ethical people, then we will be more inclined to pick up those values and implement them into our own lives.

    Profile photo of Sage Buzzini
    Sage Buzzini

    On page 177 of Ethics for the New Millennium by the Dalai Lama, he says, “if we wish to bring about a more compassionate-and therefore fairer society-it is essential that we educate our children to be responsible, caring human beings.” The first question that comes to mind is how do we educate our children into becoming more responsible, caring and ethical human beings. I think initially for a lot of us, the first thing that comes to mind is to set a good example for our kids. In school, we hear a lot about being role models for the younger grades so that they can grow up to be responsible teenagers and thrive as leaders. One of my classmates brought up an interesting point in class that resonated with me. He talked about how he felt influenced by the younger generations because of how honest and genuine they are. I got home from class that day and started to think about all the times I had been influenced by someone younger then I am and to my surprise, there were so many times that I lose count. It dawned on me that the way to create a hopeful future for our kids is to revert back to the unadulterated state of being that we have when we are kids. As we grow up we follow the natural order of evolution, we evolve to survive. In that process we tend to become a bit selfish and get lost in our desires and our needs to progress our own happiness and well-being. I’ve noticed among smaller children that they do not have this sense of self-obsession to cloud their judgment and the result of that is kind-heartedness and loving for others around them. Think of a pond that is muddied up with leaves and branches blocking the water from flowing into other ponds. If we let the debris sit there then the water will not flow in the natural way it is supposed to and soon become filthy, but if we remove the debris blocking the flow of the water, it will circulate and thrive. Think of the pond as our mind and the water as our compassion for others. Our ego is formed when the compassion is solely self centered and only sits in your own mind; that’s when the pond get’s dirtied up. When we let our compassion flow into others, that’s when we have achieve our natural, unadulterated true self. If we can create an environment where everyone’s “true self” is shown, then that’s when I think our society and children will become responsible human beings.

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