Ethics – Middle School Style

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Ethics – Middle School Style

Post by C on Tue Jun 17, 2008 12:32 pm

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Sunday, June 15, 2008
Submitted by Judy O’Neil

This article is meant as a tribute to ethics being taught today in our local school system. We may not be able to change the political climate of Rumford today but our schools are doing an excellent job in preparing children for ethical decision-making in the future.

“Mom, what does ‘ethics’ mean?” My eleven-year-old daughter hunches in study over her vocabulary list. Using words like “values” and “principals of a society” in an attempt to boil it down to sixth-grade understanding, I brighten when she says, “Oh, I get it, the difference between doing what’s right and what’s wrong while thinking about everyone involved, right?” Phew! Nice way to wrap up a complex topic for my overcrowded adult mind. Remember the essay, “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”? Well, I would say that kindergarten is just the bare beginning in the teaching of ethics; middle school is where the true understanding begins.

In kindergarten everyone learns how to be a “good” girl or boy, and is taught the basics of the golden rules, but that teaching really doesn’t begin to solidify until kids reach early adolescence. Especially in middle school, students experiment, struggle and grow as they learn to fit into a society of their peers. It can be a rough, hostile environment as young minds explore for the first time what abstract concepts such as justice, freedom, equality, hatred and prejudice really mean in the context of every day life. Kids face tough, ethical choices daily, and receive guidance from the schools in many ways. The boundaries and ground rules are posted in every classroom. Consequences are swift and direct, and the balance of power between two students can sometimes be restored with a face-to-face, mediated encounter which takes place in a safe environment. Yes, the school can do a great job with the kids and it’s even better when backed up by parents’ understanding and support.

Building support is the strength of our local middle school staff. Even though I’m probably old enough to be his mom, sometimes I think Principal Ryan Casey of our Mountain Valley Middle School has taught me more as a parent than he has taught my daughters. He bravely dives into the jungle where the protective mother lion stands ready to defend her cub. He listens compassionately and explains patiently until I see where he’s coming from. Thank God for people like Mr. Casey, Mr. Cayer and others teachers who understand that reaching parents and other caregivers is key to the maturational development and ethical foundation of the student; a student they hope will be able to function effectively in adult society in just a few short years.

Creating this strong, ethical foundation is critical to the creation of strong, well-grounded adults who are able to thrive no matter where they go. Grown-up life is so full of mind-boggling challenges and it is sometimes hard to hear the voice of our own values and the values of the society we live in. We worry about our reputations and how we look to others. We sometimes think values and rules are great for our children but not for us because we’re already good enough, or we’ve paid our dues. We struggle with decisions that have far-reaching consequences. These are the times I can simplify the clutter in my mind by asking what I would teach my children and, at the same time, asking if they would be proud of my actions. When I get really stuck, I just ask the experts – my middle school daughters.
Posted by Rumford Free Press at Sunday, June 15, 2008

C said...

Judy, this is a very nice piece you wrote. It's great to see the teachers and school staff that give so much of themselves being publicly applauded.
June 15, 2008 4:29 PM

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