Classes that teach us about ethics are not offered til college. There are no classes that teach morals in grade school or high school. In recent years we have seen young children committing horrible acts, like at Columbine and Virginia Tech. Where do children learn about ethics? Maybe some parents are entrusting schools to educate their children in morals and good values. But is there a moral value to education? Or is it just learning facts and information? I, personally, agree with the idea of soft universalism. This is not a new idea and was first suggested by Scottish philosopher David Hume.
Hume believed that all people share a fellow-feeling, a compassion, that may show itself in different ways but is present in the human spirit regardless of one’s cultural background. Soft universalists believe there are certain values that all cultures share (Rosentand 134-135). At least three morals are universal according to American philosopher, James Rachels:”a policy of caring for enough infants to ensure the continuation of the group, a rule against lying, and a rule against murder” (Rosentand 135) These morals are found in all cultures because they also help the group’s basic survival.
So, this could also be just logic. In order to survive a culture must care for and raise their own children. Not all cultures subscribe to raising their own children but if they don’t they will die out (Rosenstand 136). The next two rules seem only to apply to members of the group. This is evident in acts of war. We are not supposed to murder or lie to our neighbors or fellow Americans. Although, we are morally free to kill Iraqis in the war, since they are a declared enemy. Although, most people would admit that not all lying is bad.
For example, lying about a sexual relationship to protect those involved, or not telling the whole truth about a friend’s appearance when they ask. So maybe a rule about lying isn’t universal, nut if we characterize it more like a rule against malicious deception we are closer to the meaning (Rosenstand 137). I am definitely an ethical egoist. I truly believe in “looking out for number one. ” I think that no one cares about me like I can. In saying this I am not reckless when it comes to others around me, but I am also not afraid to go after what I want.
Sometimes other people may get there feelings hurt, and some have even called me selfish, but I have to look out for myself. Ethical egoists suggest that you do what is good for you and you should only help others if the main beneficiary is you. Well, I myself being an ethical egoist, am a walking contradiction to this theory. I am a nurse. I work long, often thankless hours. I do get a paycheck for this, but I do take care of others because I want to. Often the work, I think, is worth more than the paycheck I receive but it is rewarding in other ways for me.
So when I am at work I can’t always do what is best for me, but instead I have to do what is best for the patient. Although, when I am off the clock, I am looking out for me! The basic goals of education are to teach our youth the information and give them the tools they will need to become a functioning part of society. At least, that is the general idea. In early school years the goals are to give students the basic building blocks they will need. For example; math, reading, writing, and critical thinking. Then once in college your education is focused toward a trade or profession.
The classes you take are chosen precisely to help you reach your goal. Then you have a purpose in society. Doctors and nurses treat illnesses and help keep people alive and well, which helps with the continuation of the species. Teachers educate our youth, police ensure our safety, and engineers build our bridges and buildings. As far as giving a person a sense of morals, I do not think education does this so much. Yes, we learn in school about cheating on homework or tests and that this is wrong. this also indirectly reinforces that lying is wrong.
Also in schools there are rules that must be followed, such as no fighting. But it is not enough to just follow the rules, one has to believe that fighting is wrong. So even making rules with punishments is not enough to teach morals. Some may still follow the rules just to avoid punishment, and not because they believe what they are doing is right. Psychologists say that a child must develop a sense of values by the age of seven to become an adult with a conscious. If the child has not learned by the second grade that other people can feel pain and pleasure, and that one hould try not to harm others, that lesson will probably never be truly learned (Rosenstand 12). Technically, you have three school years to teach children about values. Truthfully, though, all children should have been taught some moral lessons at home before school starts. They might not learn all the same moral lessons, but at least they would have a moral background to expand on. So I believe that teaching morals begins at home with a child’s family. Not all children have families or parents that are involved with their lives.
In this case the only place they have to learn about ethics is school. So maybe elementary schools should teach about ethics, but with so many culturally diverse public schools this probably wouldn’t happen. What some parents think is okay to teach children, others may argue is not. So my position that parents and guardians are responsible for giving their children the moral background they need to become successful, productive, and beneficial members to society is the most logical one. Rosenstand, Nina. The Moral of the Story: An Introduction to Ethics. New York: McGraw Hill, 2009.