Director for the Centre of Ethics Nina Blumenfeld discusses why the ethics program has a place in our curriculum.
The Centre for Ethics provides us with a wonderful opportunity to assist students to face ethical obstacles and issues from an empowered and knowledgeable position and act according to what the philosopher Thomas Aquinas called a ‘well-informed conscience.’
The Centre for Ethics aims to support Diocesan’s emphasis on respectful and warm relationships between students, staff - and between students and staff. Indeed, at the heart of all ethical questions is how people will be affected by the decisions made. We develop a programme for the year that involves a series of events across the whole school curriculum in order to raise student, teacher and parental awareness of ethical issues. The integration of ethics into a cross-curricular framework has provided a meaningful context in which students can practice critical thinking skills and allowed for a healthy debate of ethical questions within the classroom.
People have always had to face ethical decisions, yet young people in the 21st century live in a complicated, uncertain world that is technically very sophisticated and changing rapidly. This environment creates novel and unsettling challenges that face us on a daily basis. In particular, with the power of media and social networking over our lives, it is difficult for young people, indeed all of us, to negotiate the difference between appearance and reality. One of my aims is to encourage students to challenge and critique institutions such as the media from a well-informed perspective so that they are not fooled by false images or taken in by artifice.
Ethical questions do not always involve the ‘big’ dilemmas, ethical questions affect us all on a daily basis. For example, should we tell a friend not to be hurtful to another person? Should we only buy New Zealand made goods? Ethical issues can be simple ones and we face making choices or decisions about them every day.
I feel it is important that students to learn to see the issues facing our world in shades of grey and not black and white. Students (and teachers) often feel there has to be a right answer; however, ethical questions demand well-informed answers which may be ‘right’ for some people but not for others. When students are involved in debating ethical questions, they learn to listen to other points of view and reflect carefully about their own set of values. Learning to stand one’s ground and justify it logically is clearly a valuable skill for all students.