Rules we impose and developing moral wisdom


It started with a tweet from Dean Shareski about his post Rules aren’t the answer. He pointed to another amazing  TED talk, by Barry Schwartz  on “Practical Wisdom is the blending of Moral Will and Moral Skill” and Rob Jacob’s post great synopsis of it.

Dean’s post talked about devising organizations that are focused on responsibility rather than accountability.  Accountability infers rules. Responsibility infers caring. This struck a chord with me.

I have been debating for a while, with colleagues and students, about “authorities” trying to make rules for everything we do and think. I particularlydislike it when people use the excuse “that there was no law/rule that made me do or not do something.” Often it was patently obvious that the consequence of their actions could have been foreseen, if the perpetrator had stopped to think for a moment. (It is not far removed from the “I was only following orders” excuse!)

Sometimes it may take more effort but thinking is necessary to the human race and it sets us apart from our pets. Thinking requires us to take some responsibility for our actions and this also applies to our learning. There is not always a simple solution, or even just one solution, but each individual needs to think about the problem/issue/etc. and work through to find their own meaning and understanding. This of course doesn’t mean that there should be no laws or rules at all but how much micro-managing is needed for a community to function. Rules imposed from above are not always understood, agreed to or followed.

This is what we need to be teaching our students as well. They need to be capable of the higher order thinking so they do not become sheep, mindlessly following the loudest/most outspoken/most colourful people. They need to be able to think and make decisions for themselves so that they do not become pawns for others to manipulate or victims of the mindless group. They are the future. They will have to develop opinions, be able to debate the merit of their beliefs and form ideas based on the best possible facts/information available to them. Our students need to learn to do this now, whilst they are here in our schools.

I have been arguing against our federal government’s proposed internet filter (that sets out to save us from ourselves) because, yet again, it can be used to abrogate all responsibility. It does not/ cannot protect us from everything and, sooner or later, the users will have to understand and take responsibility for their own digital footprint.

To be good digital citizens, our young people will need to have thought about, discussed and developed an understanding of this media. It is that exploration and discussion that is what we need to allow now, whilst we are there to help them. It should not be the case that we ban or filter out everything, just  in case they find something that is not pleasant. Lets teach them how to deal with it if it happens and be open about what it means to be a good digital citizen, not just make more rules for them to follow without any thought or understanding.

Have a look at the video and find out about what it means to be a wise person.


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