Δευτέρα, 25 Ιουλίου 2016

Values and Ethics To Leave To Our Children

(If You Want to Be Happy for the Rest of Your Life…)
I would like to start this journey of Ethical happiness with a story I once heard…

The cleaner about a persistent problem in the girls’ toilets alerted a school headmistress: every day they were leaving lipstick kisses on the mirrors. The cleaners had made notices asking for this to stop, but it made no difference; so every afternoon they would wipe away the kisses, and the next day lots more kisses would be planted on the mirror. It had become a bit of a game. The creative headmistress asked a few girls from each class to meet with her in the cloakrooms.
"Thank you for coming," she said, "You will see there are several lipstick kisses in the mirrors in this washroom." Some of the girls grinned at each other. She continued, "As you will understand, modern lipstick is cleverly designed to stay on the lips, and so the lipstick is not at all easy to wash off. We have therefore developed a special cleaning way, and I hope that when you see the effort involved, you will help me spread the word that we'd all be better off if the girls used tissue paper instead of the mirrors."

At this point the cleaner took a sponge squeegee, which he then dipped into the toilet bowl, and used it to clean one of the lipstick-covered mirrors.

The moment of truth! The cleaner and headmistress smiled at each other, and there were no more lipstick kisses on the mirrors.

I can’t remember when I first heard this story, but it’s one of my favourites.

Ethics and values are central to morality - a human duty - based on rational people's respect for other rational people. The ideas go as far back as Aristotle. Virtues such as justice, charity and generosity benefit the person and the person's society. The guiding principle is based on conduct which produces the greatest happiness or benefit to the greatest number of people. True happiness in all human beings is directly linked to these principles.

Recent research from the world of psychology repeatedly proves that true happiness and mental health and well-being does not come from the accumulation of wealth and all the delightful material things that money can buy. These are very fleeting feelings. Research shows that once basic human needs are met, additional income does little to raise life happiness. In addition, “youth” is also no guarantee of happiness: In fact, older people are more consistently satisfied with their lives than the young, and they are less prone to dark moods. Watching TV and playing video games? Not at all! People who spend more than three hours a day on all electronic media are more unhappy than those who spend less time in front of the box or glued to their screens.

There is so much knowledge and facts that we teach our children even from the tender age of four –how the planets revolve around the sun in the solar system, how to do simple sums like 4 + 2 = 6, now Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, and that water is made of hydrogen and oxygen in a structure that vaguely resembles Mickey Mouse. And of course it has been critical to teach all this valid and useful information incredibly well so it sits in their beautiful knowledge space for ever. But citing from the previously-mentioned research about life-satisfaction, neither education nor for that matter a high IQ paves the road to happiness.

When you look at the problems that plague our children, their parents and all of us as teachers, our education system falls short in the ethics and values domain. How good are we at teaching our children to be kind to one another so that it is obvious at a glance? Why can’t we educate them to stay away from verbal and physical abuse so that they don’t become regular and active victims of violence? There is no doubt that as we focus on the final “product” in our educational endeavours, we neglect the process. We desperately need to teach the skills and help them develop strategies for coping with stress and hardships. There is no avoiding hard times, and apart from religion, the secular beliefs enshrined in axioms like, “This too shall pass,” and “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” also help a lot. The trick is that we have to believe them and to live them.

All of the concepts and ideas around, “What are we living for? What is my purpose in life? How can I be the very best I can be?” should be an integral part of our education – and they all relate to ethics and values! We need to focus more on encouraging our children to seek out and examine the sufficiency and the logic that endorses their own judgements and opinions, and that builds rather than erodes their confidence and self-esteem.

For this to be effective, we need to promote and examine the reasoning processes used by our children to answer real questions that actually challenge them about “where they live”, rather than resorting to an approach that is tied to information accumulation that focuses on “the correct answer.”

I truly believe that introducing ethical and values-driven issues into the school curriculum should be the primary element that underlies our education framework. Ethics and values are important in enabling our children to use logical and rational reasoning skills in common difficult situations encountered by them, and which will promote open-mindedness as we prepare them to be better decision-makers in the future. These life lessons empower them with capabilities and attitudes that foster the promotion and protection of their personal development, as well as the well-being of their families, their school, our nation, and ultimately the world.

There are hundreds of examples of how we can do this, and I have included some photographs with this article of various activities that we do with our children. We help them identify and talk about their emotions and have empathy towards others through warm/fuzzy as well as cold/prickly pictures and puppets with sad, angry, scared, excited and happy faces. We use activities like baking and gardening not just to produce delicious cookies or harvest tomatoes, but to also foster cooperation and teamwork, and a sensitivity towards others’ needs. We discuss issues around smart choices versus not-so-good choices by telling stories, sharing examples and newsworthy stories, and describing scenarios in which we ask, “What would you do if you were in this situation?”

We use examples of unethical and ethicalbehaviours and activities to discuss themes like drugs, alcohol and smoking, the natural environment and harming our planet, unnecessary waste, wars and terrorism, the law, crime and corruption, animal experimentation and cruelty, power-hungry leaders in politics and business, dishonesty, withholding information, distortion of facts, misleading or confusing communications or advertising, manipulation of people's feelings, deception, trickery, rule-bending, and fooling people, exploitation of weakness and vulnerability, excessive profit and greed, anything liable to harm or endanger people, avoiding of blame or penalty for wrong-doing by taking responsibility, gossiping, plotting and conspiring against others, secrecy and lack of transparency, forcing people to do things they don’t want to, invasion of privacy, trust betrayal, or anything causing privacy to be compromised, nepotism (the appointment or preference of family members) and favouritism with ulterior motives, racism, alienation or marginalisation of people or groups, questions arising from conflicts of interests (having a foot in two or more competing camps,)neglect of one’s duties or just not caring, “bystanding”or failing to intervene or report wrong-doing, but without interfering anywhere and everywhere, any unfairness, unkindness, lack of compassion and humanity, and dozens of other examples. The possibilities are endless.

Finally, instead of trying to arrive at a standard or all-encompassing rule of what is ethical, it is helpful to illustrate the depth and variety of ethics through suitable discussions that their minds can deal with at the appropriate age.
There are lots of great books on this topic, but the bottom line is this: true happiness and success in life as a child and as an adult comes from appreciating our blessings and getting involved in the things that we love to do. But interacting with other people in an ethical and values-driven way is also critical! Perhaps we sometimes need to pause the pursuit of pure knowledge, and focus on these issues to leave behind a legacy that our children will remember forever.

Written By:

Efstathia (Efi) Kanavou
Member of Sella Messinia Blog News- Nemesis  ( managing block)

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