As a clinical social worker, I am required to attend continuing education classes in order to maintain my license, and it’s not unusual for the classes to have an ethical component to them. And, to tell you the truth, it can get pretty mundane, particularly when it is approached with a focus on right versus wrong decision making.
But my present journey with ethics is actually fascinating, rich and compelling.
I am one of several faculty members at Greensboro Day School on an Ethics Team formed to explore and establish our common ground of values, elevate our awareness of ethics and encourage moral actions in our community. We have embarked on a journey of learning how we understand, consider and make ethical decisions on a deeper level. We are studying right versus right dilemmas and decision making while learning that ethics is not just about doing one’s own work versus cheating; it is about being loyal to a friend versus supporting what is best for your classmates. It is about making a decision to follow a policy to the letter of the law versus using compassion to fully understand the perspective and needs of the individual and their growth. For me, it’s about taking away the cell phone of one of my teens when they are dishonest or supporting the value of giving them freedom in order that they may earn my trust again. Right versus right decisions require discernment much deeper than right versus wrong. It is easy to know when a child needs a consequence. It is through thoughtful process that we discover the consequence that is the “right” one.
Last night, the Greensboro Day School Ethics Team on which I sit, met and began discussing Rushworth Kidder’s book, How Good People Make Tough Choices. We shared our thoughts about why understanding the complexity and value of working through right versus right decisions is something we want to permeate the culture of our school. Here are some of our responses as to why we believe that this work is important:
- it builds transparency,
- it develops moral character, develops a necessary skill, promotes self awareness and cultural integrity,
- it creates a continuous improvement to our decision making and a framework to address ethical issues,
- it facilitates intentional reflective decision making,
- it increases morale of our internal community of staff and builds trust in the institution, and
- it provides a shared language and opportunity for collaboration.
We also shared some of our thoughts on the barriers we face in using strong ethical frameworks to make decisions. After all, doing something right requires time and planning! We ended our discussion with rich conversation around what we have going for us at GDS and how that will help us in our study and growth about ethical literacy. We noted both our own love of learning and growing as well as our parent body support for all we do as two critical elements to the success of all programming at school. We noted our students are open minded and that they respond well to high expectations.
Our next meeting will include further discussion of the book mentioned above as well as conversation and analysis of ethical dilemmas using the framework in the book. I will post updates of our work periodically, but please join me in sharing your thoughts anytime.
Michelle Bostian, Lower School Counselor