Tuesday, March 21, 2006

How Wrong Is It? (Lesson Plan)

The very last thing I ever want to do at 7:30 on a Monday morning is to go teach a bunch of snotty, disinterested 8th grade girls. In general, the better my weekend is, the less I want to go back to life on Monday, so I was in a particularly rotten mood yesterday morning. I decided to torture both myself and the girls by dragging them into a philosophical discussion - another thing which is quite low on the list of things I want to do at 7:30 on Monday.

Amazingly, it turned out to be the most productive lesson I’ve ever done with them. They talked, they argued with each other and me, they shared stories - frequently in Hungarian, but some in English. They amused themselves by yelling, “English, please!” at each other. Most incredibly, they stayed on topic for a whole 45 minutes.

So, here it is, the miracle lesson: basically, it’s a list of 20 questions with the form, “How wrong is it to...?” I had one student read them, and the others answered. You can ask additional questions like, “When is it right to....? Have you yourself ever....? What happens if you...... and get caught?” At the end, I had some extra time, and they each made up some questions.

How wrong is it...
- to lie about your age?
- to claim for “extra goods” from the insurance company after your house has been burgled? (I skipped this one)
- to have plastic surgery to look younger and more attractive?
- to sell your countries secrets (especially defense secrets) to a foreign country?
- to refuse to fight when your country is at war?
- to phone work or school and say you are ill when you just want a day off?
- to keep 10 pounds change given to you by a shop assistant by mistake?
- to do “extra work” but not pay tax on the money you’re paid? (in Hungarian, this is fekete munka, black work)
- to not vote in a national election?
- to cross a road when the traffic lights are red?
- to throw litter in the street?
- to hit someone in self-defense?
- to forge a cheque? (this one was very confusing)
- to fail to stop after bumping into a car, if no one saw you and no one was injured?
- to park in a no parking street?
- to smuggle goods through customs when coming back from a holiday abroad?
- to drive through traffic lights when they are red, if no one gets injured?
- to travel on public transport without a ticket, if you aren’t caught?
- to hit a naughty child?
- to copy CDs, DVDs, movies or computer programs for your own use?

In general, my students told me that most things are okay, provided that you aren’t caught. The last 6 or 7 questions provoked the most debate. The questions they came up with were about things like cheating on a boyfriend, lying to your friends and parents, cheating in school, and killing animals. And I found out a lot of interesting laws in Hungary, not to mention some interesting stories about the girls and their friends. One of their classmates, a kid I don’t like too much, had to pay a 10,000 forint fine because he took the bus without a ticket and tried to run away when they caught him. Ha, couldn’t happen to a nicer kid. Anyway, great lesson. Please use it and tell me how it works for you.

1 comment:

indiana said...

This is interesting because there are developmental factors both in interpreting the questions and in the types of answers. Do you know about Kohlberg? He created a hierarchy of moral development based on the explanations to why to do a certain thing in response to a dilemma. The most famous one is: Heinz has a wife who is sick and likely to die soon. He can't afford the medication that might make her better or cure her; should he steal it from the pharmacy? Its not important, in the theory, if the answer is yes or no, its the explanation. So if someones says no because he could get caught, that's either level 1 or 2, I can't remember. I think 1. If they say no because there's laws and we cant go around breaking them even when it seems we have a special situation, that's level 4 I think. The theory isn't necessarily relevant across cultures and has been strongly criticiszed for being only relvant to men and boys; carol gilligan responded with ideas about moral development in women (mostly that it is relational and not based on isolated rules like the kohlberg levels'). Anyway...