Ethics - The right to free speech #5
Let's round off this whole discussion with an anecdote - one which sums up for us the moral of our quest to understand Ethics.
We've been showing our students (some of whom are as young as eleven) the debates from 'The Big Questions' show from Sunday 14th June on the BBC i-player.
When we asked if they realised why we were doing this, after the usual accusations of being a show off (never!), they came up with answers we could only hope for: one student said 'to show us what's going on in the world outside our school'; another said, 'if you don't listen to someone for a long time, then they bottle things up and eventually start to hit out' and another student said 'you wanted to show us that we should stand up for what we believe.' Profound statements from ones so young.
We thought we could go home having done a suitable job that day, but then another Year 7 student, who never usually speaks and remains invisible, stayed behind and started telling us a story about herself.
She had been minding her own business walking to a lesson when an older person (she thought it was a teacher, but couldn't be sure) pushed into her and then screamed: 'Out of the way - can't you watch where you're going!' Our little mouse was so shocked by the incident that when she went home, she started to write a letter of complaint. When her mother found her writing it, she told her daughter to 'drop the subject', firstly, because this wasn't the first time she'd written such a letter and secondly, because she was afraid her daughter might get a bad reputation. Well, the quiet mouse said that she had dropped the subject, but now, although the event had happened some time ago, she would definitely go back to writing the letter!
So, our contribution in the show has empowered at least one little mouse in the country and who knows, she may even go on to enrich the lives of other people...
Since then, a few students have come up to discuss the show and now understand more about the need for decent discussion.
We can round off by saying that the study of Ethics can and should be a way of strengthening our sense of right and wrong; it can and should empower us to be true to ourselves and to stand firm in favour of what is right, even if this sometimes involves giving an ear and listening to some outrageous and often cruel human beings. Knowing ourselves better and having a strong sense of where our beliefs come from can only help us to withstand the extreme beliefs of others and their need to impose aggressive and violent ideas on the world. And this in turn can only help to sharpen our own minds and give us a better chance of decency and peace in how we communicate and live with each other.