Two weeks ago we dived into the rather intangible world of morals and ethics. Starting this year children in first and fifth grade have a new mandatory class in their timetables, which is either “erkölcstan” (moral and ethical education) or “hittan” (religious education) based on the parents’ choice. The core question was:
Should we teach/talk about morals EXPLICITLY, within the frames of a separate class, or rather IMPLICITLY, through other already existing subjects like history and literature?
Our way to the final debate was fairly adventurous. First and foremost, we clarified the meaning of three words that were crucial for the discourse: morals, ethics and etiquette. In groups of two, we tried to define and compare these words.
Secondly, we raised a moral dilemma: On a long-distance trip, the bus driver offers you a half-price ticket with no receipt. Would you accept it? The question divided the group. While some were in support of the supposedly underpaid bus drivers, others opposed the idea saying that one day the entire bus will want to pay the reduced price, which would definitely lead to bankruptcy in the long run.
We subsequently shared a few personal stories of extraordinary classes we had in pri-mary or secondary school, such as teambuilding, self-knowledge, or etiquette.
Eventually came the debate show. The members formed two groups: FOR and AGAINST explicit moral education. Although the for team, consisting of only three people, was rather an “in-between” team, we had quite an overheated debate. Here’s a short excerpt:
Cons: There should not be any kind of separate classes for explicit moral education, as kids can develop the necessary skills and sensitivity better through, for instance, cathartic experiences upon reading a novel.
Pros: What if the children are not mature enough to grasp the deeper messages of a written text by themselves?
Cons: We should improve their reading skills rather than compensating with an additional class to get such messages across.
The conversation went on for one and a half hours. In the end, the two groups agreed that children should have a so-called “debate class” which would comprise nothing but contro-versial topics with no definite “right” or “wrong” answers – a class that already exists in some parts of the world, for example in the US.