Message from Karen Morse, Head of School
Lower Campus, March 12, 2013
I am pleased to share with you some reflections of our rich evening Monday with
guest speaker, Al Neil, from the Institute for Global Ethics (IGE).
In an inspiring ninety minutes, students, parents, faculty, staff, and community members came away with a better understanding of moral courage and ethical living.
Should I tell on a friend or should I say nothing and remain loyal? Which is more right? Should I pay attention to my immediate needs at the expense of needs I may
have down the road, or vice versa? Which is more right? Should I help a small group at the expense of a larger group, or should the greatest number always win out?
Which is more right? These types of questions were posed to students.
"Ethics is an ongoing process. It is the study of doing the right thing without anyone watching," Mr. Neil explained as he listed poor examples of ethical leadership: Bernie Madoff, Barry Bonds, Jeffrey Skilling, Lance Armstrong, and Chris Spence.
"Unethical people/companies do not survive the test of time. If we blow with the winds of popular thought, we are easily manipulated. There is a loss of credibility and friendships and we are unprepared for the inevitable life changing decisions," Neil reasoned. "One bad decision can change the course of our lives."
Conversely, so can one ethically reasoned decision. We hear again and again that our planet is in desperate need of moral leadership. To that end, IGE has as its primary goal to cultivate awareness that sound ethics is essential for survival.
Few would argue that academic excellence is characteristic of quality education, but while academics are necessary, Neil explained, "they are insufficient for twenty-first century learners."
Rather, experiences with critical and creative thinking, real world problem solving skills that help students make connections to real life, and communication and collaboration that includes reasoning, all point the moral compass of young people toward ethical twenty-first century leadership. We must "cultivate an attitude that with global awareness comes an understanding that we're all in this together."
In small discussion groups, participants were tasked with identifying bedrock principles of character. After great reasoning and debate, each group shared its list of five qualities. Nearly all groups identified these common five: honesty, respect, responsibility, fairness, and compassion. In keeping with this same reasoning session, implemented by IGE worldwide, whether in Bangladesh, Columbia, England, Poland, South Africa, etc., or throughout the USA, these words are internationally the most frequently identified core values. How encouraging to be reminded, it's a small world after all.
Ojai Valley School students are already becoming familiar with some essential tools for dealing with difficult dilemmas. Our first graders can explain as well as our eighth graders that it is helpful to use the 4-way test to determine if a decision is an ethical one:
* FRONT PAGE TEST: Would I do this if my actions were going to be on the front page of the newspaper?
* GUT TEST: How will this make me feel?
* LEGAL/RULE TEST: Does this break any laws or rules?
* "MOM" TEST (ROLE MODEL): Would my mom (or other role model) do this; would I do this if mom were watching?
After our session with Al Neil, we can apply additional essential tools for dealing with difficult dilemmas. With character development at the core of the OVS philosophy, the evening reinforced that we are already providing a level of uncommon excellence for our students. Throughout our PK- Grade 12 program, we are committed to giving students the tools needed to navigate the changing role of ethics in a technologically driven world. It is essential that we help them develop and understand the difference between right and wrong. Helping students define moral courage and identify how moral courage plays a part in decision making is a gift they will use throughout their lives.
Mr. Neil concluded the evening with this important message: "We want our students to make better decisions consistent with a common standard of shared ethical values and to develop good character by practicing those values consistently. We cannot make them do what is right. It must be intrinsic. It is our greatest hope for the future."
If you are interested in receiving the handouts from the evening, please be in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know of your interest. Please make special note of the side bars in today's Notes. There are some exciting and important events at OVS in the coming weeks.
Head of School, Lower Campus