PHILOSOPHICAL AND SOCIOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS OF EDUCATION: What is ethics?

CHAPTER FOUR

BRANCHES OF PHILOSOPHY

4a iii). Discuss the concept of ethics in the context of the teaching-learning environment today.

4.4 ETHICS (IDEAL CONDUCT)

     What is ethics?

  • The word ethics is derived from a Greek Word ‘Ethikos’ meaning a custom or habit. Thus ethics is the study of values and customs of people in a given society.
  • Ethics is the study of right or wrong, good or bad.
  • It is the study of values.
  • It is the study of right conduct and good life.
  • It is the study of human actions.
  • It is the study of morality.
  • Ethics is the study of a code of professional standards and duty to the profession and the public.

Why do we learn ethics? We learn ethics so that we can know how to live successful and happy lives. In ethics we learn important values which regulate our behaviour. Ethics and morals are like two sides of the same coin. Ethics is the theory side while morals is practical part. Ethics talks about the right actions, while morals indicate their practice.

 

Types of Ethics

We have two types of ethics:

(a)Personal ethics

Personal ethics refers to a moral code applicable to individuals. It explains the causes of good and bad.

(b) Social ethics

It refers to a moral code applicable to groups or people in a society. Social ethics is the foundation of a good society. Ethics covers the whole moral ideals and behaviors.

     Morality        

What is morality? Morality is a guide to living. It guides people in a society on how to live. Morality helps people to know what to do. A person may use trial and error or follow morality. Morality helps a person to choose rationally among values. Values are standards of behaviour. They help us to know how to behave in different situations.

Morality consists of defined rules of behaviour for example: Do not steal, do not murder, do not commit adultery etc. The work of teachers and parents is to develop good character in children and to help them to obey. Teachers should help children to understand the need for rules and regulations. To understand that rules and regulations are for their good. Teachers should also help children to understand that if they break rules they will suffer the consequences. The consequences may be good or bad. Teachers should help children to learn to weigh the consequences of their actions. The moral conduct is determined by a cost-benefit analysis of the action’s consequences. In proper behaviour costs or consequences weigh less.    

      Discipline

One of the first lessons a child should learn early in life is the lesson of obedience. Before he is old enough to reason, he should be taught to obey. By gentle, persistent effort, the habit should be established. This will prevent conflicts that will occur between the will and authority that will produce bitterness towards parents and teachers and resistance of all authority, human and divine.

Development of Morals

How can we develop children’s morals?

  • Telling children what they should do and not do. Children should be told not only what they should not do but also what they should do. When we tell children only what they should not do they don’t know what they are supposed to do. A list of prohibitions is not good enough for children.  
  • Provide good models. With ones own life as the standard of value, morality is not a burden to bear, a prudent and effective guide, which furthers life and success.
  • Telling stories.
  • Singing songs.
  • Reading story books.

The components of ethics are concerned with moral standards, conduct, values and principles.

The components of ethics are:

(a) Meta-ethics.

The word ‘meta’ is a Greek word which means ‘beyond’. Meta-ethics is the study of the origin and meaning of ethical concepts. Meta-ethics explains why conducts, behaviour and principles occur as they do.

(b) Normative ethics.

It is about moral standards which regulates right and wrong behaviour. It is a test of right and wrong behaviour. An example of normative ethics is what the bible says: Do to others what you would like them do to you. The rule regulates our behaviour. For example if a child does not want his banana to stolen, then he should not steal other child’s banana. Normative ethics regulates our behaviours.

(c) Descriptive ethics.

It is an approach to ethics which examines the choices made by individuals or groups. The study of descriptive ethics include: Aesthetics, etiquette, arbitration and observed choices. Aesthetics is the basis of ethics which is developed through art. It influences an individual’s ethical choices. The choices may be good or bad like stealing. Etiquette refers to manners. Arbitration is about having two things which are both right and one is supposed to choose one when an individual needs both. Observed choice refers to decisions made by ordinary people without other people’s help for example when voting, buying something or when deciding what is right and wrong.

(d) Applied ethics.

It examines controversial issues in a society and resolves the issues by using meta-ethics, normative and descriptive ethics. Some of issues include: Abortion, pollution, rape etc. Applied ethics assesses whether it is right or wrong, moral or immoral.

          

     Importance of teaching children ethics

  • Children need knowledge about ethics. Our children are growing without ethics.
  • Need to learn how to behave. Ethics helps children to learn how to behave so that they can be acceptable members of their society.
  • To help them to understand their duties like taking care of the environment.
  • To learn to make priorities. Ethics helps children to learn to weigh situations both positive and negative.
  • Learn to make right decisions. This is because ethics is the study of good or bad, right or wrong.
  • Character development. Children will develop important character traits like honesty, love, and tolerance.
  • Develop God fearing people. Ethics help children to learn to fear God.
  • To develop a good society. Children are members of a society. Good children will mean good members of a society.
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