Can Ethics Be Taught To Our Children?

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The idea of conveying ethics and moral behavior is at the core of our mission statement at We believe strongly that families must begin, at an early age, to challenge children and teens to think critically. Our goal is to help them think about not only what they do but why they do it, and to arrive at a set of principles on which to live their lives. This shared accumulation of values between parents and their children is a very important experience.

The challenge lies in how one goes about teaching values. Before we can even arrive at that question comes another: can ethics and morals even be taught? We firmly believe yes, and we now have a like mind in an exceptional individual: Warren Buffett.

A recent article quotes Mr. Buffett as saying, “ethics come from the home, it doesn’t come from the classroom. Ethics and values are ingratiated into who we are from our beginning in whatever form our family took.”

He goes on to say that he doesn’t believe ethics can be taught, but rather that they must “be lived.” The distinction he makes is about ethics being taught in the classroom environment, or as part of a business training. Ethics are not an elective that we can add on to a course of studies if we so choose; they are either a way of life or not.

The article in question goes on to make some excellent points about what it means to be ethical. These points seem to reinforce Mr. Buffett’s notion of ethics as something that live inside us. Doing the right thing is easy when the circumstances are right, or when it is to our advantage to be ethical. The true test of an ethical person is how they act when doing the right thing may be less than ideal for themselves. In other words, are we willing to compromise our own ends, our own happiness, to act justly and fairly to all?

This leads back to the core of InspireConversation and our goal for our readers, as well as their children and teens. When you read recent articles like our piece on Netflix video piracy and the follow-up conversation on other uses of Internet proxy servers, we are asking you to look at an ethical dilemma as a family and discuss it. By looking at that specific case and forming an opinion, you begin to develop a template for moral behavior.

While ethics are constant and unwavering, the circumstances of ethical dilemmas change greatly with time. Not knowing where our children’s lives will take them, or what the world of their adult lives will look like, we cannot prepare them for each possible scenario. Rather by helping to build an ethical framework, we instill in them behavior that will allow them to think both critically and morally as they live their lives.

Perhaps to say ethics can be taught is a misnomer, but ethics can be instilled by tackling the situations of today as a family, so that the situations of tomorrow can be handled by our children with a firm moral basis gained from meaningful family conversation and by parents modeling ethical behavior.


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