How ethical are today’s teens?
When given the chance to cheat, what would the teenagers you know do?
A recent New York Times article on the subject of Ethics in Life and Business explored the difficulty adults have in making the right choice.
The author says: “The problem, research shows, is that how we think we’re going to act when faced with a moral decision and how we really do act are often vastly different.”
How much more challenging is this for teens growing up in a confusing world of right and wrong?
Months ago, I was surprised to learn how teens defined cheating while defending their behavior.
Since the scandals of the 80’s, businesses and researchers were propelled to give ethics serious consideration and there is now a website devoted to the matter.
As the article states, the difficulty in teaching ethics is that there is a difference between the ‘should’ self (what should be done in a given situation) and the ‘want’ self (wanting to be liked, accepted).
I imagine that with teens, that ‘want’ self is really strong in the adolescent years.
Social media hasn’t made things any easier for them, where there is even more of a pull to be one of the crowd.
Academic pressure hasn’t helped either, with the resultant urge to cheat becoming ever stronger.
Based on everything we know, there is a real benefit to training teens in this area while giving them real skills to succeed in the world of business,
So, how to we hope to teach ethics to teens?
By practice. Repetition. Role-plays. Scenarios where teenagers get to act out their choices.
High schools rarely offer ethics as a subject area.
Monthly programs for teens can not begin to instill these skills, there’s just not enough time to make anything ‘stick’.
Jewish educators who meet with teens weekly have an exceptional opportunity to give them a much-needed tune-up.