Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.

Moral Education

November 30, 2005

The latest panel in my patchwork quilt of a life has me teaching quite a bit more, doing construction a bit less, and running not at all.

With four sections of the same ethics class, I sometimes lose track of my comings and goings. Did I say this in this class, or the other one? Is it morning or night? Did I tell the story about mistaking cranberry sauce for gravy today, or yesterday?

There are many ups, many downs, and a fair bit of aggravation. Trying to crack through the brick wall of most people’s moral perspective gets a little tiring, especially with the apparent correlation between ignorance and obstinance which many folks seem to enjoy. If you can’t say it better, say it louder. Or at least with a bit more emphasis.

But this morning was an even bigger challenge. One of my students (who has demonstrated a bit of an unnerving interest in Hitler) approached me with the long-awaited topic for his final project. He wants to do it on the Holocaust. *Gulp*

Open Minded Professor: “ummm…. ok. Can you give me the two sides of that ethical issue?”
Determined Student: “Well, there’s the one side, where people say it is wrong because all of those people died. But there were also a lot of projects which they completed with all of that labor, and some good experiments were done, and medical research was advanced there.”
OMP: (aghast)
DS: (unblinking)
OMP: (with a deep breath, and fear that he is staring pure evil in the eye) “That’s a legitimate ethical issue, I guess. It seems like you tend to lean toward the ‘pro’ side…”
DS: “yeah.”
OMP: “well, that will make a difficult topic, because you’re going to have to do a lot of work to help people see that perspective. And it’s not likely to be very well-recieved.”
DS: “Oh, I know.”
OMP: (with slow side nod, and high eyebrows) “OK, then, I guess.”

Should be interesting.

Note to self: bring crash helmet to last class. And put in for hazard pay.

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10 Responses to “Moral Education”

  1. kate says:

    Oh my GOSH. Can you invite guests?

  2. sonja says:

    How about moral support?

  3. Liz says:

    You know that my father is Jewish by birth, but later became a Methodist minister… Well, when we were in high school my brother started dating this girl. She seemed perfectly normal. After awhile her parents invited my whole family over dinner one Sunday.

    The front door opens and there in the front hall is a shrine to Hitler and the Nazi flag. Turns out the girl was a very late in life baby and the father was a german solider — or at least a Youth for Hitler or something. We had to spend the whole afternoon listening to his tale of escaping from occupided Germany and how the Jews, gyspies, and fags have ruiened the world. Oh, if only Hitler had won, he lamented. We all sat around the table praying that he didn’t ask about my father’s family.

    Will you let us read the paper the student turns in? I wonder if he’s doing it for affect or if he really believes it.

  4. WMS says:

    oh my, my own moralizing volume nob just got turned up! way up! I couldn’t do your job. But I could do a good job yelling some sense into that student! Unbelievable. I think you need to assign him a REQUIRED visit to the holocaust museaum downtown before he writes the “pro” side of that genocide.

  5. Liz says:

    Your student isn’t the first skin head I’ve come across… I’ve met some real life ones. But for some reason this is bothering me a lot right now. Maybe it’s because I’ve been so sick lately. Fevers always make my mind go to crazy spaces.

    This really brings us to core question of good and evil. Is it relative?

    Have you shown or do you plan to show Triumph of the Will?

  6. kate says:

    I was thinking about what Israel said, too. The Holocaust Museum would be an interesting assignment. Especially the (thankfully) walled-in TVs where they show the bodies — alive and dead — that were experimented on.
    But I guess you have to have a fundamental belief that all lives have value. If you don’t … how do you GET that belief? Can anyone or anything “impose” it on you? Probably speaks to deeper problems. I wonder what this kid’s story is.

  7. P3T3RK3Y5 says:

    be prepared for rational arguments — including those that value the greater good. what will be lacking is grace and love and compassion.

  8. Rebecca says:

    My parents have “doubts” about the holocaust [atleast the version of it that we all know] (they’re like bugs attracted to light when it comes to any conspiracy theory and they’ve started to tread WAY off the beaten path over the past few years). I’ve been exposed to quite a bit of the views of the other side over the past few years, been in some heated arguments with them, and pulled up quite a bit of research online refuting their points (which they refuse to read of course because they’d rather get their info from old books and radio preachers that broadcast from their trailers on shortwave of course). I bet some of the points from this document will be brought up (and here are the refutation of those points and counter rebuttals)http://www.nizkor.org/features/qar/qar00.html
    You may already know all that but it was informative to me.

    Many of those people believe that the holocaust museum is completely made up.

  9. randy buist says:

    NOte to self: An “F” is an acceptable grade to assign a student who is not competent.
    :)

  10. Erin says:

    Is this one of those kids who thinks the best way to appear intelligent is to be contrary? Like if the assignment were to argue for the best possible food item, he’d pick bird droppings. And in class, always saying, “Yeah, but what if…” and trying to come up with some scenario that would contradict your point. Ie, “murder is wrong.” and he says, “Yeah but we kill fruits and vegetables every day for our own selfish purposes.”

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