Ethics At Latin


  On a bus to a social event, a video was taken of fraternity members singing a racist chant – “You can hang him from the tree but they can never sing with me, there will never be a ni***r SAE.” As you can imagine, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity scandal at the University of Oklahoma captivated and appalled the country. About three days after the incident occurred, two former SAE black males appeared on CNN news. They were on the verge of tears as they answered questions about how they felt in regards to their “brothers” chanting racial slurs.  William Bruce James II (former SAE at U of O), said, “That is not my home. That is not SAE. They are not my brothers.” Fraternities and sororities are set in place in order to form a bond between students….so why would you want to insult and discredit your so-called brothers? This incident and so many others makes you wonder how ethics are taught (or are they being taught?) and particularly how they’re taught to kids. Do students have this inner hate inside of them even though they may seem to have a strong sense of moral and ethical justice and believe in the value and importance of diversity? Part of Latin’s mission is to create worldly students who are educated and have a strong moral compass. Mr. Gilden’s Global Ethics class is one way that students are given the chance to discuss ethical dilemmas with one another. Instead of preaching what is perceived to be correct, the class allows for discussion and deliberation of all students’ points of view. Rather than simply trying to tell the students what they should believe, the class demands that their minds be broadened and topics be explored and debated in order to become a more globally and ethically aware citizen. Topics range from population control to abortion to capital punishment and torture. Students examine why and how such different approaches exist. When asked about the class one student simply said, “Well…today we talked about the meaning of life. Arguments I had hardly considered were fascinating to hear. Prior to this moment, I had never thought about whether or not life had meaning.” You can only imagine how many different ideas about the meaning of life came up, but it’s reassuring to know that students have the opportunity to listen to different opinions on such thought provoking topics. When sophomore Sophie Norris was asked what one word she would use to describe the class, she said, “Perspective.” Not many students in America are fortunate enough to be able to receive an education where they can say that. As I go about my days, in and out of school, I, of course, hear unethical things being said, but the beautiful thing about Latin is that there are always people to challenge them. Long-term, Mr. Gilden has always been interested in philosophy and psychology, and feels that ethics is the perfect intersection of the two. He said, “My work in helping create Latin’s Honor Council got me thinking more directly and concretely about the role of ethics in students’ lives.” The main goal for the class is, “to expose students to different beliefs/philosophies/cultures around the world and to have students reflect on their own beliefs and behaviors.” The question that he wants his kids to think about is, “Why do I do what I do?” It’s no surprise that students love the class. It gives them a chance to, as he says, “take ideas and information that may seem abstract and distant, and apply it to their own lives.” My Gilden explains that the class is largely about self discovery. It is about exposure, acceptance, and learning who you are and what you feel as a person. It is each individual’s job to be respectful of one another. Each time something like the SAE video happens, participants are disregarding their moral obligation to everyone around them. Life is about choices. For students, parents, teachers, whomever it may be. One choice can define you forever. It may be a nine second video that gets you suspended from your college that could quite possibly change the trajectory of your life. Or it may be as small as sneering a remark to a passerby and making their day infinitely darker. It’s probably impossible to find anyone without a racist, sexist, etc comment or thought in their mind, but you can teach them to be aware of others’ opinions. Latin’s Global Ethics class is doing just that.   This article is part one of a series in which we will explore Ethics At Latin in different situations and classes.        ]]>