I had a really interesting conversation with the Grade 6 class today. I asked them “Why should we do what is right?”
Their answers were great. They included: “because God gave us free will and by doing what is right we are being who he has called us to be”, “because even if no one else knows we should do what is right”, and “because if you are a good person you should just want to do what is right”. Aristotle would be pleased. He defines moral virtue as a disposition to behave in the right manner. In short, good people desire to do the right thing simply because they are good people.
At school, we try to instruct the children to do what is right because it is the right thing to do; the proper use of the gift of free will from God. We also teach them that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.
When I was a child I would not have been able to give answers nearly as good as the students in Grade Six. In Grade Two I learned the Act of Contrition which, at that time, was not simplified in children’s language. One very memorable line states “I detest all my sins because of your just punishments.” When I was a child, the main reason I did what was right was that I was literally scared to death to get in trouble! This was an immature, albeit relatively effective, moral code.
Within the context of this discussion of moral virtue let us turn our attention to the epicentre of ethical dilemmas; our school parking lot. Why should you drive slowly? Why should you not double park? Why should you drive in the right direction? Why should you use the crosswalk? The immature responses would include “so you don’t get in trouble from Miss Easterbrook” or “so nobody gets hurt.” These reasons are limited but true and good. Even better reasons would be “it contributes to safety and order” or “it sets a good example for the kids.” The best answer would be “because it’s the right thing to do.”
Whatever the reason; fear of punishment, safety, or moral virtue, it is time to step up as a community be safe in the parking lot. Please drive slowly. Please only park in designated parking spots and do not double park. If being good for the sake of being good is not reason enough, consider the little girl in Toronto who died in the school drop-off zone this week. For every reason, being safe in the parking lot is the right thing to do.