9. The moral toolbox

Lesson powerpoint here

Lesson objectives:

  1. To understand the role of values, emotion and reason in ethical decision making.
  2. To develop an understanding of the components of wisdom.
  3. To develop an understanding of the complexity of skills involved in being ethical.

1. What happens in moral situations?

  • Remind pupils of the 6 moral foundations from lesson 4: care/harm; liberty/oppression; sanctity/degradation; fairness; loyalty; respect. Point out that a moral situation is one where they might be called upon to act/speak to defend one of these principles.
  • Play the lift dilemma video. Work through the questions on the slide; 1. Which moral foundation is at stake in this dilemma? (care/harm) 2. What has been discovered by scientists about how we work in moral situations? (we have an emotional reaction; we feel we must do something (duty); we offer reasons for our actions (usually afterwards)) 3. What would they do in this situation and why?

2. The moral toolbox.

  • When we make moral decisions, we have certain tools at our disposal: the moral foundations which form our values base; our emotions and the emotions of others which give us information about what we think and what others think; reasoning: following ethical rules; calculating the best outcomes and consequences; juggling conflicting ethical demands (e.g. honesty vs. loyalty). These tools enable us to do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, towards the right person, for the right reasons.
  • Play the Barry Schwartz TED talk on wisdom and give pupils the following questions to discuss: 1. Are you surprised that Barry Schwartz used the example of hospital janitors to explore moral skill? 2. What are the 4 things that the wise person is able to do? (Knows when to make exceptions to rules; knows how to improvise; knows how to use moral skills in pursuit of right aims; is made, not born). 3. Why does Schwartz liken moral skill to jazz musicians? 4. What was your emotional reaction to the Mike’s Hard Lemonade story? 5. What point is Barry Schwartz making when he tells that story?
  • Print off the A3 colour moral skill grid. On the slides, there are pictures of prominent/famous people. Ask the pupils to identify which moral skills those individuals are able to display (as far as they are aware). Pupils may need to do a little bit of research to find out. Ask the class to decide which of those individuals in the most ‘virtuous’ i.e. the best able to make sound moral decisions.