Ethics discussion guide
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Taking responsibility

Objective: To convey to students that being responsible involves a variety of character traits that demonstrate awareness of and concern for others and for one’s environment.

Discussion: Discuss the broad scope of responsibility. As a class or in small groups, go through the bulleted list and discuss why each of the bulleted points is included as part of “being responsible.” Have students talk about any points that they did not previously associate with acting responsibly. Ask students if being responsible sounds similar to what they understand so far about being ethical. (Yes, many of the qualities listed on this page are similar to those listed in the crossword puzzle in the Understanding Ethics section.)

Activity: Responsibility and ethics

Discussion: Discuss with students that money and popularity can easily come and go, but that one’s character leaves a lasting impression. Remind them that the long-term benefits of doing the right thing should always outweigh short-term goals.

Invite students to think of some actions with short-term benefits besides money and popularity that they might be tempted to pursue, and which might tempt them to forget the long-term benefits of acting responsibly and ethically. (Answers could include: eating all of their candy or ice cream themselves instead of sharing with a younger sibling; cheating on a test to get a good grade; not passing the ball to a well positioned teammate in order to make the goal oneself; spreading mean gossip about a classmate in order to feel accepted by the “in” crowd.)

Have students share which long-term benefits they circled on the worksheet as being of value to them, and have them explain why. Which type of individual listed (coach, parent, or beauty pageant contestant) do they think would need to act the most responsibly? Point out that, interestingly, one needn’t necessarily act responsibly in order to have a lot of money, or to be popular. (Although certainly there are responsible people who do have money and who are popular.) Ask students why they think that is.

Going further: Have students read the quotes aloud to the class. Assign as homework to find a quote they like that illustrates some aspect of responsibility or ethics. Have students share these with the class.