The comics grind

I had one task today: Finish writing a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. I need to get new strips made for next week, and I initially had the goal of photographing on Tuesday, but I was busy with so many other things that the necessary writing fell by the wayside, until today. Friday is basically the last day I could feasibly photograph this next batch in order to have the comics produced and ready in time. So there was nothing for it today but to chain myself to my desk and churn out comic scripts until I had them finished. No time for writer’s block, or shilly-shallying.

As it turned out, I completed the task by about 3pm, and then had some time to turn to writing some Darths & Droids strips as well, which are also a bit under the pump. I’ve fallen behind a bit on these with all of the other stuff going on, adding more ethics classes and handling the university image processing course that I’m teaching as well.

Then from 5pm I had two ethics classes in a row. The topic this week is “morals and the law”. I start with some example stories where people suggest that (a) just because something is legal doesn’t make it moral, and (b) just because something is illegal doesn’t make it immoral. I ask the kids for their thoughts on these statements. The responses have been varied, with most saying that the law is not necessarily aligned with moral correctness, but often is. I have had a couple of kids state outright that breaking the law is always an immoral act.

Then I tell the story of Rosa Parks, and how she broke the law to protest against the segregation laws in Alabama in 1955. I ask if the kids if those laws were morally correct or not, and why (thankfully everyone has agreed they were not!). And then I point out that Rosa Parks broke the law deliberately – she knew she was breaking the law – and ask if what she did was wrong. Even the kids who had previously said that breaking the law is immoral said that in this case breaking the law was a morally right act. So I’m sure that stimulated some reflection and thought!

I go on to consider what happens when laws change. I ask the kids why we change laws all the time, and they give answers such as laws that are bad, or laws to cover changes in technology, such as driving laws when cars were invented. I say that there are lobby groups who get governments to try to change laws, either adding new ones, or getting rid of existing ones, and ask the kids why people want to change the law. Answers include that people think something is right or wrong, morally, and they want the law to reflect that by permitting or banning it, respectively. Then I ask them if it’s a good idea to base the law on people’s morals…

This question seems to stimulate a lot of thought and discussion. Some kids say yes, that’s what the law should be based on. Others say it sounds good, but they’re not really sure if it is a good idea. Others say no, because people disagree on what’s morally right and wrong, so how can you please everyone? And then I steer the discussion into how should we make laws? Who should decide what the law is? Some kids have said it should be the President/Prime Minister, others the Parliament, others said it should be judges, but the most common answer here is that people should decide, by voting, and the law should be what most people agree on.

Then comes the whammy. The segregation laws in Alabama in 1955 were supported by the government and most of the voters. What should we do if most people want a morally unjust law? In the classes tonight I’d run out of time by the time I got here, so I left that question hanging for the kids to think about, and to discuss with their parents.

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