Kids on whales and teleportation

Face to face ethics class at the school this morning: I started a new topic, which is on “Circumstances”. It’s built around the idea of discussing whether eating whale meat is okay. The very first question to ask the kids is: What do you know about whales? The lesson plan assumes that the kids will say things like whales are intelligent, they communicate with one another, they have social groups and help one another, and some species are endangered. When I asked the question, “What do you know about whales?”, these were the first three responses I got:

Their milk is the consistency of toothpaste.
When they’re lying dead on a beach, their intestines explode.
They lost 3-0 to England this morning.

Yeah, it was one of those classes. It was a lot of fun, and honestly I was enjoying the discussion as much as the kids. I moved on to telling the kids that in Norway, you can find whale meat in restaurants and supermarkets, and asked if it was okay that the Norwegians eat whale meat. Now, the whole lesson plan seems to be predicated on the idea that most of the kids will say no, and give the whales’ intelligence and endangered status as reasons. Because much of the remainder of the lesson is questioning them about cultural differences, and then giving an example of the Inuit who had to hunt whales to survive the long winters with no other food, and asking if they thought that was okay, as a contrast to saying that modern Norwegians shouldn’t be eating whale meat.

But it didn’t work out that way, because several kids said they thought it was fine to eat whale meat. If Norwegians think it’s okay, then that’s their culture, so no problem. We discussed this a bit and I asked them why they thought this. I asked what if Australian supermarkets started stocking whale meat, and they said that would be fine too. I resorted to doing a show of hands, asking who thought eating whale meat was okay, and every kid in the class put their hand up.

Well, that kind of derailed the whole thing about the Inuit and setting up a situation where eating whale meat was a survival necessity. I went through it very quickly, because there was kind of no point and it didn’t lead to any interesting further discussion. I ended up going through two whole lessons worth of material, and having a few minutes over at the end to pose additional questions that I could think of related to the situation. It was definitely interesting and quite a fun discussion, but I really had to think on my feet.

Tonight I had three online lessons in a row about Teleportation. The first was very stressful as someone had signed up a student below the suggested age range, and their English was fairly rudimentary, so I had to slow the whole class down a lot. I’m going to have to write to the parent and recommend they unenrol as the class is too advanced in material and required English skills for their kid.

Thankfully the next two were better. Class 2 had a very intelligent discussion about the potential issues and ethics of teleportation. Class 3 was also fairly intelligent, but with a touch of fun as well. In that one I asked what bad/evil things people could get up to with a teleporter that can’t send living things. One girl said:

Ads! You’d get millions of ads delivered direct to your living room!

I also set up a situation where a teleporter malfunctions and there’s a copy of the person at the origin and the destination and asked what should be done. Two of the girls in this class said:

Kill both of them.

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