This morning was my Ethics class. It was the final lesson on the topic of punishment, which has been dragging on for four weeks. I don’t like the topics that go 4 weeks, as the kids (and myself) are really sick and tired of it after that long. I much prefer the shorter 2 or 3 week topics.
Anyway, today we went through a scenario in which a teacher/coach catches some girls on the netball team teasing another new girl who has a different accent. The coach decides some punishment is needed, but isn’t sure what, and so asks four of the other team coaches what they think. One says to give them a taste of their own medicine and have some other girls tease them. Another says to ban them from playing for 4 weeks. Another says they should have to do something to make it up to the teased girl. The fourth says they should have to think about what they did and the reasons why it’s wrong.
The exercise was to get the kids to discuss the merits and flaws of each suggestion. They pretty much agreed the first idea was bad, as it would lead to a cycle of teasing back and forth, escalating the situation. They had an insight that I didn’t with the second one, and said banning the girls from playing would punish the whole team, not just the ones who did the teasing, so it wasn’t really a fair punishment. They also agreed that this sort of punishment isn’t a big deterrent against teasing – it’s just more likely to make the girls be more careful not to get caught. They thought that the third idea, doing something to make up for it, was a good idea, suggesting things like helping the teased girl with a project or something. They liked the idea of having to do a good deed to make up for the bad one. They also liked the fourth idea, that the kids should have to think about why teasing is bad, but they couldn’t come up with any good ideas on how to make them do that.
They concluded (with appropriate prompting) with the concept that a punishment should be “fitting” to the crime, in that it should be proportionate and not too severe, it shouldn’t lead to escalation, it should in some way attempt to make up for the damage caused, and it should lead the committer to reconsider what they’ve done so that they’re less likely to do it again.
Overall it was a pretty good discussion! And I think they really had some good insights into the topic by the end of it. Next week we start a new topic: Vanity.
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