The Denver West Point Society hosted its first Leadership and Ethics Conference for high school juniors in Colorado. It was entitled “Living an Honorable Life.” General (ret) George Casey served as the keynote speaker. I had the privilege of hosting at my table six juniors—Amaya, Grace, Elias, Sandra, Caleb and Haley representing three different high schools and towns. We studied vignettes that featured moral/ethical dilemmas with the students working through ethical decision-making models to reach wise solutions.
We defined morality as “understanding the distinction between right and wrong according to religious or moral principles that govern all behavior . . . Morality can be thought of as the foundation of ethics.” Ethics is “acting in accordance with accepted principles of right and wrong that govern the conduct of a profession.” Legal simply means “acting in accordance with the law.”
None of the schools these students were from teach a class on morality and ethics so it was especially important that they were able to attend this event and take away tremendous learning that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
2 Samuel 21:1—During David’s reign there was a famine for three successive years, so David inquired of the LORD. The LORD answered, “It is because of the blood shed by Saul and his family when he killed the Gibeonites.”
God is deeply interested in morality and ethics. While led by Joshua into the Promised Land of Canaan, the Israelites were tricked into signing a legal treaty (which violated God’s instruction to Moses) with the Gibeonites who falsely presented themselves as coming from a distant land. Despite the chicanery, Joshua had to protect them because he and the leaders of the community gave their word to let them live.
King Saul in his overblown zeal, attempted to exterminate the Gibeonites. Because that action was immoral and broke Joshua’s vow, God punished Israel. When King David approached the Gibeonites and asked how he could make things right, they required the hanging of seven of Saul’s male descendants (vss. 5,6). Once the hangings were over, God ended the famine.
This story shows how important it is for us to keep our word and to behave in a manner that is morally pleasing to God. When a nation acts immorally we can be sure that God’s judgment will follow. This is why it is incredibly important that our schools and institutions of learning teach moral and ethical standards. Not to do so threatens our very survival!
I overheard one student say to another that he learned more about morality in one day then he had learned his entire life. While that is great news for the event organizers, it is a sad commentary on the state of education. We should pray that those in charge of teaching children in our public schools will come to their senses, recognize how important moral and ethical teaching is and implement sound teaching (if they are not already doing so)!
In a study reviewing 23 different ethics training programs, those using group discussions of moral dilemmas produced on average an astounding four and half times more positive effects on moral development than those without dedicated moral discussions.—James R. Rest and Stephen. J. Thoma, “Education Programs and Interventions,” in Moral Development: Advances in Theory and Research, ed. James R. Rest.