Wondering Aloud: Philosophy With Young People

Does what we are matter when thinking about what we ought to do?

Is science relevant to moral philosophy? In the marvelously clear and accessible Experiments in Ethics, Kwame Anthony Appiah explores the relationship between morality and the empirical research of science. Many philosophers have held that science in general, and moral psychology in particular, hold little relevance for moral philosophy (stemming in part from Hume’s distinction between […]

Forgiveness: “Forgiving Dr. Mengele”

This week I watched Forgiving Dr. Mengele, an interesting and provocative film about the life of Eva Mozes Kor. Eva and her sister Miriam were among the many sets of twins who were victims of Josef Mengele’s horrific twin experiments in the Auschwitz concentration camp. They arrived at Auschwitz when they were nine years old, […]

Hotel Rwanda

Hotel Rwanda As part of the “Moral Philosophy and Genocide” unit I am doing with eighth grade students, last week we watched the film Hotel Rwanda and then discussed it. We talked about the reasons the international community did not intervene in Rwanda, and what obligations the Western countries had to Rwanda during this period. […]

Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust — Blog Series Part II

This morning I taught the second class of the “Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust” unit to two eighth grade classes. This class is an introduction to moral philosophy, a way to give the students some background before we launch into the issues raised by the Holocaust. We began by talking about Plato’s Ring of Gyges […]

Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust: Blog Series Part III

When Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, Jane Elliott, a third grade teacher in Iowa, decided to implement an exercise in her classroom to help her students understand racism and discrimination. She divided the class into students with brown eyes and students with blue eyes, and spent one day discriminating against the brown-eyed students […]

Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust: Blog Series Part IV

Why do people obey authority even when they sense that what they’re doing is wrong? Central to the conditions that allowed the Holocaust to occur was people’s tendencies to conform to the situations in which they find themselves. In this class we watch a clip from the film Obedience, which documents the Milgram experiments. In […]

Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust: Blog Series Part V

In this class we view the film Heil Hitler: Confessions of a Hitler Youth. The film is an interview with Alfons Heck, who describes his childhood experiences as a member of the Hitler Youth and his rise to prominence as a leader in the organization, and then his shame and revulsion as he realized after […]

Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust: Blog Series Part VI

Why did some people become rescuers during the Holocaust? What makes some people, despite the risks, act to prevent moral wrongs? Is being a bystander morally wrong? In this class we see the film The Courage to Care, involving profiles of individuals during the Third Reich who helped protect Jews in France, Holland and Poland. […]

Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust: Blog Series Part VII

Can one person make a difference? The last class for the Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust unit involves watching the film Not in Our Town, which describes a series of hate crimes that took place in Billings, Montana, in the 1990s, and the town’s reaction to these events. The people in the town really came […]

Puzzles about Ethics

A couple of years ago I created a series of ethics puzzles to introduce various moral questions to two fourth grade classes. I adapted some of these scenarios from puzzles created by others and made up the rest. I found that formulating dilemmas that would be easily recognizable to ten-year-old students was an effective way […]

Science Fair and Ethics

Yesterday I showed up in the fifth grade classroom in which I’ve been teaching, prepared to talk with the students about whether you can get something form nothing, whether everything has a beginning, and related questions. When I arrived, the class informed me that they had just had a discussion about an ethical problem related […]

The Book Thief and Psychological Egoism

On Friday I had a marvelous discussion with a group of students in an eighth grade English class about The Book Thief, a novel by Markus Zusak. The story is told from the perspective of Death, who describes his experiences during the Holocaust, and in particular the story of a young girl living near Munich. […]

The Hundred Dresses

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (1944) is a great book to inspire discussions about the nature of friendship, the ethics of being a bystander, and questions about what moral duties we owe to others. I have used this book with students from ages 8-18, usually taking three or four classes to read it together […]

The One Who Walk Away from Omelas

The Ursula LeGuin short story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is a powerful story for discussing with high school students utilitarian ethics and the question of whether the suffering of one person is permissible if it brings about the greater good. The story is set in a joyful and seemingly perfect city, where […]

The Three Questions

“There once was a boy named Nikolai who sometimes felt uncertain about the right way to act. ‘I want to be a good person,’ he told his friends. ‘But I don’t always know the best way to do that.’” From The Three Questionsby Jon J. Muth Muth takes Leo Tolstoy’s short story, The Three Questions, […]