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June 1, 2023 • 5 min read • Continuing the Conversation • Ethical Decision-Making
Synthesis Teams

ETHICAL DECISION-MAKING: Continuing the Conversation with Your Student

The importance of civil discourse.
It’s no secret — the world of adults is becoming more divisive, and civil discussions around ethical questions seem harder and harder to find. But our children don’t have to inherit that. Instead, they’ll need experiences, early and often, where they can discuss their perspectives with other people in a safe environment of mutual respect.
No tests, no quizzes, no right answers.
Our questions are open-ended, thought-provoking, and reflective. We’re not looking for the right answers. We’re focusing on how students recognize conflict, gather information, and explore ethical decisions together. After all, when it comes to collaboration, teams with diverse points of view have an advantage: they gain insight from each other, complement each other’s strengths, and unlock solutions together. But first, they’ll need to communicate their viewpoints.Try these activities to practice at home:

The two sides to every coin. Watch an Astra Nova conundrum and, rather than choose an answer, discuss the potential friction points for every answer. What is the conflict between different principles and interests? Or, consider working through conundrums of current events: what value systems are at work in today’s conflicts?

Insect metropolis. It may seem silly at first, but try this: lay down in a park with your student and bring your faces close up to the grass. You’ll reveal an entire universe of natural activity normally ignored, and when you stand back up, you’ll feel the rapid change of perspective. What does it feel like to “see the world through a different lens?” How might this help us approach collaborative problems?

Investigate other perspectives. If your student is involved with other sports or social groups, or if they attend Play events (Saturdays, 8-11AM PT and Wednesdays, 3-5PM PT), they’re meeting other young people with new ideas. How do those viewpoints match their own? Do they tend to gravitate towards people most like them? Or, do they learn something from playing with kids with diverse personalities?
Our favorite questions
Our questions this month aren’t designed with one viewpoint in mind. Instead, they provide an appropriate level of cognitive challenge and an opportunity to think deeply about complex topics. As adults, we may have answers to the questions below — but we can also remember the time in our lives when these topics were fresh and new, the same way they are now for your students.
  • Is avoiding failure the same thing as achieving success? Is it better for teams to not have negative qualities or to have positive qualities? Is there even a difference between those two? If so, what is it? If not, why not?
  • Is shifting from a narrow to a wide perspective a skill that can be practiced? Or is it something that occurs naturally with age and experience? What examples support your answer?
  • Discussions about “what’s right” and “what’s wrong” can cause a lot of heated debate. Why is that? Would it be better to avoid discussions about ethics that might cause conflict? Why or why not?
  • How do you define “fair”? Is life fair? Can life be fair? Should life be fair? Why or why not?