I watched as the young men came into the gymnasium for the beginning of a new athletic season. They were healthy, full of energy with an attitude of excitement. Each of these men were given a notebook which they fondly referred to as the “bible.” Within the content of this notebook was the offense and defense the team would be playing for the coming year. It was filled with every conceivable behavior that could occur on a football field.

During the next three weeks, the players met with coaches executing the plays listed in the playbook. Coaches were quick to make corrections when a play was not performed in the manner listed. In addition to meeting twice a day on the athletic field, there were numerous ‘skull’ seasons where the mental aspects of the game were discussed and discussed.

The first game was between two strong teams, and early in the game one of the players shoved another player from the opposing team in the back resulting in a penalty for ‘unnecessary roughness.’ The penalty gave the opposing team a first down which eventually lead to a score. The Head coach was livid. He did not call the other coaches for a conference. He did not tell the player to meet him in his office on Monday. He did not put his arm around him and assure him everything was okay. He did not send him to a safe place to ‘think about it’. None of these responses were present. What was present was a direct discussion with a correctional attitude and rebuke, “That’s not who we are!! We don’t do that.” The player was removed immediately and a substitute took his place. His offense? He had violated the rules of the book. The ethics of the game as outlined had been practiced numerous hours and days before this first encounter. Discipline was quick and meaningful with a direct reference point for correction.

The aforementioned scenario is not isolated and is just a point of reference. The incident outlined is not hypothetical, it is real and was televised nationally. The team and coach happens to be the team with the most wins in the history of football and is presently ranked number one in the nation. Think about it.

When a child is born they begin their first practice the day they are brought home. Their coach and most important teacher is their parent. Their pre-season lasts for 18 years or until they depart their home for their first game in the game of life. What happens in these first 18 years is determined by their coach/teacher/parent.

Like all good coaches, the parent needs a game plan which is implemented on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis. The fundamentals of the game plan is taught, practiced and carried forth in preparation for their first big game. Like the coach in a football game, the parent must choose a course of action, if not, the culture or someone else will train your child. Parents may embrace a plan that seeks the greatest good for the largest number of people. This plan would be a utilitarian approach. Another option  is what I refer to as egoism. I am sure you have seen this ethical approach. It is based upon the children being in charge with everything revolving around the “I” concept. A frequent approach in our society and a more liberal approach to the game plan would be an offensive strategy embracing the concept of no right or wrong. What is right for you is right for you. And, what is right for me is right for me. This approach is called situational ethics.

By far the best strategy for young children is ethics based upon virtue. Theories based upon virtue emphasize not whether specific actions are right or wrong, but the moral character of the individual. Right and wrong behavior are the by-product of moral character. Many times this approach is referred to as Christian ethics. It truly uses the authentic Bible to ascertain what God would have us do. Right and wrong are clearly defined, and like the coach before the season begins, the parent must clearly define the learning, and, in the same manner the athletes call their play book “the bible”, our play book should be the Bible where right and wrong are clearly defined and should be taught, practiced and implemented.

The big day has finally arrived. Your child has graduated from high school and plans his/her departure from you home. What will they be doing?? They will be doing what you have taught them. What will happen when they are challenged in the college classroom, on the job or by friends. Their response will be in accordance with the ethical game plan you have taught them. One thing for sure, you cannot go with them. There is only one ethical approach that allows your child to have someone with them. The Master Teacher will walk beside them everyday and they will never walk alone.


Retired in 2008 after 40+ years in education/psychology as researcher, teacher, administrator and college professor.
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6 Responses to Reflections………………………………..Ethics

  1. Joyce Staley Ford says:

    Amen! Words of great wisdom!

  2. srbottch says:

    Excellent, Gary. Great food for thought…and, action.

  3. srbottch says:

    Reblogged this on S'amusing and commented:
    Great perspective on parenting…

  4. A lovely post on parenting

  5. Excellent post, all the more meaningful with that college football player (forgot his name) who refused to go into a game! I think his playing days are over.

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