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news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

The Right Thing versus The Smart Thing

What if doing the right thing means not doing the smart thing? We are currently living in a time when our decisions, our actions and the way we operate may be totally out of sync with our belief system and integrity level. How do we rationalize that? What do we teach kids- to do the right thing or the smart thing? How do we teach them to recognize the difference?

As adults we agree to operate in this world based on rules, regulations, commitments and agreements. We sign contracts with every intention of honoring them; we take out loans with the promise of repayment; we accept jobs understanding and agreeing to the level of responsibility necessary to carry out the tasks of the position. We take our responsibilities to our commitments seriously. Corporate America operates differently. A quote I heard on the radio summed it up like this: “The sole purpose of a business is to generate profits.” What about creating goods or services to fill a need in the world? What about innovating or inventing? If the philosophy of business is solely to make a profit then every decision that gets made by that business is framed through that lens- is this a smart decision that will generate more money? Ethics and integrity are not part of the smart decision equation. Loans go unpaid, promises unfulfilled, responsibilities abandoned. It is how corporate America does business.  It is what keeps them fiscally healthy.

Individuals, on the other hand, are weighted down by emotional attachments to the commitments they make. Despite the fact that thousands of people across the country are paying mortgages on homes that are worth less than their loan note they continue to honor their commitment even though it may not be a smart decision. Why? Because for them it is the right thing to do.

Those of us who continue to operate under the rules of ethics and integrity are finding ourselves in a dilemma over what to teach our students. Should we encourage them to operate in their own best interest or help them develop a social consciousness? Do we continue to push college because that is what our districts mandate or teach them about options that require no post secondary education? We are undergoing global transformation- and not all of it is necessarily good. As teachers we want to prepare kids for the world they will enter when they graduate so they will be able to function and thrive. How do we teach them to balance their choices between what serves their best interest and what they can do to help serve their fellow man?

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