Friday, October 10, 2008

The Missing Moral Compass

Yesterday in Psych class, this moral dilemma was posed to the class:

"You see a $100 bill lying on the ground in the school parking lot. A car had just left that space but you did not see the driver drop it. You do not know to whom this money belongs. What would you do?"

One guy said he would use it for gas money. Another said that he would use it for gaming. Lots of suggestions were shouted out with their reasoning. "It's a blessing from God." "I need it more." "Finders keepers."

Not one person said they would try to locate the owner or at least take it to the Student Services office.

My integrity is worth more than any money. I knew without question what I would do. But I didn't speak out. I was afraid that the professor would try to psychoanalyze me and I didn't want the debate. It seemed as if I was the only one in the room who saw this in black and white.

Even my professor said he would keep the money. He often presents his lectures as if he were doing stand up comedy so I wasn't sure if this comment was serious.

The lecture went on. One guy told of his mom trying to support her family on a waitressing paycheck. She would skim the till whenever she got the chance and told him that the restaurant would never miss it - besides they needed it more. When the professor asked if that made it right, the guy answered "Absolutely. It kept us from starving." Others also talked about lack of morals as if it were the norm. Have I been so out of the loop that I didn't realize that many people were like this? Were they just showing off for the class? Do people really think that there are no boundaries to accountability? Is being virtuous and honorable considered puritanical?

That night I told Mr. Wonderful what happened. I said that I wished I could go back to that moment and say what I thought. Mr. Wonderful pointed out to me that I should never fear when truth is on my side. When I berated myself for missing the moment, he commented that there would be more chances.

Unfortunately he is right. I believe my Psych class is missing their moral compass. Other subjects will come up where I will have the opportunity to speak out. I'm hoping that I am not the only one.


Spice Girl said...

Yes, you'll certainly get your chance again. My clearest memory from my undergrad days is when my honors philosophy prof asked if anyone believed having sex before marriage was wrong. I was the only one who raised my hand. And then he grilled me and ate me for lunch. Ah, well. It earned me the nickname "Nymphette" with the other honors students.

And then I transferred to BYU. :)

Lily said...

Wow, that's really sad to think that the majority of the class think that keeping the money is okay. I'm with you, I would have done everything I could to get it back to the person.

Soozcat said...

Something similar happened to me today, though not in a classroom situation. A girl online voiced the suggestion that she was afraid her 11-year-old brother might be gay because he'd been looking at gay porn online. I may have been the only person to respond and tell her that it was inappropriate for an 11-year-old to be looking at ANY porn, gay or otherwise, and that she should tell her parents. I promptly had my response voted down by people who were more "open-minded" about this kid's "sexual preference." What the...? There's no moral dilemma here, people, THE KID IS 11! HE SHOULD NOT BE LOOKING AT PORN! Tch.

Soozcat said...

Oh, and btw--the correct response to your Psych prof's query is another query: "If it were YOUR money, wouldn't you want someone to try to return it to you?" Then you quote Kant: "So act as if your maxims should serve at the same time as the universal law (of all rational beings)." In simple parlance, treat others as you would wish to be treated.

MrsVJW said...

"Is being virtuous and honorable considered puritanical?"

It's not puritanical... it's *hard*. Most people just don't put the effort toward it. I do know some people who are like that and I admire them because it's a hard thing to do.

Also, are the majority of the students in your class younger? Morality improves as you age. Finding $100 when you're 20 and the parents are still paying the bills makes it your lucky day. Loosing $100 when you're thirtysomething (and don't have tenure) likely means you have to re-do your budget for the week or month.