How does one learn morals? What makes someone a good person? A group of seventh-graders at DSST Stapleton think people are born with some sense of morals, but mostly learn them by observing their parents and good people in the world. Sometimes it’s hard to be a good person because of peer pressure to do the wrong thing, they say. Our discussion of hypothetical situations had them consider their own morals in deciding the right thing to do.
1. Your sibling gets married and you really don’t like this person. Every year you host a party for your siblings, and you’re deciding whether to invite the new person. Do you?
Karla Chavez: First I would tell my sibling how I feel about the person and then still invite them and talk to them, just not as good as you would if you clicked with them.
Natalie Smink: I would invite them but not hang out with them when they’re there. I would be like in my head, “Hey, you can come but I really don’t enjoy hanging out with you, but I don’t want you to feel excluded.”
Cullyn Shaw: I would because if your sibling really likes them you don’t want to exclude them and have an entire conflict about it. Like Natalie said, you could try to stay away from them.
2. You are on your way to a very important business meeting and accidentally bump a young child and he falls down and scrapes his knee. Do you help him or go to the meeting?
Cullyn: I would help the kid because maybe the first part of the meeting was not that important, just greeting everyone. Also, if there is nobody else and the kid is bleeding the kid could get an infection. He needs to be treated.
Karla: I would also help him because the meeting, there are many opportunities to get it again or talk to the person in charge and explain this happened and the kid didn’t have someone with him. I would help the kid and once the kid is fine I would then go.
Natalie: If I had the person’s number at the meeting, I would call and say, “Hey, I’m going to be late. This kid is on the sidewalk and I accidentally knocked him over. I need to take care of him.” Help the kid, but tell the person you’re meeting with so they understand why you were late. Not like, oh you were late because you don’t care. Tell them I really didn’t want to be late to this meeting but at the moment I thought this kid was more important and I should help him.
3. You are designing a car and on a tight budget. You find out it’s very expensive to have good quality safety features. If you skip the airbags you stay within your budget. What do you do?
Theo Hansen: It would be better to make safe cars than to make cars that people could die in.
Natalie: I would make the car, but I would put a warning in there, “This car has no airbags.” If people like the car and buy it, you will get more money and can add the airbags into later models.
4. You are a baker and someone comes into your shop and wants you to put on the cake, “I hate Jesus.” You find it very offensive. Do you bake the cake?
Cullyn: I would not bake the cake. What if another person at the party was Jewish? That’s very offensive.
Natalie: I think I might not bake it then because not only will it be offensive to you, but say you’re giving them the cake and another person walks in who is also very religious and sees “I hate Jesus.” They’re not going to want to come there. I think losing one customer compared to the possibility of losing many … I would go with the one.
What if you don’t agree with gay marriage and a gay couple wants their wedding photo on the cake?
Natalie: I think if I was the gay person I would be like, “I understand you might not like this, but you’re not the one who has to eat the cake. You’re just putting my photo on it. You won’t ever see this cake again. It won’t scar you for life. I’m paying you money.” I understand the debate around this. It’s tough.
Theo: I would put it on the cake because it’s not as bad as putting something on the cake that is offensive to everyone, and it’s not really offensive. You might just not like it.
5. You are on a boat and it is going to sink because there is too much weight. If you push one person off, the boat will not sink and everyone else will be saved. What would you do?
Theo, immediately: Push the person off the boat. If there are a lot of people and one person is keeping you from surviving, I’d rather push someone off the boat or jump off the boat to save everyone else.
Cullyn: Well if it’s my sister then obviously … no, just kidding. If they’re annoying and a jerk to everybody else, then maybe you could push them off.
Natalie: I would feel terrible if I pushed anybody off. What if they’re in a wheelchair? I guess take them out and push the wheelchair off. That would probably lighten the load. (They throw out ideas to avoid pushing someone off like taking turns swimming or stripping clothes, and they giggle imagining being naked.)
But how do you decide one person’s life means more than another?
Theo: Whoever’s heaviest (they laugh).
Karla: I would sacrifice myself because I couldn’t live with the guilt of knowing I pushed someone off.
Natalie: It would be awful. I would ask them to knock me out before so I didn’t feel the pain of dying.