Ethics Awareness Week

Since the dawn of human conscience and human civilization, our capacity as humans to choose our moral compass and our behavioral actions have been part of what it truly means to be a person.  In recent centuries various disciplines have examined how we are influenced and affected in those choices, but the underlying concept of our “free will” is the basis of what defines us as moral, ethical actors.

We see in the world around us the hurt, destruction, pain and disappointment when that moral compass goes awry.  Personally and collectively, the struggle between good and evil is real and needs constant attention.  I have on several occasions talked about our educational work at MGA toward the “Common Good”, a term emanating in the Enlightenment and reminding us that our lives are firstly lived out in relationship to others, and secondly that if we take those relationships seriously then it produces a shared good.  In short, all education should have a moral value and outcome.

This week is Ethics Awareness Week at all University System of Georgia institutions.  It is a vital part of Chancellor Wrigley’s and the USG’s goal of a better educated Georgia. MGA is participating with a range of faculty, staff and student activities that all speak to the moral nature of our living and learning at a university, and our responsibilities to uphold the standards of ethics, law and professionalism daily in our work.  Sadly we have seen examples in recent years where these were compromised by some at universities in Georgia and around the US, and the results are painful and damaging.  And daily we see the havoc nationally and globally when ethical standards are ignored or replaced.  I urge you to participate in this week’s programs, precisely in order to share your own ethical insights and professional strengths with others, to help build our Common Good at MGA.  Rose Patti shared with us the week’s program on email, and InsideMGA also includes a list of ways in which we can each review together our moral compass as employees of the state, entrusted by the public, to do the right thing at work.

Many years ago I came across this letter to new teachers from a principal of a High School.  I have never lost sight of its message, even at times when candidly we each slip in our standards and need to rediscover the best of our humanity.  The principal’s letter is a reminder of what can go wretchedly wrong when education and educators lose sight of the moral core of our enterprise.  As we begin Ethics Awareness Week at MGA, I leave the final word to that heroic high school principal who understood the imperative of ethics we each must embrace and embody.

“I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no person should witness: gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot by high school and college graduates. So, I am suspicious of education. My request is: Help your children become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths or educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.” (Quoted in