HURON – Practices of how to determine right from wrong were illustrated through discussions, lessons and activities to approximately 170 senior students, as an educational experience focused on the importance of what it means to be ethical took place on Tuesday morning at Huron High School.
Junior Achievement (JA), a non-profit organization aiming to assist youth in working toward successful futures, hosted a program called “Excelling through Ethics,” which outlined ethical decision making in various scenarios and why they are important, not only in everyday life, but also in professional and work environments.
“This is the 11th year for Ethics in South Dakota,” said Tasha Lee, board member and Ethics Co-ordinator. “Last year over 9,300 students were taught ethics, it took 500 volunteers to teach it and that was in 32 different communities.”
Students were given the opportunity to participate in the program, which was split into nine different classes with local business leaders, who taught the curriculum prepared by JA, while also sharing their personal experiences and encouraging conversation on how specific situations should be handled.
The nine instructors that volunteered to present the lessons included Tom Glanzer, Dawn Mutchelknaus, Ryan Maxted, Lisa Snedecker, Kim Rieger, Ted Haeder, Rachel Haigh-Blume, Bryan Van Scharrel and Jill Luque, who were each assigned a separate classroom of students also accompanied by their teachers.
“It’s nice to have the interactive activities, which gets the kids up and moving, it gets them a little bit more engaged, they have more freedom to talk and express their feelings. So you roll with that as the framework and I let the discussion carry them,” said Van Scharrel. “What’s really fun is when you get them discussing amongst themselves whether something is right or wrong and the different reasons why it could be or not.”
Included in the program was a worksheet that showed different scenarios where the student attendees gathered into groups and rated the various situations from one to ten, one being ethical and ten being unethical. The groups shared their outcomes with the class and discussed why they felt a certain way about the examples given.
One of the scenarios from the worksheet read, “When the store delivered your new flat screen TV, you knew it was bigger and more expensive than the one your family ordered, but you said nothing.”
Each student had a different view and reason of why this was either a good or a bad decision, some said they would take it back to the business while others thought it would be wise to keep, even though someone will have to pay for that mistake.
“The instructors give personal examples of choices that they have had to make in business or in life.”
Van Scharrel explained that after a recent soy bean delivery the company had accidentally overpaid for the shipment, he let them know of the mistake and used this experience as an example of honesty in a professional environment in the classroom.
“I had an extra $3,750 in the check, so I called them to say it wasn’t right. They sent back a thank you note and said they appreciated this being pointed out,” Van Scharrel said. “I just wanted to do the right thing. If the situation was reversed and it was me, I would want somebody to do the right thing.”
The conversation carried from what to do if an ATM dispensed a $100 bill as opposed to a $20, to how sharing someone’s pictures on social media platforms could cause that individual to get into a troublesome situation, and many more topics which relate to how it is appropriate to act when faced with decisions.
Haigh-Blume said, “They’re all seniors, we talked about how in second-grade they would tell if someone were cheating on a test, so what happened between now and then, from changes in our environment as we age, and now that they are seniors they have different pressures. It was very interesting.”
Another lesson included in the curriculum was where the students lined up shoulder to shoulder and we asked questions on how they would act or react to social media based problems, then asked to step forward if their answer was yes.
“The social media lesson was one that really makes them think ethically, what they’re doing on social media really matters to people and future employers,” Glanzer said.
In each room, every student had their own opinion on whether they should look at someone else’s phone or if they should post pictures on social media. The various responses engaged each student to really question the decisions that are made each day, with respect to others either socially or professionally.
“The program would not happen if we didn’t have volunteers in the community that stepped up to teach it, so they are so very important to the success of the JA program,” Lee explained. “Each and every one of them are business leaders within the Huron community, which is a special part of this program too, it’s not often that business leaders get to be in front of a classroom of kids to help mold their thinking.”
Five crucial principles of making ethical decisions were reflected upon during each lesson, which are: to do no harm, make things better, respect others, be fair and be compassionate.
These fundamental principles are there to offer support for students and their individual perceptions of what may be right or wrong actions.