Today was a very pleasant variation on a typical Friday. As usual, I took a few hours to write a story (another chapter of On the Second Floor, in fact) over at the cafe, until my friend Bau came to meet me there. It being a gloriously sunny day, we ended up walking halfway across Eugene, waxing philosophical about the troubles our society faces today. We talked about reforming the education system, comprehensive programs to benefit the homeless, etc. Just ways to close the gaps in society, and promote more inclusive, pro-social values than the ones we have now. You know, commie stuff.
I wish I could say it was very intellectually productive, but we didn't really talk about anything we hadn't talked about before, and we covered a lot of the same ground twice. Still, I think we hit on something rather important: namely, the lack of any real ethics lessons in elementary education.
From our own experience, learning about ethics at that age mainly consisted in getting scolded when we did something wrong. I think teachers (and administrators) hesitate about dealing with ethics in anything other than a disciplinary setting, and of course, that teaches kids more about fearing authority than it does about the real intricacies of right and wrong. I'm not one to bemoan the ethical degeneracy of any particular generation, but I think society could always benefit from better, more considerate behavior, and that just doesn't seem like a priority today.
Is public school the place to learn about ethics and morals? I certainly think so. The way I see it, teaching kids why they should obey the law, respect their peers, and value productivity is at least as important as cooking up half-truths about the first Thanksgiving, or pretending that Christopher Columbus was some sort of hero. What is the cause of the economic recession, if not the abandonment of such basic values in the face of reckless greed?
Of course, it runs the risk of inviting the wrath of both ardent secularists and religious nut jobs to talk about an ethics curriculum. But the ancient Greeks had one, and they certainly weren't wrong about everything.
It wasn't all so heavy, though. We had lunch at a fantastic new burger joint (hooray for new businesses!) with sort of a 50's diner feel. We managed to work our way on campus and check out the state of our old stomping grounds at the dorms. We even put our names on the sign up sheet at the college radio station for a lark. And to top it all off, we went over to another friend's house and watched Time Bandits, possibly the greatest film about time-traveling, larcenous dwarves/angels(?) of the 1980s. Really, it's quite fantastic.