- Ethical Literacy® Outcomes: #5 Moral Courage
- Schools of Integrity Finding: Pervasive Attention to Ethics and Values; Relationships Fuel Learning and Ethical Development; Authentic Student Input
- To further explore the gray areas of ethics, by defining acts of moral courage
Preparation and Materials
- Be ready with an appropriate graffiti example from your school community, or from an on line source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graffiti
- Post a digital photo if possible or provide a print.
- Post this excerpt from the above Wikipedia article:
“In Taiwan, the government has made some concessions to graffiti artists. Since 2005 they’ve been allowed to freely display their work along some sections of riverside retaining walls in designated “Graffiti Zones”. “ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graffiti
- Post the Moral Courage Venn Diagram, for reference during discussion.
- (optional) Show excerpts from the film about graffiti: Exit the Gift Shop to illustrate the moral/immoral controversy surrounding this form of self expression.
- Discuss examples of graffiti in your neighborhood. Normally graffiti is illegal. Discuss why, how it became a law (failure to self regulate by respecting shared property) and what continues to motivate people to create graffiti.
- Explain that some cities have acknowledged graffiti as an art form. Refer to the excerpt about Taiwan provided above, or talk about any other city that is taking this step.
- First ask: Is graffiti a courageous act? Why or why not? Technically, if an act involves both risk and commitment to following through, it is an act of courage (two of the three circles in the Venn Diagram).
- Now ask: When might graffiti become a morally courageous act? Can you imagine followers of Picasso using graffiti to advance their cause? Why might that be right, while graffiti in our communities might be considered wrong? (i.e: “one serves a large political cause, the other is self serving”)Use the Moral Courage Venn diagram to make your point.
- Many say that it’s ethical to act in defiance of law as long as you do so openly and with a commitment to facing the consequences. Is this the case with graffiti artists?
If your students don’t seem to be thinking very deeply about this topic, back up a bit. Review the four tests for wrong as they relate to graffiti:
- Is what I’m about to do breaking a rule or law? If so, am I prepared to face the consequences?
- Do I have a gut feeling about whether or not this choice is a good idea?
- If my choice comes out in the news tomorrow, am I prepared to defend it?
- Would my role model make this choice?
What examples of Graffiti might actually qualify as “wrong” based on these tests (reminder: some but not all tests need to “pass” in order for a choice to be wrong)? What examples of Graffiti might actually pass these tests?