About Ethics and Morality

Hi-Phi Nation is a great podcast and one of their recent episodes was about a debate style ethics competition at a school in the US. I try to post about “ethics” here because it’s an important subject for any number of reasons, dipping deep into education, design, technology, language…basically anything. It is a part of the neglected “what” of education.

Discussions about morality and ethics are also usually pretty interesting.

One of the questions they use in the competition is something like: I have a choice between saving a small amount of people from falling down an elevator shaft to their death, or having a low percentage of saving a large amount of people from falling. I can only save one group. Which is my best moral decision?

For me, the answer is to save the small number of people. It isn’t morally right to “play the odds” with people’s lives. React to a bad situation as best as I can, without creating the possibility of an even worse one.

The question is kind of a stripped down analogy to scaling. When I scale, opt to serve more people than less, I accept that some people will be marginalized.

That’s fine as a business model, I guess. But, in education the decision to scale is a choice that needs strong consideration. Morality comes into play when decisions about access to education are weighed against a percentage of students falling down the elevator shaft as a result of that decision.

Even worse than playing the odds is accepting them. And even worse is ignoring them.

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