Afraid to be caught

Aug 282003
Authors: Marika Krause

When I was 8 years old, I stole a pack of gum from the grocery store. My mother discovered this when we were well on our way home. I was mortified when she immediately turned the car around and made me return the gum along with an apology to the store manager.

Speaking to that manager made me realize that my actions have a real effect on people other than myself. I never stole from that, or any, store again. You see, at 8 I had an inkling of right and wrong and my mother’s actions instilled in me an even stronger sense. There were no security cameras necessary in my ethical education.

Students in Biloxi, Miss., may not get this opportunity. They started school this year with Web cams in every classroom and hallway, according to an article in The E-Commerce Times.

The Biloxi District apparently hopes such measures will stop kids from misbehaving and “deter crime.” Superintendent Larry Dawdry claims “it helps keep honest people more honest.” However, there is a flaw in this logic. Honest people are honest, and teaching children that being afraid to get caught as some sort of ethical deterrent is wrong.

You won’t find me often labeling things in black and white or right and wrong. I firmly believe that different cultures and experiences lead to different ideals and definitions of right and wrong. However, not allowing children to explore and develop their own ethical sense is definitely not on the side of right. Children need to do the right thing because they understand that it is the right thing, not because they are afraid to get caught. I’m not sure when personal responsibility to one’s society became a thing of the past. In fact, I’m not quite sure that it has. I do know we can choose to do or not to do the right thing. It’s an example we must set for the children in Biloxi and each other.

This first week of school, I’ve seen many examples of people opting not to do the right thing. At this year’s annual CSU/CU game ticket distribution fiasco (what else would you call it?), hundreds of people who had waited appropriately for their spot got lost in a mad rush of people definitely not doing the right thing. I attempted to override into a math class a couple of days ago and was frustrated at the number of students who shoved, pushed and wiggled their way to the front of the line instead of waiting like the rest of us. Students — again, not doing the right thing.

Now, the catch is there were students waiting patiently. Those who did the right thing are now screwed out of the spot because of the impatience and selfishness of those obviously in the wrong.

When did it become okay to act so selfishly? When did it become okay to discount the feelings and existence of others? I’m not sure. I am sure that the image Web cams in schools capture is students learning not to steal because it is wrong and has real effects on human beings, but because you may get caught. This will not be a lesson in doing the right thing because it’s the right thing. It will be a lesson in doing something because a big, bad principle tells you to.

What happens when these kids become the principles, and presidents, and leaders of this country? You can’t put a web cam everywhere. We need to teach them to do the right thing right now.

Marika Krause is a senior majoring in Technical Journalism. She fully intends on graduating in May if she can override into math…She is also the station manager for KCSU.

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