Schools tend to teach about ethics in six ways:
(1) by the adults’ modeling of behavior, (2) through special ethics classes, (3) through discussions in regular classes, (4) through speakers, (5) through helping students to develop good habits of behavior, and (6) by responses to bad behavior.
Each of the methods has merits, but the first and last are the most important. Having good role models for kids is the best thing a school can do to develop virtue.
This is something we keep in mind when we hire faculty at Field School. It is a fact that we make clear in interviews and throughout the year with the faculty. Our kids learn about appropriate behavior by following the lead of influential adults in their lives.
We teach about honesty, respect, responsibility, fairness, compassion and courage.
We are also well aware of the situations that tend to arise in our boys’ lives that lead to teaching moments about particular virtues. For example, we teach about respect in sports—respect for referees and opposing teams.
We teach about compassion whenever we get a chance, as the virtue is sometimes more difficult for boys to cultivate than with girls.
We teach about courage, which we define as doing the right thing even when you fear doing it, every chance we get, and opportunities arise pretty regularly.
We also encourage the kids develop habits of behavior that tend to lead virtuous lives.
We believe, for example, that looking others in the eye, getting to know people by name, and even holding doors for others are all good ethical habits, ones that condition us all to be aware of and empathetic toward others.
We thus try to teach about being a good person throughout our day and in a variety of contexts. It is the most important thing we do, and if we are modeling good behavior and doing our ethical teaching well at Field School, all our other educational goals are far more likely to follow.