Saturday, December 4

Ethics, that damn Maria!

The “Marías”, you may already know or remember, are those subjects of a “decorative” nature that we gave at school and that everyone did not give a damn about. They used to occupy a minimal or symbolic space in the schedule (one or, hopefully, two hours per week) and were taught by teachers who, in many cases, had no idea, so, logically, they were dedicated to killing the time showing movies or chatting about the first thing that came to mind. Of course, at the time of the sacrosanct exams, they gave us time to study. And that was, almost always, the only use they had.

There were “Marías” and there are different types. Remember: plastic arts, physical education, art, religion and, of course, ethics. Something, the latter, that always caught my attention. Plastic education is essential, without a doubt, and physical education, and music. And religion, why are we kidding ourselves, also means a lot to many people. But what about ethics? – I thought – Isn’t it the most important thing of all? Isn’t it essential to know something (or to try) about such a tricky subject as “the good and the bad”?

Because let’s see: life, health, money, love, religion, music, or whatever, they seem important to us because we consider them “good” things (and define good in the sense that you think is more good: pleasant , convenient, due, fair, worthy…). But why should they be “good”? In fact, there are people who do not consider them that way (suicides, those who are addicted to dangerous drugs, those who despise wealth, those who practice chastity, the Taliban who hate music …). Note that even to find out if something is really more important (ie: “better”) than ethics would require ethical reflection …

Now, ethics being the most important of all (or, at least, the matter that serves to think about what is the most important of all), How is she treated in the educational system like a damn Maria? In addition, the rest of the traditional Marias (Physical education, music, religion …) have, as a lesser evil, other spaces available to those who are interested: gyms and sports centers, music schools, parishes … But what about ethics? Where is ethics taught beyond school?

There are those who respond to the latter that “at home”; In other words, it is in the private environment where morals and values ​​must be transmitted. But neither I nor the teenagers I teach are convinced by this answer. First, because we do not usually agree with a large part of the values ​​that are transmitted to us, almost always without sufficient reason, from the family, social or media environment. And second, and more importantly, because it seems to us that about this ethics there must be anything else that the infused and partial knowledge (when there is it) of the family, the social gatherings of the TV or the colleagues.

And boy there is! When you open any manual of philosophy and go to the chapter dedicated to ethics, you see that there are dozens of schools, trends and theories, both ancient and highly current, about this so allegedly infused or subjective of “the good and the bad”. and hundreds of books, theses and experts investigating, debating, producing ideas and participating in scientific, medical, business or political committees. This ethics is not, moreover, any list of mandates or values ​​to be adopted by nose, or from already inventoried arguments, but a discipline that analyzes everything: from what is a “norm” or a “value” to the peculiarities of the language in which we express and justify our particular moral judgments. A knowledge, in addition, in which daily problems are dissected and faced that many people do not even think of as problems, but rather “things that happen” (economic inequality, the subjugation of women, the consequences of technological development, the manipulation of means, the injustice of the laws, and a thousand more).

Because, and this is another, many people, rulers included, think that ethics and simple education in values ​​are the same, confusion that is undoubtedly due to the fact that the same term is often used to designate who is ” good “and the one who studies” what is good “, the one who does” what has to be done “, and the one who asks systematically” why do we have to do it? ” But it is clear that the two are very different. Education in values ​​is aimed at the transmission of those minimum moral or normative principles that should regulate the coexistence and behavior of people, while ethics deals with rational reflection about values ​​and what is valuable in itself, endowing the student of the tools and habits (theories and ethical approaches, concepts of moral philosophy, critical and systematic thinking, logic and ethics of argumentation, dialogic procedures, analysis of moral dilemmas, etc.) necessary to face the challenges and challenges of their environment, in addition to autonomously and responsibly establishing their own scale of values.

In addition, all this so extremely important that ethics transmits (and not, or only circumstantially, education in values) cannot be taught “transversally” by any other subject. In all subjects you can unravel a moral problem, exercise argumentative dialogue or practice critical thinking, but only in ethics is all this dealt with in a substantive, exhaustive and problematized way, taking into account its foundations, conditions, norms, types, properties. and limits. To think otherwise would be as absurd as to think that, since numbers are spoken or handled in all subjects, we can turn language or mathematics into “Marías” with one hour a week.

Because, clearly speaking: that after so much bla bla bla from politicians on how important education is to solve everything (from climate change to hate speech, through machismo and violence against women, consumerism, addictions, misinformation, corruption, youth suicide , gender, and a thousand other issues) now it turns out that the only subject that deals directly with all this in compulsory education is a subject devoted to education in values ​​(not strictly to ethics) and with only one hour a week (35 hours in the entire ESO, while Religion, for example, has 140) is, if there were one, of a political guard court – a court, by the way, that would have to be composed of ethically well-trained citizens -.

In conclusion, without a deep ethical education and well endowed with hours and spaces in schools and institutes, we are going to generate citizens not only incapable of maturely facing dilemmas and decisions of personal and social relevance, or of fully understanding what they imply. their own judgments and moral or political positions, but something worse still: defenseless citizens in the face of all kinds of demagogues, sectarians, savers, scoundrels and vendehúmos; that is, we are going to contribute, even more, to create the worst of all possible worlds. Think about it. And please put all your ethical competence into doing it.

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