Posted: March 18th, 2023
moralities and American society
The school and the family are the two primary sources the Americans get their teachings about how to discern between what is right and what is wrong in their early stages of life. Religious institutions play their role, too in the educational process of the American children. On one hand, they are taught the importance of distinguishing between right and wrong and acting rightly. On the other, society is showing them different meanings of acting “correctly” everywhere and all the time. Steven Carter has written a whole book on the topic of integrity and he was determined to write a whole book about it because of the dilemma he and the entire American society faces when it comes to such a sensitive subject. He is explaining in the opening chapter of his book, titled the Rules about the Rules how he came to the idea of this object of study. Sports and cheating in football offered him the opportunity to ask himself how he should explain to his children the decision of a football player to fake the catching of a ball in order for his team to win points.
The author tells the story of his first successful (up to a point) attempt to chat that happened in his childhood, when participating in a school game. The child was not aware of the consequences of his misconduct. He only knew that he was acting so that he could win the game. The teacher exposed him in the end and the feelings of shame and guilt staid with him his entire life. The author sets thus an example of how children learn at some point about the importance of following the rules. The internet and the satellite transmission, the whole victories of the present high tech that is making the life of Americans so easy today are also powerful tools in proliferating with the speed of light success stories of people who won the game by putting their personal interests above those of the society and even bragging about their success. Carter’s opinion on the state of morality of our nation is rather categorical. Among his examples to support his opinion that the Americans lack integrity is that of a book such as one teaching the readers how to win video games by breaking the rules of the games:…”it captures precisely what is wrong with America today: we care far more about winning than about playing by the rules.” (Carter, 179). His examples about contemporary Americans cheating at a national scale continue with some winners of different kinds of contests that are supposed to set a positive example to the nation and in fact have just the opposite goal since the winners break the rules and take shortcuts in order to win. They were exposed in the end and disqualified, but that only makes one wonder how many others have done the same and never been exposed. Some nations have a saying claiming that the thief that cannot be proven as such is an honest person…. Our very law is based on this concept.
The apparently amazing thing about the professional formation of the author of a book on integrity is that his education is that of a lawyer. Towards the end of this first chapter, Carter shows how the subject of the football player’s act being right or wrong was debated between him and some colleagues at the Yale Law School. The answer that he found the most interesting and the most likely to start a research on the degree of integrity society is showing today and the means of correcting it was: “You don’t know if he was breaking the rules, until you know what rules are about following the rules.”(Carter, 188) Carter’s reason to begin by explaining the concept of Integrity and distinguishing it from honesty, for example, is setting a step further in comprehending his motifs. Everyone must have encountered at some point or another, an ethical dilemma. Adults are able to discern between the basic rules of “playing by the rules,” but most of us are sometimes confused about the final destination of a real life situation or just a game. A certain example from my life comes to mind when discussing about how aware people usually are when it comes to the real goal of their actions. My friend and I were having guests at our house and decided to play charades. They were mostly couples and we decided the easier way to start was to play women against men. And some of us, carried by the passion of playing, forgot or were never aware of the very scope of the game: having fun… Some players became utterly rude and made use of some of their abilities that made them unfairly superior to the other team by using technical words, the rest of us could not have possibly guess the meaning. The result was that we, as hosts had to put a stop to what turned out to be an ugly game and give up some of them as friends. The consequences of that simple game were that our real life changed by loosing some friends.
Such an example makes one suddenly agree with Carter’s radical point-of-view when it comes to having or not having integrity.
Mark Clayton is another author that writes on the same topic. He is approaching the subject closing his research on the college and high school life. Clayton wrote his material based on his experience as the director of a university’s writing program. The consequences of plagiarism or just using different means of cheating to get good grades are the more devastating since he is using examples of young intelligent people who are getting their academic education in order to play a major role later in society. The understanding of breaking the rules to get a college degree, not matter what is taken to a superior level by superior education. Clayton mentions in his article: Whole Lot of Cheatin’ Going on” the problem of universities and highschools face nationwide when it comes to finding laws to protect against plagiarism and other academic forms of cheating. He is writing about the endless possibilities high tech and disappearance of peer pressure brought in the life of American students compared to the situation of plagiarism thirty or forty years ago.
The above mentioned authors are opening Pandora’s box in terms of acknowledging that our nation has a major problem when it comes to integrity and their writings on the subject is merely opening the field for debates and finally, for finding answers and put them to work.
1. Carter, S. The Rules about the Rules.
2. Clayton, M. Whole Lot of Cheatin’ Going on.
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