As part of Madison High School's "Ethics Day," seniors attempted to determine what the "right" decision was for each of the four ethical dilemmas they faced.
"We're not trying to push any set of ethical values," said Bob Gambarelli, a guidance counselor at the school. "It's more thought provoking, and to get them to do some self-reflection." The exercise in ethics took place on Tuesday, Nov. 30, at the Vienna Community Center.
"I think it’s a great opportunity to put students in real-life situations," said Mark Merrell, principal of Madison.
Students were broken into four groups and into smaller sub-groups of about eight students. Each of the sub-groups had an adult — including community leaders like Vienna mayor Jane Seeman, Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) and Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis (R-34th) — to help move the discussion along. "It's a great opportunity for community leaders to see what it’s like to work with high-school kids," Merrell said.
Each group heard a presentation focusing on a different dilemma [see sidebar] and members discussed what they should do about it. "I think it really does some good," said Roy Baldwin, an attorney, who portrayed an attorney in the mock trial. "I felt a real connection to the idea of taking a day and thinking about ethics."
Baldwin is in his fourth year of participating in the program. 'What amazed me, and what continues to amaze me, is how seriously the students take this," he said.
SEVERAL STUDENTS found the day to be interesting, and not just because they got a day off from classes. "I think it was really interesting to hear the different arguments," said Monica Ehrsam, 15. Monica played the part of the driver on trial in the mock trial. As a sophomore, and a presenter, she could only observe. "I thought it was really interesting that no one could connect ethics and law," she said.
Monica pointed out that since the law is a way of enforcing society's morals, that connection should be clear.
Students who participated found the toughest decision to be the heart transplant. "It was tough trying to eliminate people," said Lizzy Berg. She found it difficult to decide which person's life was worth more.
Others found it useful as an example of the value of public speaking. They were sometimes frustrated by not having enough time for discussion of the various issues and decided that in future situations, they would try to better speak for themselves. "I'll definitely take a more assertive role," said senior Robert Wang.