Ethical Theories & Applications in Public Schools

The present paper is designed to discuss ethical theories and apply them to real and imaginary cases.

Firstly, it is necessary to analyze the ethical background of endorsing the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools. In fact, the adoption of such legislation can be justified by universalizability or the view that the acts that appear to be fair for one person, are likely to be appropriate and just for others (Thiroux and Krasemann, 2006). Accordingly, the notion of the usefulness and importance of the Ten Commandments to school students probably derives from a religious group that considers the observance of divine laws to be fair for all, including children.

Therefore, for the purpose of popularizing these rules, the Ten Commandments and religious practices are included in school curricula. On the one hand, from the utilitarianist position (Thiroux and Krasemann, 2006), this ethical explanation to great extent fits into the American legislation, given that the above six out of specified ten prescriptions coincide with the Constitution and the major laws protecting property, life, and health. Given that law education has already been endorsed, the Commandments can be viewed as an additional source of knowledge about the existing laws and delinquency.

On the other hand, such legislative innovation to great extent offends religious minorities and nonbelievers. According to Ross’s prima facie duties approach, actions that are harmful to others should be avoided, and given that religious minorities have their own spiritual convictions, nobody is allowed to abuse these views by compelling them to study and observe the Christian moral principles. Furthermore, in the Decalogue, there are four prescriptions that have a purely theological nature (like abstinence from work on the weekend or worshipping only Christian God) and therefore contravene with the First Amendment that clearly points that the United States is a secular country where no religion can be set as domineering (Kuntz, 2004).

Valjean’s actions can be evaluated by Kant as the observance of the Categorical Imperative, which stated: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” (Bauman, 1993, p. 67). Given that the protagonist opposes incarceration because of “despair crimes” (stealing and begging because of hunger and poverty-related despair), by saving the convict to life imprisonment for begging, the character acts in accordance with his highest ethical standards.

Act Utilitarians are likely, on the contrary, to judge Valjean negatively, since he is at the moment a socially useful person, who has created hundreds of workplaces and given hope to poor families. He threatens his own freedom by breaking the law, so his effort might result in his own incarceration, which would automatically deprive the abovementioned disadvantaged of their jobs. Rule Utilitarians are also likely to challenge his intent since Valjean breaks the law, created for uniformity and social cohesion (Thiroux and Krasemann, 2006).

According to the virtue theory, Valjean acts by the call of his intrinsic virtues, such as readiness to prevent unfair treatment of an underprivileged person. This act demonstrates the combination of two positive qualities, which are justice and kindness, or readiness to back those in difficult life situations. I would agree with this perspective and add that in any state, there might exist inhumane and cruel laws, which doom innocent people, so the person should adhere to the true values protecting life, health, and safety and behave accordingly. Thus, I would vote in favor of Jean Valjean.

Works cited

Thiroux, J. and Krasemann, K. Ethics: Theory and Practice, Ninth Edition. Prentice Hall, 2006.

Kuntz, P. The Ten Commandments in History: Mosaic Paradigms for a Well-Ordered Society. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004.

Bauman, Z. Postmodern Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1993.