Students say it’s not always easy doing what’s right, especially if it means getting a friend in trouble.
Coleen Smith with the Better Business Bureau spent Thursday morning at Helena High School in Lisa Parker’s Jobs for Montana Graduates class discussing decisions that make a person an ethical consumer.
“I hope students stop and think next time instead of just acting; think that their decisions have consequences and what appears to be one thing isn’t necessarily the whole story,”
Smith is focusing on giving her talks to middle and high school students and educating them on good choices that include integrity.
Pete Johnson, CEO of American Federal Savings Bank, was so impressed when he saw Smith’s presentation that he decided to sponsor her talks at the schools.
“Our focus is a lot on financial literacy. We currently are supporting a couple programs in the schools,” he said. “You want people to learn the basics, but also what is right and wrong. Ethics is extremely important in business … we rely on ethical behavior.”
Smith asked the group questions about what they’d do in certain situations. She asked in one scenario whether it would be OK for a student buying materials for a group project to add a CD to the bill without telling others in the group. One girl said she thought that was OK because the student in the scenario spent personal time and money getting the materials and the CD was payment for that work.
Everyone agreed that it would be wrong to borrow a friend’s phone and download a bunch of games because his or her parents have a lot of money.
“When you do the right thing, you might not get a big party or a parade — you might not get anything,” Smith said.
While students, for the most part, made the ethical choices in the situations Smith described, they admitted to real life actions where they weren’t entirely ethical, like printing color copies in class without asking or taking candy from the teacher’s jar.
HHS senior Curtis Graham was in a group that had to make a decision about a vehicle crash. The scenario spelled out that Graham and a friend stopped at a store for a drink. Graham ran into the store to make the purchase, while his friend drove his car across the street to visit with some other students and ended up hitting a parked car. The friend driving his car only had a learner’s permit.
Graham decided that he would report it, but would say he was driving so his friend wouldn’t get in trouble; others in the group agreed.
Another group said they wouldn’t tell on a star basketball player who was struggling with her grades if they saw her cheating.
Parker wasn’t surprised.
“Society in general has come to believe that cheating is OK — it’s sad, but not very many people could say they’ve never cheated,” she said.
Smith doesn’t believe she’ll be able to stop everyone from making unethical decisions, but she does hope that students pause and consider the consequences of their actions.
Senior Kamber Anderson said the discussion accomplished just that.
“This was good because a lot of people have good intentions, but sometimes they don’t want to get in trouble or get friends in trouble, she said. “This was good for us because it makes us think.”
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or firstname.lastname@example.org