Moral Courage

Bringing the Lessons of Moral Courage to High School Students

Dr. Julie Piering has been investigating the idea of moral courage, and identifying how this virtue might be exercised in everyday life. She has given several talks on this idea in Flagstaff and Sedona and has received support from the Martin Springer Institute to develop a curriculum that will enable high school students to think about this idea.

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Certain studies reveal the propensity for humans to fail to demonstrate moral courage. Examples are taken from the Milgram experiments and the Stanford Prison experiment. The idea behind presenting these stories and studies about moral courage is to make students aware of the historical propensity for human beings to submit to authority against their better moral judgment. Said simply, by being aware of our own frailty with regard to moral courage we might arrive at a better understanding of it. If students are asked to consider what they would do under such circumstances, they might assume they would do the right thing and then dismiss the matter. However, the discovery that under conditions of authority, or even merely of haste, the majority of human beings show moral weakness. This tends to make even the most morally secure person wonder just how morally courageous they might be. The design of the curriculum addresses what moral courage is and how we can better understand it under consideration of real examples incorporated with the philosophical inspiration of Plato, Aristotle, Mill, Arendt, and Card.