MinterTom  Dec.01.2011 0 Comments

..what are we to take from the news these days..? That flagrant and inappropriate behavior is not only some form of norm, but a justifiable nuance of society..? That conscientiousness and a full hearted sense of giving should only be opportunities for 15 minutes of fame in a daily news program, or pitched as paragon and served as a new game show..? ..the evidence that our current socialization exhibits, is available for viewing 24/7; the reach of social media is pervasive; the moral ambiguities thrown out into the arena of culture and society become ever more intricate and challenging with every update, and viral flash, of the latest claim-to-fame, or infamy, presented. With the variety of challenges and issues of moral compass which flood our daily existence, as exampled by the grown ups they see splashed across their television screens, mobile phones, and media print –our current, very astute and adapting crop of youth, are exampling worrisome mechanisms of dissociation and philosophy.. And I’m not speaking of teenagers, but of the even more impressionable minds in elementary school.. One of the opportunities of utilizing the storyline of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte has been the chance to offer a relevant example of adults ‘testing friendship’; two men, goaded on by a third, agree to test their girlfriend’s fidelity –to the detriment of their relationships, and some very broad, misogynistic humor.. In looking at this dynamic of friendship, the two public school classes I am working with this year have both, very much on their own, identified that it is “wrong” to test a friend, and beyond that, the men, in the opera, “don’t even start out as true friends”, because they are immediately willing to put one another in a very bad position. Yet as clear as these young minds were on the issue of how badly the opera’s characters handled core values of friendship, they offered a different consensus when asked about reality.. 5th grade class ‘A’ was creating their story, for their own opera, resonant with the themes of Cosi fan tutte; they identified a plot for their work on ‘testing friendships’: ..a girl wants to go to the movies, but she doesn’t have the money to get in; her boyfriend works the door at the theater, and so she goes to make him let her in for free.. Though the conflict for their story neatly skewed the meat of the issue of testing friendship, I found myself provoked to ask the class how many of them felt that it was ok for the girl to ‘get in for free’ off her boyfriend in the first place; more than half the class of 27 students raised their hands, in affirming that it was right, and that the girlfriend should expect to be let in. Now this was even after the fact that they had identified the situation as a proper moral dilemma, one that they had identified with a “correct” outcome, of the girl not being allowed in by her boyfriend as she was inappropriately testing him with their relationship – but what they were saying with their subsequent answer was that, in the real world, not only did the girl have the right to believe that her boyfriend should let her in, but that the boyfriend had better let her in! ..being devil’s advocate I plied the debate with some heartier condiments, and set out a broader example of the possible complexities and consequences for the boyfriend; I suggested that the boyfriend was proud of his job; it gave him a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment; also, that the job had some opportunities for him for advancement (moving from taking tickets to, potentially, at a later time, running the theater), as well as making a little more money for him to spend on the girlfriend; I planted the consequence that, unbeknownst to either the boy or his girlfriend, the wife of the owner of the theater was in the line to get into the movie, and not only saw the girl being let in for free, but told her husband this, with the result being that the boy was fired. I put it to the class again: should the girlfriend ask to be let in for free? Same hands went up with  “yes”; I put it to the class: should the boyfriend let her in? Same amount of hands went up with “yes” –despite the fact that the parameter of the dilemma would lead to the boy being fired as consequence. I was faced with the fact that these students knew exactly how the world really worked, and, despite the knowledge of what was ‘appropriate’ and ‘not appropriate’, in the moral challenge of the story they were creating for their opera, they comprehended that it was just a story; the real world, outside of their classroom, demanded a fuller faithfulness and adeptness in loyalty -.. ..leaving me not only to marvel at their adroitness, but also to understand the level at which they were constructing rules for their adulthood, from their realities and not classroom lessons.. So. ..perhaps, if we want our future to be better than our past, then, in a daily context, we might want to example the best paradigms congruent with that future, because our youth are paying attention to the subtlest realities, available all around them, and minutely discernable, 24/7..

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