Imagine you are teaching a group of business people, all of whom work for the same company. They have been told that their eligibility for the next round of promotions depends on their achieving a certain level of English. All of them are busy and none of them have much time. Over the course, there have been quite a few absences and not very much homework.
It’s now the end of the course and the students are doing their final evaluation tests. As they do, you notice one of the students is referring to a piece of paper they have on their lap under the desk.
What do you do?
Does it make any difference to you what happens? What about the student? Is it fair to the other students?
Welcome to the world of Moral Dilemmas!
Moral Dilemmas is a new mini-ebook from Lindsay Clandfield and published by The Round that explores issues like this and more. The example above is my own and is not from the book, but is an example of the way such ethical conundrums have to grab us, take us out of our comfort zones and force us to re-evaluate our value systems.
It is this ability that makes these situations such universal constants. It doesn’t really matter where you are from or what belief system you have, issues like this cause us to stop and re-evaluate our relationships with the world around us.
That said, these dilemmas tend to work better in contexts where there is a more relativistic approach to morality and less absolutism. I can see that in some contexts the dilemmas as presented may not be viewed as dilemmas at all, but more as a logical progression of “if that, then this”. This potential problem is addressed though, with the author suggesting a more nuanced critical approach of exploring the alternatives in terms of their implications on the individuals and wider society. In short, if the students all agree that (to take our example) cheating is wrong and the HR department should be notified within 30 seconds of presenting the problem, that the teacher draw out all of the possible courses of action and ask the students to think about what they might mean.
The dilemmas themselves are very usefully presented: the dilemma itself is described, along with brief teaching tips on how to adjust each dilemma to a local context. Avenues of further exploration are suggested as well as vocabulary areas that might come up in discussion.
There is also a very useful “What if…” section, which considers some of problems that might arise when using the material with a class and suggests some strategies for dealing with them. These range from looking at relevance and appropriacy to immediate agreement, slipping into L1 and when things get too up close and personal for everybody’s comfort!
Who should buy this book? It’s aimed at teachers working with classes of B1 ability and above, but beyond that I would think is quite a useful resource for anyone teaching English. It’s the sort of book that would sit easily alongside titles like the Discussions A-Z series, or Friederike Klippel’s Keep Talking, on the staffroom bookshelf – something handy to dip into and find a useful activity as when is needed. Though obviously as it’s an ebook, a more recent comparison would be the Parsnips series (see elsewhere on this blog) and we should be talking about a staffroom Kindle instead! Definitely a keeper, I look forward to trying some of the activities with my own classes!