Ethics (age 7-11)

‘Why should I consider others?… Myself, I think the only possible answer is the humanist one – because we are naturally social beings; we live in communities; and life in any community, from the family outwards, is much happier, and fuller, and richer if the members are friendly and co-operative than if they are hostile and resentful.’

Margaret Knight, humanist and psychologist (1903 – 1983)

How do humanists make decisions about what is right and wrong? What motivations do they have to be good? Is it possible to be good without the belief in a god or gods? Find out why humanists place human welfare at the centre of their ethical decision making and how they believe our natural capacity for reason and empathy can help us decide how to act.

Why should I be good?
Suitable for: 7-11

Lesson Plans

Why should I be good?

In this lesson students will investigate whether rules, laws, and the promise of reward or the fear of punishment are the only reasons to be good. They will explore what motivates humanists to be good, and discover why humanists think we can use our natural capacity for reason and empathy to help us consider the effects of our actions on others and think about what would happen if everyone acted the same way. Finally, exploring a number of moral dilemmas, they will use what they have learned to explain how a humanist might decide to act and why, and compare it to their own reasons. Download

Presentations

Why should I be good?

Download

Activities

Why should I be good? dilemmas

A group activity featuring moral dilemmas which allow students to explore how they would choose to act, how a humanist might choose to act, and why. Download

Humanist responses: why be good?

Can students fill in the speech bubbles with humanist responses to statements and questions about why we should be good? Download

Films

What makes something right or wrong?

(Age 11+) A short animation about how humanists make decisions about how to act, and why they believe we should be proud that morality is a human invention. Watch

Human nature

(Age 7+) A short film in which author Philip Pullman explains why he believes morality and our conscience evolved naturally. Watch

Humanist Perspectives

Ethics

Why should we be good to others? How can I know the difference between right and wrong? Download

Do humanists have rules to follow?
Suitable for: 11-14, 7-11

Lesson Plans

Do humanists have rules to follow?

In this lesson students will evaluate whether some rules are more important than others and use moral dilemmas to explore whether rules always help. They will learn how humanists believe rules can often be helpful, but that we should also always think about the consequences of our behaviour when deciding how to act. They will go on to learn how many humanists follow the Golden Rule (treat others as you would like to be treated yourself), explore why humanists think this rule is so common because it evolved naturally alongside our capacity to reason and empathise, and investigate, though writing a letter, how humanists might respond to criticisms of the Golden Rule. Download

Presentations

Do humanists have rules to follow?

Download

Activities

Rules

Can students say where these rules have come from and order them according to how important they are? Download

Lying dilemma

Is lying always wrong? A dilemma to get students to explore whether we should take rules or consequences into account when we act. Download

The Golden Rule

A student handout on the Golden Rule, including examples from around the world and a map on which to locate them. Download

Golden Rule letter

Can students write a reply to a letter from a child who has used the golden rule inappropriately and see how using the Golden Rule means taking other people's tastes and preferences into account? Download

Humanist responses: rules

Can students fill in the speech bubbles with humanist responses to statements and questions about rules? Download

Ten non-commandments

Two examples of humanist guidance for living a good life to use as stimuli to inspire students to write their own. Download

Films

What makes something right or wrong?

(Age 11+) A short animation about how humanists make decisions about how to act, and why they believe we should be proud that morality is a human invention. Watch

Human nature

(Age 7+) A short film in which author Philip Pullman explains why he believes morality and our conscience evolved naturally. Watch

Humanist Perspectives

Ethics

Why should we be good to others? How can I know the difference between right and wrong? Download

Ethics: The Golden Rule

What is the Golden Rule and where do humanists think it came from? Download

Other Resources

Human Nature

A short film in which author, Philip Pullman, explains why he believes morality and our conscience evolved naturally.  

Humanist Perspectives

Ethics

Why should we be good to others? How can I know the difference between right and wrong?

Download

Ethics: The Golden Rule

What is the Golden Rule and where do humanists think it came from?

Download

Ethics: The evolution of morality

Where does our morality come from? Is it set in stone or a work in progress?

Download

External Resources

Enlighten Up

Enlighten Up: A film about rules and consequences - should you tell your friend you don't like their haircut?

The life you can save

A three minute animation presenting humanist philosopher Peter Singer's motivation to do more to reduce suffering around the world.

The Starfish Story

Written by humanist Loren Eiseley, this video illustrates the humanist view that we can all contribute to improving the quality of other people's lives.

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