Teaching Students to Make Ethical Decisions Using Literature as a Springboard

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


For many years, as a teacher of literature, I just taught the story- who did what, to whom, when, where, and why. The students in my classes explored all the conflicts in the literature they read, memorized beautiful lines of poetry and answered questions that correspond to all levels of Blooms’s Taxonomy. Then, at some point in the 80’s, while teaching Romeo and Juliet and reading newspaper accounts about teenage suicide rates, I realized that I needed to do more than just teach the story. I could no longer simply teach this play without dealing with several ethical issues. Here we were, in a suburban high school, banning certain articles of clothing from school in order to try to discourage the formation of gangs while the minor characters in the this play, the servants in the two major households, are mindlessly engaged in street fights to perpetuate a feud that they do not understand. I had to help my students to see the connections between this behavior and the behavior of some of their peers who were daily involved in similar street fights for often as vague a cause as the one portrayed in the play. Then there is the issue of drug use [...]


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