Primary Ethics Curriculum Objectives

The curriculum aims to equip students with the knowledge, skills and dispositions to explore the questions, ‘What ought we to do?’  ‘What sort of person do I want to be? and ‘What might a fair society look like?’

In the process we support students to:

  • Develop critical thinking skills and attitudes, such as logical reasoning skills and fair mindedness – that is, a willingness to take the views of others seriously and to assess conflicting views on the basis of reason and evidence
  • Build their capacity for questioning and inquiry and for engaging in respectful dialogue with their peers
  • Recognise and engage widely with ethical issues
  • Think for themselves about moral principles, values and virtues as well as concepts such as equal human worth, and the common good
  • Engage with a some of the elements of sound ethical decision-making, such as:
    • Employing critical thinking skills
    • Recognising common capacities for suffering and well-being and empathising with others
    • Considering not only our own interests, but also the interests of others
    • Considering the consequences of our actions, and taking circumstances into account
    • Taking intention into account
    • Thinking about where our moral duty lies and what it means to treat someone as a means to our own ends
    • Thinking about whether a proposed action is consistent with the kind of person we should want to be
    • Employ some of these factors in their own moral decision-making.

The approach taken by Primary Ethics is that ethical exploration in the classroom is best done through dialogue and discussion – a tradition of philosophical inquiry that goes right back to Socrates and which is tied to the substantive idea of living an ‘examined life’. This approach has significant social benefits. By learning to think about ethical matters together and through the give-and-take of reasoned argument, students will learn properly to consider other people’s points of view and to be sincere, reasonable and respectful in dealing with their differences and disagreements.

It should be noted that Primary Ethics does not seek to present a ‘history of ideas’ in which it highlights the thinking of particular philosophers. For example, it does not seek to teach children about Western figures like Kant, Plato, etc. Nor does it offer an account of the thinking of Buddha, Confucius or other non-Western philosophers. Rather, Primary Ethics seeks to present ‘ways of thinking’ (or perspectives) that cut across cultures and traditions.

For example, typically ethics lessons will encourage students to look at a question through multiple ‘lenses’ including: the consequences of a proposed course of action, matters of duty that might apply, how one’s developing character (as an individual or part of a community) might be affected by a decision, the nature of the relationships involved, etc.