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I have a little book on my desk, required of me by my doctoral program. It is purported to be useful as an introduction to the issues involving education and morality. I really ought to write a note thanking the professors for having me spend $5 to purchase it; instead, I will have little nice to say about it. Itís a well-known book, but, for purposes of meaningless obscurantism and possible protection from law suits, I will refer to it as The Little Beige Book and its author as simply Morbius. In this book, Morbius claims to be criticizing an English textbook, but moves quickly to his real subject, the criticism of his societyís failure to teach ideas of right and wrong. Morbiusís books are very influential and presented as something of a framework for thought about moral issues and the teaching thereof. I certainly agree that such a framework is important and, as a classroom teacher, I must wrestle with the issues raised by the Little Beige Book, not in the abstract, but in the reality of seventy-five people about whom I care. This is why itís important to examine the adequacy of Morbiusís assumption, explore alternatives if those assumptions are found wanting, and to ask how such a framework can help in educating young people.
Rather than follow the intricate logic that reaches Morbiusís conclusions, letís look at its conclusion first, a set of "moral laws" that, in Morbiusís opinion, can be found in all revealed religions and are hence universal. Morbius lists them as follows and refers to them as the "Tao."
1. The Law of General Beneficence. (Love and cherish a stranger.)
2. The Law of Special Beneficence. (Love and cherish those near to you.)
3. Duties to parents, elders, ancestors.
4. Duties to children and posterity.
5. Law of Justice (a) Sexual (adultery) (b) honesty (c) justice in court, lying
6. Law of Good Faith (not swearing falsely).
7. The Law of Mercy.
8. Law of Magnanimity-(a) face death (b) be brave when endangered (c) accept death as part of life.
Before examining the arguments for and against this position, I wish to digress and consider a second work, Platoís Republic. The relevance of this digression will become apparent in considering Morbiusís position.
Before examining the arguments for and against this position, I wish to digress and consider a second work, Platoís Republic. The relevance of this digression will become apparent in considering Morbiusís position.
Platoís Republic, like all of his work, should elicit debate not mere quotations. Like the participants in the dialogues, the reader should engage in the material, answer arguments, and consider positions. When recently hearing this book discussed by a certain scholar, I heard a number of statements like "in the Republic, Plato says" as though Plato meant these to be final positions unworthy of any further thought and without consideration of where the statement takes place in the course of the bookís discussion. This is particularly relevant as this scholar uses the Republicís "positions" to support that of Morbius. Specifically, this scholar holds that, the Republic Plato "advocates" a certain kind of education.
Having not read the Republic in 12 years and not claiming the expertise as a philosopher, I will defer to the reading of Dr. Schultz of Albion College, a noted political science author, philosopher, and scholar. Schultz points out that Platoís Republic presents not one "Utopia," and I put the words in quotation marks round "Utopia" to underline the necessity to question if it represents one at all, but two "Utopias."
Early in the conversation, Socrates presents a vision of simple villagers as living the good life. The people are farmers, and they have little. They are also happy. The others in the conversation ridicule this as the "City of Pigs." I myself have seen something similar to this in the farms of rural Burma and people seemed, despite their poverty, extremely happy. The other participants in the discussion, however, donít like the poverty of this little Utopia. At their insistence, Socrates starts to map out the second Utopia, the one commonly associated with the Republic.
This latter Utopia, certainly, possesses wealth. In order to achieve this wealth, however, the citizens make increasing sacrifices. First they introduce social classes. In order to justify these classes, the rulers lie to the people ("the myth of Gold and Silver"). They start a "guardian" class, police and army, which defends but also restricts liberty. All power devolves to one (hopefully) virtuous person, the philosopher-king. Finally, the people are told a pretty myth about eternal life in order to encourage them to do good. These steps Socrates introduces as, not necessarily moral, but logically necessary to make this City of Wealth.
I would suggest, again following Dr. Schultz, that Plato includes both cities for a reason. If the second city truly represents Platoís ideal vision, it makes no sense to mention the City of Pigs, a city that many might find attractive. Both undoubtedly had some historical reference to an Athens that had gone from city to empire to dictator to defeat. The second city is flawed by avarice and, I would argue, one reason for its elaboration is to force the others in the dialog to consider this: How much wealth does a city need, and what is an appropriate price to pay? At the very least, the City of Wealth represents as much dystopia as utopia.
I make this digression because the scholar I mention uses Platoís City of Wealth as a classical support for the position outlined in The Beige Book. Plato goes on, at some length, to explain the kind of education citizens should get, appropriate, of course, to their station and tempering them to their duties in the City of Wealth. In the City of Pigs, citizens get a much freer education. After all, in the City of Wealth only one person gets an education to be a philosopher. In the City of Pigs, everyone can become a philosopher. Keeping these cities in mind, I return to Morbiusís argument.
Morbius joins a long line of philosophers and traditions who hold that there is one, absolute moral law. The Chinese, since the Tang dynasty, always relied upon an examination system that tested knowledge of the Confucius's works, which explicitly spelled out a moral-social framework for governmental leaders. Famous philosophers, including John Locke and Rousseau, believed in these laws also. Even the Communist countries make certain that students are taught the Communist ideals of community responsibility, based on the "Dialectics of Materialism." So Morbius joins select company though I would note that the content of that divine law varied considerably just among those mentioned..
To show Morbiusís law, one most imagine a number of overlapping circles representing the fundamental beliefs of the worldís revealed religions. To Morbius, the intersecting area of these circles contains the Tao, or universal law, shown in the drawing below:
Itís important to note, the fundamental claims for these laws. To Morbius, the rules of the Tao are not subjective but objective, facts of nature. In other words, an argument concerning these rules must take the character of "No, youíre wrong," rather like a scientific debate, instead of, "I donít believe that," like a traditional religious debate. To weaken the seeming validity of the latter sort of argument, Morbius reduces the those kinds of statement to the vastly weaker one of saying "I donít feel that way."
Having looked at the character and conception of these laws, I will now show the weakness of the concept behind them.
At first glance, the fact that one law contradicts another should hardly seem a serious problem, but the Tao debate regards scientific law. Morbius claims the high ground in which something happens because itís "natural" to happen, and logic should not depend on something so personal and subjective as a decision. The only possible answer to such a dilemma might be that one law is stronger than another. In a given situation, then, it should always prevail. Should one law be about equal in strength to another, one should prevail about 50% of the time in a random pattern. This is simply not the case.
The classic dilemma of the lifeboat can serve to illustrate one example of this. In this famous imaginary scenario, a ship is sinking, and there are three survivors, a man, his daughter, and his mother, and only one can be saved. A friend of mine did an interesting experiment: He gave this same dilemma to a group of Americans and Chinese. Americans overwhelmingly chose the daughter. Chinese overwhelmingly chose the mother. Either course is in keeping with the Tao.
This shows a regional pattern in choosing of the Tao, something that should not happen in Morbius scheme. It suggests, in fact, a cultural choosing of one Tao law over another.
A second problem with Morbiusís scheme is that the main religions, including those he quotes the most, provide a number of clear exceptions to the Tao. In other words, in the circular diagram there may provide far less common overlap or none at all.
A few examples demonstrate this. In Hinduism, for example, faithful wives are enjoined to burn themselves on their husbandís funeral pyre. While certainly this supports Morbiusís concept of duty to posterity, the wife no longer needs to be a burden on society, it hardly represents benevolence to any children of these burned-out widows. Similar kinds of arguments might be raised about the Hindu practice of child-marriage.
Nor does Hinduism provide the only exceptions. Recently, a bombing in Saudi Arabia revealed that Saudi law, based on the Sharia (Stripes 1996), held no penalty for killing American citizens simply because they were non-Moslems. In fact, Islam enjoins and even immortalizes Moslems those who kill "infidels" Idi Amin (Stripes 1996) today enjoins a quite comfortable exile in Saudi Arabia because he killed no Moselms during his reign of terror in Uganda.
As for the law of "good faith" (no lying), the Shiite branch of Islam specifically excuses lying in questions of faith. Shiites, also, can marry for only an evening. Moslem men, posterity or no, can divorce women simply by proclaiming "you are divorced" three times, hardly "sexual benevolence" or fidelity. The Sharia calls for stoning adultery as does Jewish law, the exact reason Christ had to stop the men who intended to stone an adulterous woman, a classic case of Tao values in conflict.
These examples, show, again, that the great religions in many cases have beliefs and practices that violate Morbiusís Tao as much as they support it. To call these departures from the Tao "aberrations," again, brings back the whole idea of subjectivity supposedly alien to the conception of these "natural" laws.
Finally, we return to the beliefs outside the overlapping circles of the Tao. These are practices that might be considered superstition by Morbius because they donít form part of the Tao. As a result, Morbius would suggest that the religions holding these should not consider them important, certainly not equal to Tao laws.
Hindus, for example, believe in the caste system and in vegetarianism. The caste system creates a fundamentally unequal society in which some are considered more worthy than others. Hindus take this belief so seriously that devout Hindus consider living outside of caste, usually meaning outside of India, rather like living in Purgatory and inherently "unclean." To suggest, with Morbius, to a Hindu that vegetarianism and caste are not essential laws governing his life would rob the concept of any meaning to the Hindu..
To summarize, then, a brief look at the major religions reveals as many differences on fundamental "laws" as similarities. Further many laws that one particular religion consider important do not form a portion of Morbiusís Tao. A final argument, finally, stems from Morbiusís own logic.
If these natural laws are "innate," why bother teaching them? Yet Morbius maintains we should, perhaps to counter education that attempts to "bend" people, teach these Tao laws though if the Tao are so deeply ingrained, that would seem to be impossible.
To raise the argument to perhaps the level of absurdity, try comparing Morbiusís natural laws to another widely accepted natural law: gravity. It would sound pretty ridiculous to say "well the gravity is harder here," "well, gravity doesnít exist here," or "we have to teach people how to obey gravity." Yet, in order to explain away the problems with the Tao laws above, would require doing exactly this.
Further, the few examples we have of individuals born and raised out of society, the "state of nature," indicates that the individuals show few of the traits Morbius would suggest, behaving a lot more like Hobbesian men than Rousseauís (or Morbiusís) noble savages. Sociologists, indeed, have closely studied individuals who grew up in near total isolation (Ishi in Two Worlds). The individuals seemed to totally lack, in particular, any of the social impulses that Morbius includes as part of the Tao. This suggests that some of Morbiusís "laws" are, in fact, socially constructed.
In other words, the evidence from nature, as well as logic, suggests that the Tao represents, not natural laws at all. As a result, to find individuals who adhere to them would, of course, require education in them, the real reason for Morbiusís interest in school books and pupils. Having found little to support Morbiusís concept of a Tao, and much to contradict it, itís time to look at Morbiusís methodology-and motivation.
A closer examination of Morbiusís Tao, then, reveals not so much universal law but universal lack of fundamental law. Further Morbiusís selection of Tao virtues seems rather arbitrary. It would be just as easy, given the tenets of the worldís religions and by cleverly mining quotes, like Morbius does, to come up with a Tao that advocates (1) female oppression (2) slavery and (3) genocidal warfare.
Itís important, then, to question what Morbiusís Tao really represents, and the answer is simple: Morbiusís Tao. Having looked at the great religions, he extracted his Tao to project the principles he believes. In other words, he engaged in a subjective decision, not an objective search for reality. Not surprisingly, many would agree with Morbiusís personal selection of Tao rules, especially those who share his religious background and upbringing, i.e. his culture.
Herein lies the danger of Morbiusís conception. By claiming the status of natural law, not belief, he cuts away the ground from those who would simply say, "But thatís only what you believe." In a relatively homogeneous country like post-War Britain, there might be relatively few who differed, but Morbius allows them not the respect due differing believers, but reduces them to the level of simply "wrong-thinkers."
Alarm bells should ring in the minds of all because Morbiusís work claims to be about education though, perhaps appropriately, he claims to neither like nor deal with the young boys mentioned in the text. He advocates teaching a system of beliefs as "the truths," when they are merely his truths.
This returns us, finally, to Plato. Out of all citizens in his City of Wealth, only the philosopher-king is trained to truly make decisions, including that of what others will be allowed to learn. When Morbius talks about "Men Without Chests," he really means "Men Without Chests Resembling My Own." Morbius would set himself up as philosopher king. For the wealth of imparting to students some form of moral education, Morbius requires us to pay the price of having the morality be none other than his own.
Having examined the flaws in Morbiusís arguments, itís necessary to look at the problem he addresses from a different perspective. To Morbius, of course, to do so is "wrong" because either everything is subjective, or it relates to his fundamental, unchanging laws. Thankfully, social scientists, however, have established a middle ground on the premise, already implicit in the arguments against Morbius, that the source for a set of moral rules, a "tao" instead of a Tao, might lie somewhere other than in natural law, and that is in culture of which religion is only one element.
To state it simply, social scientists hold that the fundamental laws, the "tao" for a community arises from a common perception of what is acceptable and unacceptable to the community. Typically, the religion of a particular culture (Durkheim) gives sanction to the most important of these beliefs. As culture, itself, is the product of interaction with the natural setting, its opportunities and limits, it stands to reason that the "tao" of one region will differ from that of another. It also stands to reason, however, that there are certain generalities of the human condition that apply to (nearly) every place on earth that would give the illusion to writers, such as Morbius, of something that resembles a "Tao."
Many of the practices that seem to violate Morbiusís Tao make sense within the context of the cultures in which these practices arose. In Arabia, for example, constant battles and raiding left a surplus of unmarried women and orphans. As a result Islam allows polygamy, even among relatives. In India, cows represent community property, used by whomever needs them. To kill and eat the cattle would threaten the entire community. Hence destroying cattle becomes a part of an Indian tao but not that of American.
Itís important to note two differences between the social scientistsí tao and Morbiusís Tao. Unlike Morbiusís Tao, the social scientistsí tao can and often should be changed because conditions change. Gandhi, who considered himself, among other things, a good Hindu, successfully campaigned to end untouchability, child-marriage, and the burning of widows. A second important feature of the social science tao is that it encourages debate and an exchange of views. As Morbius points out, Itís rather illogical to tell another: "No, you donít believe that." On the other hand, Itís perfectly legitimate to ask the following questions: "What do you believe?" "Are you willing to hear what I believe?" "Can you or I convert the other?" and, importantly, "Given that we disagree, how can we live together?" In the City of Pigs, I would imagine such discussions take place quite often.
To education this is particularly important. Unlike Morbius, the social scientist can claim that students should be taught morality without having to pretentiously claim to have knowledge of any "natural laws." Further, he can argue that even if moral education should be taught everywhere, it should differ in Saudi Arabia and France, as, in fact, it does. Also, the social scientist can explain why America, a society probably richer in diversity than any other, faces such a dilemma coming up common values to teach and would likely end up with a distinctively limited number of values to teach compared with a more homogenous society like Japan. Social scientists, unburdened by excessive claims to the "truth," can argue the necessity of moral education on the basis of social need.
Itís important to note that Morbius does raise an important issue. Morbius rightly fears the total moral neutralization of education. What if, he asks, students are taught that no course of action can be considered right or wrong? I would note that again, the question itself is cultural. Most countries do what Morbius advocates with little fanfare or debate. The questions remains important for Americans, however, because of the cultural diversity present in America.
The social scientistís tao would advocate that a society can, indeed should teach, what it considers right and wrong. If it doesnít, it will clearly self-destruct to the detriment of itself and its members. So, here, the social scientist joins with Morbius in opposition to the teaching of total relativism.
The manner, however, in which right and wrong, however, are explained differs under the social scientists tao and that of Morbius. Morbius would claim itís simply "unnatural" to violate the Tao laws. The social scientistsí tao, however, require a lot more debate and consideration. Instead of, for example, telling students "to kill is wrong," encourages an exploration of why Itís wrong and, to return to a concern of Morbius, when killing might be right and appropriate. In fact, the social scientists tao might even lead to the kind of search for universal laws that led Morbius to his tao and to which he is welcome.
Having constructed a conceptual framework, Itís important to determine of what use that might be to me and my teaching. The concept of a social scientistsí tao is that a culture creates its own tao, a set of values that it holds above all others. A school, moreover, has its own culture and might be conjectured to possess its own tao. Classrooms could have their own tao. Individuals, of whom Morbius is a prominent example, possess taos of their own.
Identifying these various tao is, of course, important in an of itself. Ideally these taos would have at least some overlap at the very center. Morbius would argue that the area at the center should be large, ideally a complete match. I would argue that this clash of beliefs has some inherent value.
Besides the curiosity of exploring the differing taos, examining this allows the isolation of certain core values that Sushimi High School wishes to impart to its students and, at my level, what elements of the tao of Daniel R. Fruit I can and should impart to my students. In order to begin an examination, I will look at the social environment of Sushimi High School and how it effects Sushimi High School and proceed inward to my classroom.
This author has written extensively (Fruit 1992) using research from (Oshirto 1973) and others on the subject of the evolution of the DoDDs system and on the social environment, in general, created by the system. Here, I will state some relevant conclusions.
The Department of Defense Dependent Schools were originally designed to be a temporary solution to a temporary problem. After World War II ended, the United States stationed troops in Japan and Germany for what it hoped to be a short-term occupation. As the Cold War set in, however, the number of troops overseas continued to remain high. Inevitably, a number of the single service members married local spouses, resulting in a dependent population.
The DoDDs system evolved as a make-shift solution. As the US. government took a number of measures designed to improve the standard of living of service members in order to build the large professional military, the number of dependents increased. Eventually, this created a school system, today, educating about 200,000 students, one of the nation's ten largest.
The DoDDs schools are unique in their funding, status, isolation, and student population. As the only schools financed by the United States government, their funding is subject to the whims of the US. Congress. Sushimi High School, for example, needed to have an act of Congress to install air-conditioning units. In twenty years, three different bills containing clauses authorized the funding have been struck down or shorn of the particular clauses. This is, needless to say, different from most schools east of the Mississippi, dependent on local millages, and most west of the Mississippi, dependent on state tax levies.
The status of DoDDs schools is unique, also, in that they're not really international schools and not really American schools. Unlike international schools, they feature an American-style curriculum, not the International Baccalaureate. Until the recent merger with the Section Eight schools (schools in the continental United States, "stateside," receiving some government funding due to having some military dependents), DoDDs had no formal connection to any stateside school district. Moreover, each school functions as a "company town" for the local military (Fruit 1993) whose commanders can exert a high amount of influence. This leaves each DoDDs schools more influenced by the local employer than most American schools.
Further, the DoDDs schools are extremely isolated, not only from one another, but also from the surrounding, host nation. Obviously, there is the physical isolation of a system where the nearest school may be days of travel away. Just as importantly, however, is the fact that military personnel are paid in deteriorating-value dollars, unlike parents of international school students. This means that in countries like Germany and Japan, where the cost of living is extremely high, few Americans leave the base for other activities. As a result, far more attention is paid to school activities and operations than would otherwise be the case in schools in the United States.
Finally, there is the diverse student population. While military parents are American and predominantly white or African-American, DoDDs students represent all colors of the rainbow and nearly every conceivable cultural mixture. Moreover, as military members typically have a "three-year-tour" (which may be suddenly cut or extended, without notice, by the military), the student population constantly changes. This means that while the total community has more total influence on a DoDDs school, the individual actors constantly alter. Having seen DoDDs in general, Sushimi's individual situation will be explored.
Sushimi High School sits at the site of an old Japanese Air Force Base. The first DoDDs school in the Pacific began at Sushimi. In 1947, Sushimi sat in the midst of ruins far from the heart of Tokyo. In the fifty years, since the base began, Tokyo stretched so that its urban area engulfs the base.
While other bases around the Pacific bask in the glory of hosting bomber wings and fighter squadrons, Sushimi hosts three less conspicuous but more important "missions": the 374th Air Mobility Command, the air supply squadron for the Pacific, USFJ (United States Forces Japan, a liaison with the Japanese), and 5th Air Force Headquarters, of which the 374 predominates in terms of numbers of personnel. To give just as example of the 374's importance, nearly every vehicle or round of ammunition that fought in the Gulf War passed through Sushimi Air Force Base courtesy of the 374th.
These organizations affect the operation of the school. The officers of the 374th, and, more rarely, 5th Air Force Headquarters, tend to dominate the interactions between school and base. The last two commanders of the 374th for example, sat on the school advisory council (SAC). The commander of USFJ gave this yearís commencement speech. The preponderance of officers (college-educated) and senior enlisted (tech sergeants and above), makes Sushimi more like a middle class neighborhood whereas other bases are more like working class neighborhoods. Relations between the school and squadrons have been, for the most part, cordial and sometimes warm, depending on the personalities of the commanders present. It's important to note that, for many operations, such as a homecoming parade, a field trip, etc. coordination with the military authorities is mandatory.
If Sushimi is a company town, it's a rather conservative company town. Most people attend, or are in general sympathy with, the Catholic or Protestant churches. Off-base, there are several more Fundamentalist churches, predominantly black.
One extremely important group, present at Sushimi, is the Mormons, who consider themselves Christian. They constitute less than 5% of the population but exercise importance beyond they numbers. The bonds between members are very tight. Moreover, almost all the adults are officers, and the adults take a keen interest in education, often serving on SAC. In 1992, they fought to make Sushimi High School switch to a seven-period-day despite opposition from students, opposition from teachers, and general community apathy towards the issue. They won.
Most of the faculty at Sushimi, unlike other DoDDs schools, stay long periods of time. About fifty percent of the teachers are currently eligible for either full or early retirement. There have been few labor problems at Sushimi, especially in comparison to other schools around the Pacific. The elected union representatives typically try to work with the administration rather than against, and management takes a "laissez faire" attitude towards teachers.
Students at Sushimi are fairly typical of DoDDs in general with a few qualifications. Sushimi, for example, has every ethnic group present in America and more. About 25% of all students are bi-racial.
Students fall into two categories, long-term and short term. About 25% of all students have lived their entire lives in Japan, their fathers having married Asian wives and stayed. They regard Sushimi, or at least Japan, as their home. Mainly due to this group, Sushimi enjoys an atmosphere of racial/cultural tolerance that schools in America would envy.
The other 75% of students are somewhere in the midst of a parent's three-year tour. This group, in particular, hates Japan, and feels some resentment for their parents having accepted an assignment in such a "boring place." They tend to regard the military, or wherever their parents lived that they liked the best, as their home. Having looked at the social setting of Sushimi High School, Itís time to review explicit and implicit standards of morality.
There are few explicit guidelines for students and teachers regarding Sushimi High Schoolís concepts of right and wrong. DoDDs has general guidelines for personnel. The following are excerpts from the code of conduct for DoDDs employees.
"Put loyalty to the highest moral principles...above loyalty to persons, party, or government department."
"Uphold the constitution, law, and legal regulations of the United States.."
"Give a full day's labor for a full day's pay."
"Seek to find and employ more efficient and economical ways of getting tasks accomplished."
"Never discriminate unfairly by the dispensing of special favors...."
"Expose corruption wherever discovered." (DoDDs Employee Handbook, 1995) Note, significantly, that there is no clause specifically enjoining employees to teach these standards to students. The best that might be claimed is that, by example the DoDDs employee might show students "right" and "wrong."
For the students, Sushimi High School issues a student handbook. This handbook gives a rather general set of rules governing behavior. One assistant principal used this as his "master guide" in dealing with student misbehavior. Significantly, though, he organized a handbook committee, including students, teachers, and parents to solicit input.
It's worth noting that no laws, in fact, cover dependents. The uniformed code of military justice (UCMJ) covers military members, and transgressors risk court martials or non-judicial punishment. Military law, perhaps obviously, doesn't cover military dependents, and the physical location of Sushimi Air Force takes them out of the legal jurisdiction of any of the states. When a student commits a serious offense, then, the school must contact the student's sponsor's commanding officer. The commanding officer, then, assigns the consequences through the service member. For example, when the son of a sergeant stole a guitar, the store called his father's commanding officer who had to make sure, through the father, that the son did his assigned community service, cleaning up trash. Sometimes the sponsor and/or commander will simply recommend sending the dependent home to live with a relative, a prospect most dependents relish. This has led to cases in which students purposely commit crimes or misbehave in order to be sent home.
In extreme cases, Sushimi High School or the military police will contact the Japanese Police and, literally, beg them to take jurisdiction. Whether a student at school or home can commit a serious offense, then, becomes a function of whether an administrator is willing to make some phone calls, the military member(s) reaction to those phone calls, and possibly the reaction of the Japanese police. While this discussion of the law seems abstract, it can have an pertinent effect on student perceptions of right and wrong. Three years ago, one boy stabbed and killed another at a night-time outdoor school function, and the Japanese police, at first, declined to take the case. A girl who was raped at a base on Okinawa recently declined to prosecute because the local Japanese police didn't wish to become involved, and the military only offered to send the boy back to the United States. Needless to say, this has an effect on student ideas of what is acceptable.
At Sushimi, generally, administrators and the military have cooperated. In the case of two serious crimes, the local Japanese police, after much begging, did decide to become involved. On the other hand, students continue to shoplift, off-base, with impunity knowing that Japanese shopkeepers will not want to try to bother them. The same holds true for drinking and smoking in which only high prices form a deterrent to student purchases.
In conclusion, then, there are few explicitly listed ideas of right and wrong for Sushimi Air Force Base. Military members have an explicit code of conduct that most can recite, but their dependents, technically fall through the legal cracks. Further, the enforcement of serious rules depends, in large measure, upon the personalities and ambitions of those functioning to uphold them, which changes quite regularly.
To summarize, then, looking at Sushimi High School the following are the rules that are explicitly taught to students:(1) Follow the rules in the student handbook. (2) If you're really bad or violent, you may receive punishment-or be sent home.
What is taught to children about what is right and wrong is as much implicit as explicit, one important point of Morbiusís work. To consider this concept, then, requires looking at the standards of morality as the forces of the community present them and one means of doing this is to explore those forces who exert their influence on the school.
On the surface, again, Sushimi High School resembles a typical stateside school. Its teachers, union, administration, parents, students, and a school advisory council (SAC) all, theoretically, give input into the running of the school. Each will be examined in turn to compare its relative strength to that of a typical stateside school.
The teachers at Sushimi High School, again, constitute a relatively old, conservative group. Most see retirement as their main goal. As a result, they have little interest in any issues that don't directly affect their working environment or threaten their retirement. Perhaps their most important influence stems from their representing a generation older than the parents and their relative longevity at the base, which tends to earn then more respect than might fall to younger, newer teachers.
Despite perceptions that governmental unions are strong, the AFT is weak. Management in Washington determines the issues on which the union gets to bargain. At Sushimi, local representatives, isolated from other schools, have little knowledge of problems plaguing other locations. At other schools, the union has functioned primarily to assist individuals involved in terminations, but at Sushimi firings seldom happens. As a result, the union primarily concerns itself with pay grievances for the seemingly unending serious of errors committed by payroll, usually with assistance of the administration. The one area of potential influence for the union is the yearly administrator rating survey, which was recently restored after a four-year lapse (at the behest of the Okinawa schools).
The SAC's level of influence tends to vary with the personnel. At Sushimi, officer's wives or officers tend to win these elected positions. If the group has goals that it wants to achieve, it can have quite an effect on what and how the school teaches as the seven-period-day incident shows. The SAC, then, is sometimes stronger than a school advisory council, but this depends on the influence of the members themselves, not the body.
Parents have an influence that varies between dramatic and nonexistent, and this influence comes mainly from complaining. Parents fill out an annual voluntary survey about the school, called the DoDDs Report Card, which goes to Washington. As a voluntary survey, only the most dissatisfied or satisfied tend to fill this out. Having many parents fill out positive reports and send them in can result in a high rating for an administrator. At very least, then, an administrator works to avoid massive numbers of negative surveys.
The students influence on all of the groups above tends to be indirect. This comes from doing things that influences the behaviors of the adults.
One key difference between Sushimi High School and stateside schools is the influence of the military. Commanders have the power to influence, punish, and transfer military members if the behavior of their children is not acceptable. For example, our school counselor recently tried to persuade a parent to come in for a conference for three months but was told she was "busy." When he called her commanding officer, she suddenly "found time" the very same day. Commanders can give military members time off to attend school events, conferences, and volunteer sessions. Again, however, the commanders' willingness to cooperate or not depends on the personnel, who constantly change. An effective administrator, in particular, must actively court commanding officer's cooperation. If the influence of the military forms a contrast with a stateside school, the importance of the press and complaints form another. Sushimi High School represents a school bureaucracy alongside a military bureaucracy subject to a Washington political bureaucracy. This makes achieving objectives a process of political maneuvering, and the two simplest means of achieving goals are complaints and bad press.
Sushimi Air Base houses most of the personnel who work for the paper almost every single military member in the Far East reads, The Pacific Stars and Stripes. As a result, articles and letters to the editor in Stars and Stripes can have a dramatic influence on public opinion. Sushimi's best assistant principal, for example, received an unwanted transfer merely on the basis of three articles by a handful of disgruntled parents who painted him as "racist."
Parent complaints, while not so public as Stars and Stripes articles, can have similar impact. Throughout the DoDDs hierarchy, from Washington down, everyone fears negative letters from either the military and/or parents. As a result, a well-written letter, the kind that an officer might make, has far more influence than in a stateside school system. Further such a letter could be written to an almost unlimited list of potential recipients from senators to commanding officer. Though not at Sushimi High School, many DoDDs teachers will not fail students because they know that parents will pressure administrators who will pressure them.
Together, then, the social forces at Sushimi Air Force Base make for an extremely conservative social environment. While on the surface, teachers, the SAC, and the administration appear to be the decision-making bodies, those decisions fall subject to review by an oft-changing group of parents, military commanders, and the press. A single complaining parent or commander can, under the correct circumstances, alter course content, cancel a social event, even change a grade.
Overall, then, the explicit rules offer a somewhat different picture and might be listed as follows:
(1) You will be educated in the classroom. (2) You will see or hear no opinions that are too liberal for the most conservative, vocal group of parents (i.e. the Mormons). (3) You will typically see nothing taught in a radical way. (4) You can expect your teacher not to be fired or removed. (5) You can expect that if your parent complains a lot or is a SAC member, you may receive special treatment from the administration and/or teachers. (6) If you really are doing poorly, complain. (7) If your parent's commander is very dedicated to education, your parent will have plenty of time and support to point you in that direction.
Itís important to the note the transitory nature of much of above information. Relatively little, except teaching personnel, at Sushimi is unchanging or secure. For this reason, its reasonable to look at what people might do in case of a situation, morality or no, in order to achieve aims they consider important. Consider what might be a winning position from the point of view of: (a) administrator (b) teacher (c) parent (d) commander (e) student
To an administrator, the quietest school is the best. That means no news stories, no reports, and no unrest. The key word, here, is reasonable. If an administrator is reasonable to all sides and seems an honest, disinterested, broker, he or she can run the school fairly effectively. If there's a serious problem, such as between student and teacher, the best course is to do something that results in no further noise from any interested party. A special case involves the ambitious administrators, as that person must do more to enlist parent support-at the cost of potential fights with the union and teachers.
To the teacher, the quietest classroom is the best, meaning one that arouses no interest from any other group. Like the administrator, he or she must deal with parent complaints and concerns. In the case of an uncooperative or hostile parent, the teacher cannot count on the administration. For example, this year several teachers had to teach a loud, obnoxious young girl. When the parent came in for a conference, she was equally loud, obnoxious, and insulting to the teachers. The administration, while they sympathized with the teachers and occasionally took the girl out of the classroom, would not pursue the matter with the military, and the child continued to be loud and obnoxious until the end of the year. Naturally, this disrupted the education of all of the children of parents who didn't complain and ask to have their child switch classes.
To the SAC member and/or parent, however, the quietest school is not the best unless it is accomplishing the goals they set for their child. There are no real penalties to complaining too much, so the more they complain, call, and write the more likely they are to obtain results. If this does not achieve results, complaining up the chain of command, writing letters to Congress and editorials all might achieve results
The commander probably has the most independence of all of the interested parties. Should he or she choose to support the school, generally this will result in good publicity for his unit and help in his or her own career. On the other hand, he or she can veto anything that seems likely to cause controversy.
This leads us, finally, to children. If everything is well, it is their best interests to have a quiet school and classroom. However, if anything does not go well, however, they naturally want to persuade parents to complain. If things go really badly, they should misbehave and get sent back to the United States where they'd probably rather be anyway.
Also mention must be made to some of the individuals holding the most important positions as, mentioned above, the tao changes. The administration, next year, will be all new. Considering that DoDDs stills possesses an excess of administrators, due to downsizing in Europe, likely Sushimi will receive an involuntary transfer. Sushimi will, also, lose one assistant principal, making the new administrators' jobs harder. Already two individuals have turned down the principal's job, so quite likely the individuals transferred will represent either (a) troubled administrators from elsewhere (b) individuals currently stuck in less desirable positions (such as Korea). In either event, they will spend some time simply getting established and try to carry on the status quo.
Sushimi's teachers will continue to grow grayer. Almost a third of the faculty will be "new," i.e. displaced from Europe, who will spend the year becoming oriented and possibly deciding to retire. The remaining two thirds will try to retain the status quo.
By far the strongest group, next year, will be the SAC and parents. The president of SAC's husband is a colonel, and she is an inveterate complainer who has successfully complained her daughter through rudeness (no consequences), low grades (improved), and class changes. All of this suggests that the influence of parents and SAC will be stronger than ever before.
Probably a third of the military commanders will change, but the commander of the support group, an affable man whose daughters attend YHS, will remain. At this point, the military community supports the school in various ways, but all of the personal relationships built between the administration and the commanders will have to be rebuilt, so the level of their support may be questioned.
In general, then, likely what will happen is an increase in the influence of parents and parent complaints in the perspective of what constitutes right and wrong at Sushimi. In other words, the tao of Sushimi High School will include more responsiveness to immediate parent needs
In conclusion, then, if you look at morality in an opportunistic way, the idea of "right and wrong" differ again. Here a study of the individuals themselves is more important than that of social forces. To summarize this last, also implicit, rules for students:
(1) Be aware that others want you to be quiet. (2) When you want something, persuade your parents to make noise. (3) Watch events as they unfold.
The tao of Sushimi High School, then, is fairly definable. In social terms, the school might be defined as Conservative. In educational terms, also, Sushimi might be defined as a Conservative, traditional school. Anything that seems particularly radical, in terms of education or though, will not find a receptive environment. As importantly, Sushimi represents a political environment. Success at Sushimi requires constantly placating a number of competing interests in a way that would seem familiar to most politicians.
Itís also a pluralistic environment. If American culture plays the dominant role, American military culture clearly differs from that of civilians, and the children of bi-cultural parents often bring a different set of goals and assumptions.
Having examined the effect of others, I turn to my own classroom. Of course, I have classroom rules, raise yours hands, no leaving the class without permission, etc. Then, I have procedures, but a year ago, I thought they seemed insufficient. Like Morbius, I decided to write my own classroom tao though I didnít use the word Morbius uses. I canít claim any originality in this; quite a few of my fellow DoDDs teachers and administrators have taken to framing "important sayings" about their beliefs.
Before I formulated my sayings, I thought to myself: "What do I represent?" "What would I like my children to take from my class, other than knowledge?" and "If the world is really to be a better place, how can I improve it with my seventy-five students." After much thought, I came up with the following four statements:
(1) Be nice. (2) Do your work. (3) Respect everyone. (4) Try.
These, I actually teach my students the first day of class. I introduce them to students as not my "rules," but as how to be successful in my class and with me. I add the later because, in a small base environment, itís not unusual for students to see me after class or in other places. I elaborated on each rule and its importance. "Being nice" I defined as helping others so long as it doesnít harm you and thinking of others if possible. "Do your work" means doing all assignments and working in class. By "respecting everyone" I meant not interrupting others and, even if kidding, not putting others down. As for "trying" that means doing the best possible job on each assignment.
I told students that I would try to abide by these standards. I specifically pointed out two common behaviors of mine at which I wanted their help at changing (1) telling jokes about students (2) finishing students sentences by interrupting them. I specifically asked them to tell me if I did either of those two things to remind me.
Over the year, particularly the first two weeks, I made constant reference to these four rules. "Are we being as nice as we could be?" As might be expected, at the end of the year, my students were nicer, did more work, were more respectful, and tried harder than at the beginning of the year.
I didnít claim these goals to be any sort of universal rule. Nor did I claim them to be applicable in any situation other than mine. They represented nothing than what I believed to be necessary and good. They resemble Morbiusís Tao, of course, but given that I share a somewhat similiar background and experiences, that only follows.
Having taken the time to examine Morbius and his assumptions and Sushimi High School, its important to return to important conclusions drawn from his work and mine.
First, the social scientistsí tao provides a more effective explanation of cultural diversity than Morbiusís. It shows the necessity of examing the beliefs of others as well as my own in order to understand their beliefs and mine to find commonalties, differences, and room to change.
Second, it suggests the importance of looking at the factors that influence behavior of individuals by looking at their social context. This explains why my classroom tao, so far, has been successful with students because it represents a set of statements and aspirations congruent with those of the taos of Sushimi High School and Sushimi Air Force Base.
DoDDs. Civilian Handbook for Governmental Employees: Personnel Division DoDDs-Pacific (September 1995), pp. 6-7.
Fruit, Daniel. "The Effect of Social Environment on DoDDs Pacific Schools: Or the Little Company Town With the C-130s." (unpublished paper)
Oshirto, Yoshinobu. Historical Development of the Defense Schools With Emphasis on Japan, Far-East-Pacific Area, 1946-1973. Unpublished Dissertation in Curriculum Development and Supervision (Doctor of Education). Logan Utah: Utah State University, 1973.
Stars and Stripes. "Saudi Arabian Law." July ?, 1996 (the day after the bombing)
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