In  addition to the many educations such as values education, character education, and citizenship education, I came across the phrase “youth ethics”. However, as with many themes with “ethics” tagged on, it is difficult to grasp what it means in practice.

Chris Wagner of The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding reports on a Josephson Institute report on the Ethics of American Youth. So in one sense youth ethics is about the ethical behaviour of young people. Some of the results from this year’s survey administered to nearly 30,000 high school students across the country show that although  having strong morals and being of good character are ideals teens highly regard, there is a disconnect between what they say and how they act. For example,

  • 98% agree “it’s important for me to be a person with good character.”
  • 96% believe “it’s important to me that people trust me.”
  • 84% say they agree with the statement, “It’s not worth it to lie or cheat because it hurts your character.

However,  82% of youth admit to lying to their parents about something significant within the past year, and 23% have stolen something from a parent or relative, and 20% from a friend within the past year. In  addition, 40% of teens believe, “A person has to lie or cheat sometimes in order to succeed.” and  65% have lied to a teacher and 64% have cheated on a test within the last year.

Wagner indirectly indicates that youth ethics is about parents, youth workers and educators  coaching you gsters to behave more ethically. The Josephson Institute runs a programme called “Character Counts” and that is focused on helping youth be more ethical. The Youth Network of Tasmania has produced  a youth ethics framework.

It would be helpful if writers on this topic would indicate how youth ethics and ethics education for youth is different from the many “educations” currently promoted in schools.


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