An ethics panel is at work in Virginia, and there seems to be an abundance of real-time issues to underscore its effort.
Investigations and trials at the state level seem to now have companion cases in local government. The most recent test of ethical boundaries comes with a school board member releasing confidential student records. When public officials are confronted with fact questions, they seem to fall on the sword of complicity, "I did it and I'm sorry," or the sword of ignorance, "I didn't know." Neither is acceptable and both have consequences.
We might think that our first lesson for young people is about values… and that would be a good start. But, many of the ethical issues that we are watching unfold are not about values, what you believe, but about virtues, what you do. William Bennett's The Book of Virtues is described as an anthology of stories intended to provide a moral education for young people. In reality it is a book about how we should act in terms of self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, friendship, work, courage, perseverance, honesty, loyalty, and faith. I know how to lose weight; I just don't act like it.
Perhaps we should teach young people that the ultimate test of life's laws is not only understanding…it is behavior.