Ethics for High Schools
By Leonard A. Kennedy
Toronto: Life ethics Centre,
50 pages; soft cover; 1992, $2.00

In recent years, there has been an emphasis on students developing their own moral outlook through the analysis of ethical dilemmas, values clarification, and similar methods. In his short and readable booklet, however, Father Kennedy teaches that there is such a thing as objective truth and students ought to learn about it. It is irrational to say that one opinion is as good as another: “This book is written on the premise that truth is a grasp of things as they are; it is not merely opinion. If I take arsenic, thinking it is salt, it will still kill me.” The author does not mince words: “If some people think that a life of drunkenness will make them happy, it is foolish to say that it is true for them. It is false, for them or anyone. They are simply mistaken.”

As he explains, we have a faculty called conscience which makes people capable of goodness, compassion and integrity. If people follow their conscience, it becomes sensitive; if they act against it, it becomes dull – and this dulling f the conscience is the beginning of the moral road downhill. Good behaviour comes from right judgments, made in accordance with habits of courage and self-control and a sense of justice. Even the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who held that we have to seek pleasure in everything we do, maintained that the only real happiness comes from pleasures which are controlled; the anxious search for more and more delights brings more worry than happiness.

After explaining some of these ethical considerations, Father Kennedy applies them to certain types of life situations: tobacco and alcohol; sexual involvements, including premarital sex, contraception, and abortion; environmental questions; the problem of rich and poor; and violence in society. In under four pages, he examines the issue of choice in abortion, points out the euphemisms which conceal from teenagers what abortion really involves, and through one graphic illustration stresses the long-term effects it can have.

In a brief concluding section, Father Kennedy answers the question, “Why should I do what’s right?” The answer comes in term of human nature and human destiny. Again he goes back to the Greeks, specifically Plato, who without the aid of revelation arrived at the knowledge that man has an immortal soul.

This is an excellent short study of its subject, by a philosopher who has thegift of explaining complex ideas in simple terms. It is an excellent guide to moral behaviour for the readers iti is intended to help, and deserves to be widely read.

The book is available at $2.00 per copy, $1.50/copy for ten copies or more; $1.00/copy for 100 copies or more, from Life Ethics Centre, 53 Dundas St. E., Suite 308, Toronto, Ont M5B 1C6.