Step One – Quote: Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. Robert Ingersoll 1833-1899: Politician and Orator
SEL Connection: Power is one of those philosophical themes that every student can connect with on a certain level. That’s because, beyond the family, school is the first place where students are made to live and operate under a power structure. You have teachers and administrators with the power to tell students what to do and how to do it. Students are keen to observe how adults behave with this power and quick to call out those who wield it inappropriately without a sense of justice
And then you have students on school leadership teams orchestrating how to organize assemblies, run fundraisers and prepare for the prom. Students are captains of teams and leaders of clubs. In all these cases the proper or improper exertion of power is felt emotionally.
How somebody uses power says much about his/her ethical code of conduct. In this way, power is inseparable from ethics. Students are quick to have all sorts of opinions on how people should behave.
Claim: Ingersoll is saying that if a person is granted authority over others, that person’s true character is exposed. Perhaps that’s because with authority comes freedom of action. All of a sudden a person has power he/she didn’t have before and the so the horizon of possible actions expands accordingly. This freedom tests people’s ethical impulses.
Next Post — Steps Two And Three: Watch as we transform Ingersoll’s quote and theme of power into an essential question.