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Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. Robert Ingersoll
Let’s use our superhuman powers and argue against Robert Ingersoll.
Counterclaim: That being said, Ingersoll seems to diminish the importance of a person’s capacity to endure hard times. Maybe that is an even better way to test character. Think about it. As we watch a person suffer through difficulty, we learn a lot about what that person values in life. Consider the person who studies all semester in a very difficult class, never gives up, and decides in the end the hard work to achieve a goal was of more importance than cheating to get a grade. We believe these types of people have strong characters with rock solid values. So, suffering through adversity is a great way to test character which is not to be discounted.
Introduce this quote to your students to get a discussion going about power and how it shapes character. Then, drop an essential question or two.
Essential Question: Is giving power the best way to reveal somebody’s character? or you could take an ethical angle… If you can cut corners to achieve power, should you?
Think of opportunities in your curriculum where you can integrate these essential questions–to evaluate, for example, literary or historical figures who got power and used it in some way to achieve an end. Have the kids evaluate the ethical ramifications of the action that was taken.