Do we still know what is right?

This year, during the month of June, I went for a hiking trip with my school to Vietnam, Sapa, to conquer Mount Fansipan. We took two days to ascend and descend the mountain. It was tough but I’m glad all of us made it. All of us struggled, with our own willpower and the challenging terrain. Though this may sound cliché but the most enduring takeaway from this trip was not the personal achievement of scaling the mountain, but a newfound bond with my CCA mates and how this trip has brought out everyone’s inherent goodwill to help one another.

However, what I found was morally erroneous soon surfaced. I thought my teacher’s verbal reply to my school mate’s idea was ethically contradictory. It was a conversation between Mr Spex and Issac. (Not their real names) That night after completing the climb, we had to gather for a debrief with the teachers in which all of us took turns to share our takeaways on that very day’s happenings. What I remember clearly and still etches deeply in my mind was an erroneous assent and a subtle advocacy of what Issac mentioned, by Mr Spex. The rumination of it eventually led to this revelation.

Isaac said that his strategy in staying ahead of the climb was to look out constantly for the pace of the student behind him. If someone was coming, then he knew that he should hurry. The question is, why should he hurry? Because he wants to be even further from his friends? Basically, you’re saying that it’s important for us to stay ahead at the expense of the risk of our friends falling down without anyone knowing? Staying ahead of the climb by staying near our friends work as well, doesn’t it? That way, both can stay ahead of the climb, right? For me, I’m not that ambitious to be the first few to complete the climb. All I want is to complete it together with my friends. I bet that’s what my friends had in mind as well, right?;)

This is the sense of camaraderie that is innately imbued in us and it’s the job of educators to ignite this long forgotten but eternally burning flame in each and every inherently hopeful student. Hopeful of learning what is good, based on our very own conscience. We don’t need teachers to teach us to value selfishness. Bear in mind that there were several reactions from the students when Issac said that. It’s comforting that some were sensitive enough to sense the ethical error. However, it’s definitely erroneous when Mr Spex said so defensively and coldly that what Issac said was perfectly alright in response to the sounds of timid disagreement by us. Issac was wrong in the first place, yes, he even felt a little ashamed when he was telling us his strategy. He was actually hesitant to answer Mr Spex’s question on what kept him staying ahead of the climb. That was because he felt that what he was going to say was counter-intuitive. In this case, I reckon he shouldn’t shoulder the fault for uttering what he was thinking of at that moment in the name of honesty. Simply put, the worrisome problem is that we, as students knew that there was an ethical error, yet instead of correcting it, the teacher actually tried to change our mindset wrongfully.

Students go to school, make mistakes rightfully, and learn from their teachers. Isn’t this the fundamental reason for the existence of teachers? Then, why is the teacher not correcting what went wrong? I’m partially sorry but the ultimate fault lies in Mr Spex. He should’ve corrected him but he chose to exacerbate the repercussions brought about by Issac’s words. You can’t change a wrong to a right no matter how deviously you try to squeeze yourself through a quandary. It’ll be akin to an attempt to extricate a Gordian knot.

Indeed it’s true that we should be accepting towards all methods of success and be creative in our route along the many pathways. However, to say that kind of method as mentioned by Issac is perfectly alright, it reflects a consequentially dire paradigm of the teacher. He’s wrong to not correct the ethical mistake in that method to keep oneself going, let alone support it. It’s important to encourage ourselves to keep going with the climb, but it should not be at the expense of the progress of others. With the mindset of needing to be ahead of others, it simply implies tacitly that you are driven by insecurity and that is not what we will want to see in the acknowledged attribute of someone successful. If we use this sort of mindset in a bid to complete all of our milestones in life, it only reflects how immature and selfish we all are as a society. I am by no means any expert in ethics, but this basic and intuitive value of being there for our friends, I, a lacking teenager, at least know. Thus, Mr Spex, you’re wrong.

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