On Ethics

This blog post will stray a little bit from usual subjects and into current events but bear with me. Or don’t. That’s okay, too.

As an author of books for children – and as a mother, and a former teacher – I feel a particular responsibility toward representing ethical and moral behaviors. When I write I try to address subjects like cruelty, kindness, decision-making, loss, love, bullying, and so on, with the hope that kids who read my books will find answers to some of their questions, the kinds of questions they may not even be able to voice.

That’s my personal moral, ethical approach to my work.

David’s “Death of Socrates”

But sometimes it’s important to pause and ask, what does that mean? What is the ethically and morally right thing to do in any given situation?

Some things are ethically ambiguous, or at least debatable. For example, I faced a personal ethical dilemma when my very ill father (who was fully in his right mind) begged to be taken home and off hospital life support knowing that he would die within days.

But some things are clearly morally and ethically wrong.

It is morally and ethically wrong to walk into a school and shoot children.

How we, as a society deal with that ethical truth is entirely debatable, and I’m not going to take a side.

Ok, I am going to take a side. I’m going to take the side of the students of Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This is the letter that I wrote to them, and I wrote it for young people everywhere who take stands against ethical wrongs.

Oh, Brave Ones,

When I see your faces, I am so proud. When I hear your voices, I am so moved. I see you, I hear you, and we – all – believe in you.

By terrible chance, this path has chosen you and it will not be smooth. Some will disparage you and some will mock you. Some will seek to bring you down. Please know that you have all of us behind you and though we can’t stop the arrows we will gladly take them in your place.

You are the Mockingjay. You are Starr. You are Martin, and you are bringing Martin’s dream. We will follow you.

You are the future and the past will fade in the brilliance of your light.

If you would like to read more letters written by children’s authors to these and all young people, here’s children’s author Ann Braden’s beautiful editorial for The Brattleboro Reformer.

These are difficult times to navigate, for choices are hard when we complicate them with personal desires. I will focus on asking myself in each situation – and in my work – this question: what is morally and ethically right?


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