I was shocked when I read the statistics. In the March issue of Vanity Fair magazine, the 60 minutes/Vanity Fair Poll revealed that the more highly educated you are the more justified you feel in lying!!!
The question was, “Should you always tell the truth?” The answers were:
Without college degree 62% said you should always tell the truth
Only 45% of the undergraduates said always tell the truth
Post graduates only 35% said always tell the truth.
This got me to thinking what is it that drives this ethic (or lack thereof)? Is it higher education? Does the higher educational system teach that lying is justified? Is the pursuit of a grade a precursor to bending the truth to reach any goals? Is it that higher education has stripped the study of ethics from the curriculum?
I count myself fortunate. I went to the college of St. Thomas (now a University) in St. Paul, MN. As a part of my studies, in order to graduate, everyone had to take a set of courses from the fields of Theology and Philosophy, including Ethics. We were taught that there is a right and a wrong. We were also taught that sometimes you could “win” at the price of your soul. And we were encouraged to reflect on that price and the value of the said “win”.
I don’t know what other institutions are teaching but something is wrong when only 35% of our most highly educated people; many of whom are driving our government policies and corporate decisions, say that you should always tell the truth. This means 65% of them think they should lie.
We are at a place in America where citizens are losing trust and faith in the institutions that have been the shapers of our country. I’m talking about our government; I’m talking about our corporations and our institutions of learning. These forces shaped our country; they have made us a place where many people have wanted to come, for a chance at a better life. BUT and it is a big but, if we continue to become a nation where telling the truth loses its value based on your education…
What are you doing overtly and in an obvious way to reinforce the ethics you claim to hold? Look at the mighty that have fallen. ENRON had integrity in their stated values. But did they consider that value or any of the others they held when they were making decisions that were difficult?
It comes down to having a conversation about how we live and work together. Not how we are going to work against each other. We are all on this planet, (in this country) together. And we will either thrive together or strive apart.
What’s it to be?