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Handle with Care

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To deal with everyday ethical problems, kids need more than just a simple list of rules or virtues, argues Nel Noddings, Ph.D. They need chances to talk through their problems with caring and engaged adults.

A year or so ago, I visited an excellent independent school to do some work with its faculty and parents. Although the school has a beautiful campus, enviable resources, high test scores, and a dedicated faculty, it was experiencing some problems with bullying. (Bullying is a widespread problem at every level of schooling and socio-economic class; see "The Bully Problem," Greater Good, Fall/Winter, 2005-06.) While I was there, teachers asked me to talk to fourth graders about the problem. I said that I would do so provided faculty understood that I would not preach, scold, or threaten. It was agreed that I would engage the kids in conversation about bullying, an important ethical issue-one that affects their lives every day.

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