The Text Message Worksheet

The Text Message Worksheet
Grainne Treanor
Key concepts:
action and consequence
Pupil Worksheet on Morality
(The accompanying teacher notes include a very broad overview of morality. It is likely
that, in the classroom, the concept of morality would be introduced in a very simple
manner and that related concepts (such as consequences, relationships, etc.) treated in the
teacher notes would not be included until a later stage (or would be treated
separately). This worksheet therefore covers just some of the material referred to in the
teacher notes
The Text Message
Emer was in the house one Saturday morning when she heard her mother
talking in a low voice on the phone to a family friend called Mary. She
moved quietly to the door of the living room so that she could hear more
clearly. As she listened, Emer realised that Mary was upset about
something. Emer’s mother was trying to comfort her. Later in the day, she
asked her mother what was wrong. Her mother told her that John (Mary’s
husband) had been in a hurry to get to a meeting the day before and that he
had been involved in a collision in which someone was seriously hurt. He
had been questioned about the incident and was likely to be charged with
dangerous driving. Emer’s mother said that she was telling her because she
trusted her and because she wanted her to be aware that something was
wrong. She asked her not to say anything about it to anyone else.
Emer didn’t really like John and Mary. As a young child, she had played
with their daughter, Aisling, whenever they visited. Emer thought Aisling
was very spoiled and “stuck up”. They were now in the same class in
secondary school and Emer still didn’t like Aisling. Aisling always seemed
to be just ahead of her in everything. She was on the hockey team in the
last match, while Emer was a sub. She pipped her at the post in the last
Maths test and made a big deal of asking Emer what she got. She had the
latest WAP phone which she waved about everywhere. Emer smiled and
then thought for a few minutes. She picked up her own mobile and keyed
in a text message to her best friend. Have I got news for you about Aisling
1. Emer has done a number of things that might be described as
“wrong”. What are these things?
2. What makes these actions wrong?
3. Who is affected directly by these actions?
4. Who is affected less directly?
5. What are the likely short-term consequences of Emer’s actions?
6. What are the likely long-term consequences?
7. How will Emer’s actions affect her relationship with (a) her mother (b)
(c) her own friends?
8. What does this story tell us about Emer?
An extended commentary for the teacher
Emer and Morality
The story you have just read helps us to understand the meaning of the term
“morality”. Morality is about what is good or bad. It is about what is right and wrong. It
is about the choices we make when faced with a decision about how to act. Before we do
something good or bad, we usually make a choice to do this particular action. Sometimes
we think about it for a long time. On other occasions we don’t spend so much time
thinking about what we are going to do. Sometimes we ask others for advice before we
make our choices. We may take a number of factors into consideration. We may ask
ourselves some questions:
What is the right thing to do? Why is it right? Is it breaking a law? Is it OK if it does
not break a law? What will be the consequences if I do something right? What will be
the consequences if I do something wrong? Who will be affected by my actions? What
affect will it have on my relationships? What will my action say about me as a
person? What affect will my action have on me as a person?
The story about Emer illustrates some of these points. Two people have done something
wrong here. John has broken the law by driving dangerously. He will therefore be
punished according to the law. Emer has done something wrong by using personal
information to deliberately hurt someone else. She has not broken any law, however. So
even though she has done something wrong, she will not be punished by the law. This
shows that morality is not just about keeping laws. Laws help us to do good and
discourage us from doing wrong. But we can often do something bad without breaking
the law. If Emer is to experience “punishment”, therefore, it will be in some other form.
It may be the way the action affects her in the long-term – her relationships, her feelings
about herself, etc.
What makes these actions wrong?
When we look at the question, What makes these actions wrong?, there are a number of
answers. Emer has eavesdropped on what was clearly a personal conversation between
her mother and a friend. This might be considered wrong because it invades someone’s
right to privacy. It also involves deception, because Mary and Emer’s mother believe
that they are having a private conversation. Emer’s choice to send the text message is
also wrong. It is wrong because she intends to use this private information to hurt
someone she does not like. She is using something very personal to “get back at”
Aisling. She is going against her mother’s request not to tell anyone. This illustrates a
number of points about morality.
It shows that it is not just the action itself that makes something wrong (phoning her
friend with this news), but also the intention behind the action. Emer intends to hurt
Aisling. If her intention had been different, her action might not have been so
wrong. For example, if Aisling got upset at school and said something unkind to Emer’s
friend, Emer might tell her friend that Aisling was upset about something going on at
home and that she probably hadn’t meant what she had said. Here, her intention would
have been to help Aisling. The action would have been almost the same (especially if she
told her friend exactly what was going on). But the intention would be very different.
How do our moral choices affect ourselves and others?
This story also shows how our moral choices affect ourselves and others. Emer’s choice
will clearly affect Aisling. The fact that she has eavesdropped on her mother’s
conversation and gone against her wishes will also affect the trust between herself and
her mother. It may also affect the relationship with the friend to whom she sent the
message. Her friend might be delighted to have a bit of gossip. Or she might think
Emer’s action was very wrong and decide not to be her friend. Her friend may wonder if
she can trust Emer. What if Emer does the same thing to her? She might tell Aisling and
others. Emer might find herself becoming very unpopular. Even if she “gets aways with
it”, she might find herself feeling guilty and uncomfortable about what she has done. Her
actions might also affect Aisling’s entire family. The story may spread and everyone will
know what happened. This will affect how the people in the area look at Aisling’s
family. All of these points show that there are often many direct and indirect
consequences when we make moral choices. People are affected directly and
indirectly. Our relationships with those affected may be changed. Some of these
consequences will be short-term, while others may be long-term.
What is the affect on Emer?
This is especially true of the affect on Emer herself. The story shows us that Emer is
already experiencing feelings of jealousy and dislike. It is difficult to stop such
feelings. However, Emer has also chosen to act on those feelings. She could have
chosen to control her jealously. By acting out of jealousy, she affects who she is. She
allows herself to act in a jealous way. She allows herself to become a person who is not
trusted. She allows herself to become a person who hurts others. If she continues to
make such choices, she will become the sort of person who can be described by words
such as jealous, hurtful and untrustworthy. This shows us that our actions shape the sort
of person we become. If I act honestly most of the time, I become an honest person. If I
act dishonestly most of the time, I am allowing myself to become a dishonest person. It
will then become easier for me to make dishonest choices without feeling bad about
them. Each choice we make therefore affects who we are. This does not mean that a
good person will never to something wrong. It does show, however, that morality is not
just about individual actions and choices, but is about the sort of person we are.
Morality is therefore about right and wrong choices and actions. It is also about
intentions. It takes into account the consequences of choices. It considers the
relationships that are affected by moral choices. It also takes into consideration the sort
of persons we become by making certain moral choices.
Take the following example and identify the consequences of both a right and wrong
choice for the following: (a) those directly involved (b) those less directly involved (c)
relationships with family and friends (d) how you feel about yourself (e) how you affect
who you become...
You are walking home from school. You have played in an after-school match and are
very hungry. The last time this happened, you were able to slip into a busy shop and
grab a bar of chocolate without anyone noticing. You are approaching the same shop