When I was eight, my summer camp group attended a dried insect exhibition, and my groupmate Ann offered to tell me one secret if I promised to keep it. Ann told me that she had just stolen the biggest butterfly and buried it. Our caretaker noticed that one insect specimen had disappeared and accused another girl who had stolen things before. I had two lines of action to choose from, with the first option involving keeping the promise and doing nothing to protect the innocent person. Option two would require exposing the actual thief to the caretaker to seek justice for the wrongly accused girl. This paper will examine the options, the rationale for choice, and the reasons’ implications for moral development stages.
Option One: Pros and Cons of Doing Nothing
The first option is marked with a series of advantages and disadvantages. The internal pros involve seeing myself as reliable and capable of fulfilling promises, but the cons are presented by self-loathing and a sense of guilt from realizing the inability to protect the innocent girl. Regarding the external consequences, the advantages include maintaining good relationships with Ann and her social circle. The key external disadvantage is making Ann assume that I would be her accomplice in case of further similar incidents.
Option Two: Pros and Cons of Revealing the Truth
Like the first solution, option two has positive and negative consequences. Concerning the internal outcomes, feeling good and noble for protecting justice represents the pros, but self-criticism and a sense of guilt are important as the disadvantages. In terms of some external considerations, having a reputation of an honest kid among camp caregivers and earning their trust are the pros of this decision. However, facing retaliation from Ann and being seen as unreliable in my group are the solution’s external disadvantages.
Choice and Reasons
In that situation, I chose option one and did not break my promise to intervene and protect the falsely accused child. When the caretaker asked me a question, I just said that I had not seen that girl steal anything from the display. My reasons for resorting to that option were less detailed than the previously conducted analysis. Firstly, I realized that inaction would not harm my reputation among the peer group, whereas revealing the thief’s identity would make me seen as a snitch, causing bullying and rejection. Secondly, I was sure that the caretaker would not proceed with the punishment since there was no evidence against the accused girl. Based on Kohlberg’s theory of three moral development levels, the pre-conventional level of reasoning involves the prevalence of individualistic intentions (Mathes 2). Both reasons represent seeking benefits for oneself rather than the community.
Reasons/Moral Development Stages
Along with Kohlberg’s theory, the aforementioned reasons represent level one moral decision-making, specifically, this level’s first stage. Stage one of pre-conventional morality can be observed when an individual’s moral choices are guided by the desire “to avoid personal pain” (Mathes 2). The first reason, maintaining one’s positive reputation in the group, relates to the desire to minimize the chances of rejection and violating the group’s norms, such as keeping certain information private. The second reason involves the avoidance of personal losses since it implies that action could be a waste of energy compared to inaction. With that in mind, the rationale for choice exemplifies pre-conventional moral judgment and does not consider the scenario’s wider implications for the camp’s community and culture.
To sum up, the presented middle childhood dilemma reveals the peculiarities of pre-conventional morality and its centeredness on personal gains and losses. Being focused on promoting the best possible external outcomes, such as avoiding a label of an unreliable person, the selected solution emphasizes the socially safe line of conduct. However, it does not acknowledge a person’s obligation to protect the community and contribute to order and justice.
Mathes, Eugene W. “An Evolutionary Perspective on Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development.” Current Psychology, vol. 40, no. 8, 2021, pp. 1-14, Web.