Chapter 12 Teaching Ethics

The Ethics courses in Wah Yan Kowloon began in 1975. The decision of the Jesuits in 1969 was to replace Religious Knowledge classes with Ethics courses for all students of Form One to Three, and Six and Seven. Up to that time, since Wah Yan College was a Catholic school, all students had Catholic Religious Knowledge classes, which were taken for granted.

The Second Vatican Council ( 1962-65) taught that not only was there to be religious freedom in society, but that each person’s conscience and convictions were to be respected. There should never be any compulsion in forcing people to accept Catholic teaching. Religious freedom was to exist in Catholic schools, and there should be consideration for the religious freedom of each student. Non Catholics should not then be required to have Catholic Religious Teaching or to attend special Catholic activities.

With the Catholic Diocesan Convention in 1972, this was implemented in all catholic schools. Among the Jesuits, there was a decision to produce test books for Ethics to replace Catholic Religious teaching. These books would be based on ethical principles acceptable to Catholics and would largely be confucian in attitude. Fr. Peadar Brady was asked to concentrate his ethical expertise on writing school Ethics textbooks. They began to be printed in 1971. The first text book was for Form Six students. By 1973, there were three more published for Forms One, Two and Three. Biblical Knowledge teaching was retained for Forms Four and Five who sat for Form Five School Certificate of Education. I had never taught at Form Four and Form Five level, so I remained at Form Three level to teach Ethics.

Fr. Brady’s text books were in Chinese, and attractively printed, but they were difficult for secondary students. By 1983, they were hardly ever used. I had became the Ethics Panel Chairman of Forms One, Two and Three. The decision was to use the better text books written by Fr. Luke Tsui Kam Yiu. There was also the issue of who could teach Ethics. The number of Jesuits had been gradually decreasing, and it was clear that Ethics had to be taught in Chinese. It was decided that the teachers of Ethics should be Catholics who were interested in the deeper formation of the hearts and minds of students. They used Fr. Brady’s textbook until 1983.

By 1984, Fr. Luke Tsui Kam Yiu produced his text books for the teaching of Ethics in secondary school. He had studied at Oxford University specifically to produce Ethics textbooks for secondary schools in Hong Kong. With the guidance of the Oxford University Ethics professors he succeeded in preparing those books. They contained three elements; Catholic and Biblical teaching, Chinese culture and morality, and teenagers’ psychology. These books were introduced into many Catholic Secondary schools. By 1992 the teachers found them difficult to teach, as they had such depths of intellectual content and required serious attention.

The Catholic Diocese was concerned about moral education in Catholic Schools, and succeeded in printing good textbooks for primary school. However, secondary schools were more difficult to deal with. The training of Ethics teachers was also problematic. In Wah Yan Kowloon the teachers were Catholics, and interested in the development of the interior life of the students and they did well.

As Chairman of the Ethics panel I saw that teachers were not sure what to teach and they faced the boys who were not interested in the subject. The real concern of the boys was what marks they could get for their report card. What ever the situation, I was pleased with two teachers who continued successfully teaching Ethics for more than a dozen years. I was Ethics Panel Chairman until 1995, and then continued as a panel member.

SPECIAL ATMOSPHERE I would like to describe how I taught Ethics. Each subject has a certain flavour and approach. I see this in laboratories, which give Physics, Chemistry and Biology a special atmosphere. Then there is the Music Room and most important the Physical Education Department! In theory, every subject should have its special room. What then of Ethics?

Religious Studies should start with some thing like a prayer. I decided to create a special atmosphere by what students called “Fr. Naylor's Exercises”. Some remember it for its deep breathing and sitting! This involves a concentration on our body, through movements and deep breathing, followed by sitting in a meditative position, and the students repeating some words like:

Every day and in every way, I am getting better and better. Why not?!” Then another is ;” Look at one spot of colour , See the beauty of one spot of colour. If there is so much beauty in one spot of colour, how much beauty is there in this wide, wonderful world, if only you have the eyes to see it. Learn to see beauty every where. The more beauty you see, the more beauty there will be within you.” Yet another is” Lead me from Darkness to Light, From Ignorance to Knowledge,, From Anger to Compassion. Let Peace fill my heart, our society and the whole world”. This is done at each period and takes more than five minutes. I have started each Ethics period like this since 1979.

Ethics is a discussion of the reasoning and thinking of what is right and good. It needs reflection and contact with what is deepest within us. The way then is to get the student to enter into his interiority through his body!

Boys like actions, so I start with body movements, but movements must be those that quieten and lead into the heart and mind and soul into deep silence. The key to this is deep breathing, as those who practice meditation know well. Deep breathing is also a key to health and much else. We then begin with movements of the arms and deep breathing. This is followed by stretching of arms and body, to reduce tensions and bring the body into supple relaxation. And finally, there is the sitting posture to bring the mind under control by listening and repeating words. This is then how I have begun each period of Ethics. It is a parallel to a class opening prayer, which was a common practice in my school days.

After five to eight minutes of these exercises, the course work begins. The textbook is used, with students writing their views and sharing them with others, and most important, giving their reasons. This involves students being in pairs, with the alternative students turning around to the one behind. Some times I use a few minutes of a video on an ethical topic. I would say something or write something, but the more important was what they write. What is more revealing is what they draw. I have always set much value on the drawings they make, which reflect what is in their imagination- the key to thinking and what controls behaviour.

The videos I use include old ones, which the class does not like, as they always want the most modern ones. However, since I got to know Dr.Ho Man Ooi in 1972, I have used his video on Chinese Proverbs, produced in 1974. Along with this is, “The Right Way” by ICAC, which I find ideal for ethical discussion. In the past, I used other programs I recorded from television stations.

When describing my English teaching, I referred to using outings to get students to reflect on society and their behaviour. I use English periods to back up my Ethics, even as other teachers use Chinese literature and history. In fact, literature studies are full on implicit ethical issues, which are not often discussed. Ethics then is part of liberal studies, or one could say humanities.

It is in Ethics that one comes face to face with what is deepest within us. I esteem ethics teaching, as I consider it the root of all education- to bring the best out of what is within and nurture the good in each person to make them relate deeply with others, and develop social concerns and humanistic living.

I love the ethics classes I teach. This is partly due to the qualities of the students I have had. They have been talented fourteen year olds, full of good will. They have been creative, intelligent and very sensitive to artistic and spiritual realities.

As for assessment of the students in Ethics to give marks on the report card, there have been opened ended questions to be answered in writing. This take much time to correct and it is difficult to give an objective mark, which the students desire. Recently a very good approach has been used, which is partly continual assessment and requires hard group work. The report card mark is based on the student’s “Portfolio”. For the examination mark, each student presents his work. This then is much more than class work as it involves group work.

I have used the textbook as a basis, and divided the students into groups of four. Each student must hand in a report on the Project theme, for which a mark is given. This is matched by the mark the group earns from the presentation of the Project. I have endeavored to invite an outsider to adjudicate this group mark. It works well. I tell the students that this way I am preparing them for the presentation of their Masters’ Thesis at University. And I am serious, since I know what lies ahead at tertiary levels I know how helpless I felt to face such challenges. So I make ethics studies and performance a preparation for what they will need in the future, in studies and society!

Thinking of other teachers, I could not give advice. I am myself very much concerned about social behaviour and social problems. I can depend on my experience and knowledge, and I have confidence in what I teach.

What of the disciplinary problem! My Ethics classes tend to be noisy. There are always some students who show no interest in the subject, and others who cause trouble. But such is life, and I do my best. (1672)

xercises before Ethics Period

第十二章 任教倫理科



天主教教區會議已於一九七二年,在全部的天主教學校推行,至於耶穌會,決定出一些倫理的書以取代教授天主教宗教科,由於這些書是根據天主教徒可以接受的倫理觀和大量儒家的觀念,於是請白神父(Fr. Peadar Brady),他是倫理專家,由他專注編寫倫理教科書,於一九七一年便開始印刷了,第一本給中六同學的教科書。到一九七三年再出版三本給中一、中二、中三、中四和中五仍教宗教知識給會考生。


我想描述我如何教倫理,每一個學校科目,有某種特色和處理,如實驗室,令物理、化學和生物有特別氣氛,然後是音樂室,最重要是體育部門! 理論上,每一科都有自己的特別室,至於倫理科又如何呢?