Thursday, April 1, 2010

"It's Fun"... And Other Bad Justifications

As a high school teacher I hear many justifications (excuses) for the reasons my students choose to do the things they do. Some of the time they give justification which is sound, but most of the time, it seems as though their reasoning is flawed.

I plan on blogging about the excuses... eh reasons... students give to me, and then show how these reasons cannot be a primary motivation for doing anything.  (By the way, the idea for this series comes from one of my favorite bloggers C. Michael Patton's series called . . . and other stupid statements.) So, my first post in this series: "It's Fun."

Two years ago a couple students roamed the halls of our school carrying a Rubik's Cube.  They were never far from this toy of the spawn of Satan (My words: I hate these things). They would spend any free time in class messing around with the cubes, and actually they got quite good at lining the colors up correctly.

One day I ventured a question, "Why do you carry around a Rubik's Cube?"

One of the students offered, "It's fun" as his primary justification.

Now, I must be clear about one or two (maybe three) things before we proceed.  First, I don't have anything against fun (Contrary to what many of my students my think).  Second, I actually don't mind people playing with Rubik's Cubes (I don't really think they are the literal spawn of Satan).  Lastly, remember, one of my primary jobs as a Christian educator is to help my students to think more critically about their everyday lives.

So, as the student said, "It's fun" as his justification, my teacher instinct kicked into high gear.  I began to wonder if I could exploit this as an opportunity to help my class learn how to think a little more clearly.

"If we passed a young man stealing a purse from an older woman, and we stopped to ask 'why are you doing this?'  What if the young man replied, 'It's fun.'"  I wondered, "would that be a worthy justification?"

See, its clear in the case of the young man stealing that "It's fun" just does not justify his actions.

This is where it turned ugly.  My students were disgusted that I would compare their play with a toy to the obviously immoral actions of a thief.

However, I did not compare their play with the toy to the actions of the thief, I compared their justifications.  If a wrong action cannot be justified by one excuse, then neither can a right action be justified by that same excuse.  I explained all sorts of things might be fun, but this does not tell us whether or not we should or should not commit the action.

There may or may not be actions which are morally neutral, but before we start doing things just because they are "fun" we might want to ask questions like "Is it right, good, or glorifying to God?"  Once we have determined the prescription for any action, then we can determine whether or not its fun enough for us to spend time on.

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