Best Practice

How can we 'teach' integrity?

When so many in the public eye today simply deny inconvenient facts or dismiss them as ‘‘fake news’’, how can we expect the young to 'learn' integrity? Dr Stephanie Thornton considers how schools can encourage this vital characteristic

We scarcely need research to tell us that integrity is vital to everyday social life, to “good governance”, to political function – though there is much out there documenting this fact (Huberts, 2018). If we can’t trust our leaders, the people with power, what meaning democracy?

Equally, the honesty and moral responsibility that define integrity are essential to everyday personal life: without the trust that such things provide, coherent social life is impossible. Reputations and knowing who to trust really matters, and this is underlined across many, many species, from chimpanzees (Goodall, 1999) to octopuses (Godfrey-Smith, 2017).

The need for integrity as a basis for trust is far, far more important than is generally recognised. A reduction of integrity in the young would have dark consequences indeed. Are our young less honest, less morally responsible than previous generations? It is hard to know, the research is not there. But many fear that integrity is increasingly rare.

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