Questions and projects

This section contains a number of suggested activities for students as well as some multiple-choice questions. The latter is best used as a review activity, one in which students are asked to justify their selections.

Lessons designed to heighten moral sensibilities imply changes in behavior:

  • Does the classroom atmosphere improve?
  • Are “good deeds” performed?
  • Are students more willing to tutor classmates? …to help with class chores?

If evaluations are needed, we suggest having students write essays. Essays are–or should be–the students’ considered reflection. The following question may be helpful in stimulating student reflection: “Without naming the names of people, describe a ‘bad situation’ that, in your judgment, could have been avoided if the people involved had followed the Golden Rule?”

Advanced students can profitably study Chapter 8, “The Golden Rule” (pp. 104-121) of Harry Gensler’s college text, Ethics: A Contemporary Introduction (1998, Routledge). Probing questions are included, and additional resources are listed. Gensler’s book is sometimes available in local municipal libraries, and there is also good information on his web site:

Questions and activities:

  1. In his Golden Rule statement, who did Confucius likely mean by “others” (see chapter #3 of this curriculum)? Who would “others” have meant to an ancient Hindu? To an Israelite?
  2. Felix Adler (1851-1933) was the founder of the non-religious Society for Ethical Culture. He proposed this guideline: “Act so as to elicit the best in others and thereby the best in yourself.” (An Ethical Philosophy of Life, 1918, pp. 208-222) In your judgment, is this guideline a useful addition to the Golden Rule? Does it illuminate the message of the Golden Rule? What reasoning supports your answer?
  3. What happens in a society if people generally fail to follow The Golden Rule? If the members of a society fail to follow the Golden Rule and social disorder results, can order then be imposed through more and stricter laws? Through harsher punishments? Explain?
  4. How do you explain the following kinds of anti-Golden Rule statements? “Do others or they will do you.” Or, “Do to others as they would do to you if they had the chance.”
  5. Are these examples of the Golden Rule?
    1. A mentally ill man who hurts others so others will hurt him.
    2. Doing to others the bad things that they have already done to you.
    3. Doing to others what you think they would do to you if given the chance.
    4. Using “An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth” as a guide when mistreated.
    5. Giving someone a gift hoping that he will give you a more costly one.
  6. In your judgment, should Rogers have used the Golden Rule as he did in The Rise of Silas Lapham (see chapter #4 of this curriculum)? Or, do you consider his use of it to be too self-serving?
  7. Secure Christmas Books, Tales and Sketches (see chapter #4 of this curriculum) by Charles Dickens. Describe in detail the situation in which Dickens uses the Golden Rule term in The Battle of Life story. What is his moral message?
  8. What would you say to a child who hits his brother and justifies his act by saying, “He did it to me first! I just got even.”
  9. Would you advise a timid boy or girl to use the Golden Rule if picked on by a classroom bully? Why, or why not?
  10. Look again at Golden Rule sayings in this lesson (see chapters #3 and 4). Which one would you select for display in a classroom? Would you choose a positive approach: “do unto others…”? Or a negative approach: “don’t do to others…” Or, would it be necessary to include both types? (Note: the terms “positive” and “negative” are not used here as moral terms [that is, “good” and “bad”]. Rather, they are two different grammatical approaches to communicating a somewhat similar message.)
  11. Why would the Golden Rule make a more appropriate public school display than the Ten Commandments? Explain.
  12. Use the Internet to:
    1. find additional ancient and modern variations of the Golden Rule (there are many).
    2. find additional references to the specific “Golden Rule” title that were used in the United States before the Civil War.
    3. provide class members with a short biography of one person–mentioned in this lesson–who championed the use of the Golden Rule.
    4. provide class members with a short biography of one historical or modern person–not mentioned in this lesson–whose life embodied the Golden Rule.
  13. What evidence, if any, can be found to demonstrate that worldwide progress has been made in using the Golden Rule as a moral guide? Explain.
  14. Is “following the Golden Rule” all that’s needed to live a moral life?
    1. Yes, because ___________________________, or
    2. No, because ____________________________.
  15. What new perspectives, if any, has this lesson provided for you? Has it caused you to think about your own ways of responding to people and situations. If so, how? If not, why not? Do you already follow the Rule?

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