Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

A Lesson in Perspective

Students often know the right thing to do. How can schools help them to do it?

By Steve Johnson

As part of a mentoring program for elementary school children, Santa Clara University undergraduates teach youngsters ethics using classic children's books. The undergraduates, who are participants in the LEAD program of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, follow exercises like this one, which uses John Scieszka's The True Story of the Three Little Pigs! In this wolf's-eye view of the old fairy tale, all the huffing and puffing is rationalized, a version that helps students see how bad behavior can come from a distorted perspective.

[A wolf]

Your goal is to provide reading practice, teach the skill of reading for perspective, and introduce perspective and distortion as important issues in character education.

1) Ask students to think about their winter vacation and write a story about it from their perspective. Explain what perspective is: how one sees something as a result of personal experience and history.

2) Ask students to turn the paper over and write a similar story from their parents' perspective.

3) Have students share stories and talk about the difference between the student's version and the parent's version.

4) Ask students to tell you the story of "The Three Little Pigs." Write down the main facts from the traditional telling in sequence.

5) Introduce The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by A. Wolf, as told to John Scieszka.

6) Help students anticipate and predict, and point out examples of the wolf's perspective. Ask students about the distortions.

7) Discuss how people may have many perspectives on a story, how their perspectives may be distorted, and how those distortions may affect their choices.

8) Talk with students about the moral moments in the story: what really happened, how the wolf tells the story, and what the wolf could have done differently.