Ethical conundrum

DSC_0256When there is just 5 or 6 minutes at the end of a class and we have finished our work, we play a game called “Mrs. Robinson.” I’m not sure how the game got its moniker, but I learned it in a theater class many years after the movie The Graduate came out.

I first ask for a volunteer who sits in a chair next to me, with everyone else in the class sprawled out in front of us. I introduce myself as Mrs. Robinson and then ask the volunteer to give us his/her name. Usually everyone is pretty straight and just says their name, but once, a few years ago, the volunteer said, “Bond. James Bond.” It was very amusing.

This introduction is followed with me asking a question of the student volunteer. The question is difficult, complex, usually demonstrating a tangle of ethical issues. I have gathered these questions from a variety of sources over the years with some former students even framing several of them. First the volunteer gets to answer, then anyone else who wants to speak can share their feelings too. The kids love this game and often want to spend all class playing.

I introduced the game for the first time on Friday. The question I asked was — You discover that your wonderful one-year-old child is, because of a mix-up at the hospital, not yours. What would you do? Would you want to exchange the child to try to correct the “mistake?” Hands went flying after the volunteer stated that she would want her “blood” child back. Usually the boys tend to glom onto that kind of answer. Their responses went back and forth on the issue. It got quite heated.

“But you have already formed a deep connection, hopefully. You can’t just give the child to the other family. And your ‘blood child’ would not even know you.”

“But wouldn’t you want the child that you gave birth to?”

“Children are adopted and you love them. It doesn’t matter.”

“You could just not say anything to your child until they are 16 and then tell them and let them decide for themselves then.”

“Oh my god, that’s crazy. Your 16 year old would hate you for never telling them before.”

“Isn’t it in the first 8 months that a child learns like everything? Maybe his or her memory wouldn’t be vivid but they would remember being torn from a relationship where they were loved.” And on and on.

Finally a student said,”This is easy. I am Indian and in my culture, everyone is an aunty or an uncle. You would just formally connect with the other family and maybe even live close to each other, still loving the child you have raised and now your ‘blood’ child as well. And the two kids would get a chance to form a relationship with each other too. Chances are the two families are already related anyway. ”

Everyone quieted down. An ethical conundrum had been solved. Class ended. The weekend began.

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