Students get a taste of real-world decision making

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 19, 2002

A co-worker asks you to look the other way while he takes some supplies home.

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

A co-worker asks you to look the other way while he takes some supplies home. Or your boss asks you to work on a task, but once you’re finished, she then takes credit for it herself. Is right or wrong clearly indicated here, do you think?

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How about this: You have a seriously ill child, so you discuss treatments and other issues with your husband and doctors on the phone while at work, even though your company has a policy about no personal calls.

What do you do then?

These dilemmas, or others like them, were given to area high school students to discuss Monday morning. They were participating in a roundtable discussion on ethics in the workplace sponsored by the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce.

&uot;It’s an attempt to bring the real life experience of business people to students, instead of using textbooks,&uot; said Marge Hamersley, acting director of the chamber.

&uot;Ethics is often neglected in the curriculum, and this event exposes them to ethical decision-making,&uot; Hamersley added.

The event is coordinated by Mike Schoepf, the school-to-work coordinator for the Albert Lea school district, and Tami Riecke, a staff member from the chamber. It involved many local business and community leaders, who sat at tables with students and discussed a number of different &uot;scenarios&uot; in which students were presented with a situation and then had to say what they would do. The adult volunteers then shared their perspective on the situation and what the different consequences might be for different decisions.

The purpose is to get students to examine the role that values and ethics play when people are making business decisions, said organizers of the event.

Jon Jahnke, a social studies teacher from Alden-Conger, brought a group of ninth-grade students to the event. According to him, the message of the roundtable fits in well with the career-exploration segment of the graduation standards they are currently covering in the classroom.

&uot;Something like this gives them a real picture of what it’s like to be in the workplace,&uot; said Jahnke.

Schools don’t often take a lot of time to cover the kinds of issues that students will meet in their working life, Jahnke said. He appreciates the way the roundtable will help them look at workplace predicaments people find themselves in, but aren’t really sure how to resolve, he said.

But when Jahnke talks about how the issues discussed are relevant for students, he’s not just thinking about the future.

&uot;I’m surprised at how many of these kids have real jobs already. We bring them here thinking of how it will help them in the future, but maybe they’re facing these kinds of predicaments now,&uot; he said.

The roundtable is the fifth sponsored by the chamber, and was originally scheduled for Friday, March 15, but had to be postponed because of the ice storm. It brought together approximately 150 students from schools in Albert Lea, Alden-Conger, Adams, and Glenville-Emmons. Other schools had planned on coming on Friday, but were unable to shift their attendance to Monday.