Do the Right Thing

27 Oct

                                                      Coaches and Rules

We all like to kid coaches and gym teachers for perhaps having what (on the outside) appears to many to be a fun, simple and stress free job but my favorite educational thinker and philosopher of all time was my youngest son’s 9th grade gym teacher. My wife and I were attending back to school night and “Coach” as he was affectionately known was giving his annual back to school night talk to the parents.

“There are only 2 things I ask from my students, he said, and if they do these two things then we’ll get along fine. #1: Do what I say. Why? Well, because I’m the teacher and I said so. And I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t want you to do it so just do it because that’s what I said. And #2: Do the right thing. And what do I mean by that? Well, I think we all know what the right thing to do is, so let’s just do it and that’s all I ask.”

There you have it. A streamlined philosophy of life with only two simple rules to live by. It mat have been presented simply and a bit eccentrically by the beloved old coach but in essence aren’t these really the two simplest of rules that when violated by others leave us feeling angry and disappointed and frustrated with our fellow man? Think about it. It’s the basis of all strife in the world.

Rule #1: Do what I say. What the coach meant by this was that the world has rules and everyone needs to follow them. If there is a boss, a leader, and elder, an authority then you need to do what they ask when participating in the groups that they lead. Every situation or event or task in life has rules that dictate and direct certain behaviors. People need to follow and obey what these rules say in order to maintain society. But what if our leaders or society tell us to do something that is inappropriate or wrong? Well then rule #2 supersedes or takes over.

Rule #2: Do the right thing. And although the clever or shrewd lawyer in us all may say, “How am I supposed to know what the right thing is?” Don’t we all know what the right things are? Isn’t that what defines us as human beings? Isn’t that what makes us believe that we are so special among all of the creatures on the planet? We claim to know who God is and so we do know the difference between what is “right” behavior and what is “wrong” behavior. We may not always admit to it but from a very early age (certainly by the time we reach school age) we know if we are being bad or good, don’t we? It’s what we base our rule of law on. Only someone who is insane can claim a defense of, “I didn’t know right from wrong when I committed that horrible crime.”

How do we know right from wrong? How do we know what morality is? We know because all humans are innately selfish. Among the first things we learn in life is to care about ourselves and our personal well being… and as lifelong selfish individuals we know what hurts us and what makes us mad and what injustice feels like and so consequently we also know what hurts others, i.e.: the same things that hurt us!

So do we know what the right thing to do is?

Oh yes we do.

So like the coach says, Do it! Now go play!

11 Responses to “Do the Right Thing”

  1. stphnplc October 27, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    These are to fantastic rules to live by, and I would agree that coaches (and extra-curricular instructors) aren’t always given the credit they’re owed. Two of the most influential people and important philosophers in my life were my high school orchestra director and my cross country coach.

    Do you really believe that humans are innately selfish? I do believe that from birth everyone is socialized to have some sort of moral compass, but I think there’s a difference between selfishness and self-preservation. Its biologically necessary to have self-preservation wired into us, just like it is for every living thing. One of the most fantastic things about being human is being able to understand and predict how our actions hurt other people and choose against doing those things. That’s in our nature. I think its another thing entirely to say that it is our natural state to disregard others and live, think, and act solely for self-promotion.

    • gpicone October 28, 2012 at 12:07 am #

      Thanks for reading and for your response! Yes, I was referring to self-preservation, certainly as the child, but it does seem to me that we as social human beings are constantly struggling with how far we will let ourselves stray from self-preservation into self-promotion not only on personal levels but familial, societal, national and cultural as well.

  2. presenceinpoetry October 28, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    I think the key to this is that rule 2 would supersede rule 1. But, then I think about the idea of what is right and wrong….and I do not agree that it is so self-evident. Having been a teacher and currently working on a doctorate in education (curriculum and instruction) I see a lot of debate about differences of opinion when it comes to what is right and what is wrong. In the world of business or education or really any other profession there are times when people do something that is in one moment right and wrong at the same time.
    On another hand, there are many moral dilemmas which offer evidence to this very issue. IE. One student on a bus picks on another’s little brother. The elder brother then pushes him for doing so when he gets off the bus, telling the child not to pick on his brother. …in school they are both treated as wrong, but when the one feels as though he was treated extremely unjustly because he was defending his family- he believes he is in the right…and in some cultures he is, but in others he is just as bad. His rules at home are different from those at school- causing a discrepancy in knowing what is right and wrong. He may go home and his parents may reward him for standing up for his little brother. etc….

    • gpicone October 28, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

      Yes, 2 wrongs don’t make a right but I would argue that the bully is wrong and everyone knows it. The elder brother is responsible to do the right thing by moving in and defending his brother and stopping the bullying. Once the elder brother decides to later retaliate with violence I would argue that he (the elder brother) is creating a new wrong.

  3. Benedicte October 28, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

    I do like this… My two house rules for the kis are so similar: 1. Do what Mummy and Daddy say (this can be transferred to other adults by Mummy and Daddy) and 2. Be kind… Everything else falls under one of those two rules. But boy, is it hard work to enforce!!!

  4. Stop Along The Way October 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    Thanks for stopping by and for the “like”.

  5. livvy1234 October 29, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    Amazing! We, humans, cannot get over “our” selves.

  6. Liz October 29, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    Nicely put–coach sounds like a good guy. Thanks for stopping by foodforfun’s foodie art–a much younger crowd than you’re used to teaching, but the future of America just the same!

  7. JanBeek November 4, 2012 at 1:57 am #

    I appreciated your blog about doing the “Right Thing.” My husband is a retired coach, and I’m a retired educator who worked with children of all ages. We both concur that the two simple, all encompassing rules are wise and get to the core of desired behavior. I like your explanations. I’d like to see more teachers employing such wisdom. Bless you for sharing! 🙂

  8. gpicone September 8, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    Reblogged this on ipledgeafallegiance and commented:

    Just thought this might be a good time to re post this…could there be a bad time?

  9. TURNING STONEchoice September 8, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    This is great…thanks for sharing!

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