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Arts & Letters Daily


5d. Desert - Drama teacher


On account of what things judged morally is a person deserving of approval?


Duty. Ms. Smith, the Drama teacher, was frustrated. She felt she had a duty to allow students, who found the course language in Of Mice and Men offensive, the option to read an alternative novel because she had promised their parents that their students would have that option. She would have to prepare a new set of Lessons and Assignments for these three students. Where would she find the time to do this when the rehearsals for the live performance of Of Mice and Men were taking so much of her out-of-class time? She knew she had a duty to teach all students in her class, but, did she really have a duty to prepare and teach an alternative novel to three students?

Rights. Ms. Smith of courses recognized that all students in her class were entitled to receive instruction; they were duly registered in her English course. But, were they entitled to individualized instruction across several novels at any given time?

Motive. Although she does not always do the right thing, Ms. Smith regards herself as someone who tries to do what she believes is right. She recognized that she does not always do the right thing, but, she normally and regularly tries to do what is right from a morally good motive. That’s why she agonizes over this situation in her classroom; she wants to do right by all of her students.

Desert. In the end, Ms. Smith agreed to tutor the three students who requested that they be allowed to study a different novel. In fact, she felt relieved and positive about this decision. When she informed her Principal, he expressed his strong approval and commended her for offering this option to the three students.


  • Did Ms. Smith deserve an expression of approval for her decision to comply with her duty to teach all students in her class? Explain.
  • Discuss other situations where people use this kind of thinking.

You may want to discuss other dilemmas.

Consider this view of ‘deserve approval’

  • Crooked thinking

A person does not deserves approval for doing his duty.

  • Straight thinking

A person probably deserves some approval for doing his duty from a sense of duty or for doing what is right for right’s sake. People deserve approval for having done morally good acts, acting from morally good motives, deliberately refraining from doing wrong acts and being morally good agents.

Moral principle value tests

An application of the moral principle value tests probably illustrates most clearly what is entailed in evaluative reasoning. They are:

It is important to emphasize that the moral-value principle tests are not designed to resolve issues (guarantee right answers!) but to assess the ‘justification’ for moral value decisions.

To view the Dilemma from the perspective of Duty, Rights, Motives, Desert and Justice, click on the following:

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