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Arts & Letters Daily


1b. Rights – Irate parent


People demand rights


Duty. An irate parent burst into the Principal’s office at Semple High School located in a small town in the Midwest and dove into her questions, ’Why do you permit your English teacher to require her class to read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbach … (she paused for a moment to catch her breath) … when you know the book is not on the required reading list of the State Education Ministry?’  ‘That’s wrong’, she went on to say before the principal could say a word, ‘morally wrong!’ ‘I find the language used in that book totally offensive … all that cursing!’ ‘I repeat’, she said, ‘that is morally wrong’.

Rights. What’s more, my daughter has a right to be allowed to read a novel which is not offensive to me whether she agrees with me or not’, she asserted.


  • Do you agree with the parent? Why or why not?

You may want to discuss other dilemmas.

Consider this view: People demand rights

  • Crooked thinking

For John to have a right to do X, X must be an actual object of interest.

  • Straight thinking

People demand rights. They are frequently willing to protect and defend their right. An infringement of rights frequently results in anger. Why would people be willing to do all these things for objects of disinterest? Clearly, for John to have a right to do X, X must be an object of interest, either actual or potential.

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 the following:

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