Five days before voters put an end to a brass-knuckles election campaign, 50 Animas High School juniors will engage the public in spontaneous coffeehouse conversations about social justice, as seen from the viewpoints of morality and politics.
Students, individually or in pairs, will be at tables at Durango Joe coffeehouses – from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday on College Drive and from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in Town Plaza.
The public is encouraged to stop by to chat with the youngsters, teacher Ashley Carruth said.
Carruth’s humanities-class students began their project with the writings of civil-disobedience advocates Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr.
They next took up moral philosophers Emmanuel Kant and John Rawls, then how rhetoric and political doublespeak work and finally the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Also as background, they studied utilitarianism, libertarianism and deontology (the nature of duty and obligation).
Among issues they’ve investigated are how the government should balance security, liberty and equality in creating a just society; and the resolution of issues such as the death penalty, gay rights and genetically engineered babies, Carruth said.
They also learned how to determine if laws are unjust and what justice actually means.
Each student then chose a political issue to evaluate through the foundational approaches studied in class.
What struck junior Domi Frideger was the process by which moral decisions are reached.
“It was interesting to learn how we make the decisions we do,” Domi said. “We saw how we arrive at and classify decisions as moral.”
Domi said that by following the same steps, he decided that gun control is morally proper for the safety of society.
Hannah Langfor, also a junior, said the class developed critical thinkers.
“We’re able to apply what we learned to making our decisions,” Hannah said. “By learning ways of thinking, we learned how to think for ourselves.”
Hannah said she concluded that genetic engineering is morally defensible for the health benefits it conveys to humanity.