My Personal Moral Compass


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The objective of this research was to better understand the moral landscape of the younger generation in a peripheral region in the Middle East, by identifying common themes in essays by middle-school students from diverse ethnicities. Such understanding seems to be a necessary component of educational efforts in today's ever-changing cultural climate. My Personal Moral Compass is a concept developed for this research study. It is also the title for a composition in which children write about values, virtues, or principles that are important to them personally, and then try to explain how they implement them in their lives. This exercise is aimed at encouraging young people to develop a sense of inner direction based on what they see as the guidelines for personal behavior. The emphasis is on personal choice and active utilization of personal assets rather than directing children towards any particular values, virtues, or principles. The most dominant theme elicited from the compositions, in terms of both frequency and power of expression, was justification motivated by self-interest. Determination to realize a goal, though not mentioned as often, was of great personal importance to some children. An interesting interplay between self-interest and empathetic concern for others characterized many of the children’s reflections. The findings also showed that children on the whole reported that they had high hopes for their futures and felt their lives had meaning. There was some evidence of gender differences.