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[PCUSANEWS] Poll: most teens think lying and cheating can be ethical

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Date Thu, 26 Feb 2009 17:17:06 -0500

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Poll: most teens think lying and cheating can be ethical

Survey underscores continued need for training in ethical

>by Jerry L. Van Marter
>Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE ― A new survey finds that 80 percent of American
teenagers believe they are "ethically prepared" for life in
the real world but 40 percent believe they have to "break
the rules" to succeed.

The poll of 750 teens ― conducted by Junior Achievement
(JA) and Deloitte ― doesn't bode well for religious
leaders. It shows that only 3 percent of teens see members
of the clergy (pastor, priest, rabbi or imam) as "role

In contrast, most teens (54 percent) see their parents as
role models, followed by friends (13 percent), teachers or
coaches (6 percent) and brother or sister (5 percent).
About one in 10 teens (11 percent) say they have no role

"In large numbers, teens today express a troubling
contradiction when it comes to ethical readiness for the
workforce," said Ed Grocholski of The Lindberg Group, which
aided the study and analyzed its results.

"At the same time they express confidence in their
preparedness to make the right choices in the future, they
freely admit to unethical behavior today," he said. "The
results reveal considerable ethical confusion among teens
regarding what types of behavior are appropriate in order
to succeed."

>Key findings of the survey:

-80 percent of teens either somewhat or strongly agree that
they are prepared to make ethical business decisions when
they join the workforce, yet more than a third (38 percent)
think that they have to break the rules at school to

-More than one in four teens (27 percent) think behaving
violently is sometimes, often or always acceptable. Twenty
percent of respondents said they had personally behaved
violently toward another person in the past year, and 41
percent reported a friend had done so.

-Nearly half (49 percent) of those who say they are
ethically prepared believe that lying to parents and
guardians is acceptable, and 61 percent have done so in the
past year.

-Teens feel more accountable to themselves (86 percent)
than they do to their parents or guardians (52 percent),
their friends (41 percent) or society (33 percent).

-Only about half (54 percent) cite their parents as role
models. Most of those who don't cite their parents as role
models are turning to their friends or said they didn't
have a role model.

-Only 25 percent said they would be "very likely" to reveal
knowledge of unethical behavior in the workplace.

"If teens lack accountability to others," Grocholski said,
"the data suggests that their choices may be driven purely
by self-interest and not by interest in the greater good ...
Teens seem to be experiencing a sense of ethical confusion
and relativism - an endemic ethical attitude of 'the ends
justify the means.'"

That attitude is compounded by the absence of adult role
models, "which can leave a vacuum of ethical guidance as
young people enter adulthood," Grocholski said. "With a
significant number of teens reporting they don't have an
adult role model for ethical behavior, the data raises even
more questions about why adults are not viewed as role
models and what can be done to fill the gap."

The survey was used by JA and Deloitte to develop "JA
Business Ethics" and "Excellence Through Ethics" programs
as part of a $2 million initiative to address the issues
identified in the survey.

Information for this story furnished by Ed Grocholski, The
Lindberg Group, Colorado Springs, CO.


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