Teaching Notes

You must become the flame on the candle. - Thich Nhat Hanh

Monday, September 24, 2007

Courage Under Fire

Who is Chauncey Bailey and what is his significance to media ethics?

Now that everyone has had a chance to respond, I'd like to suggest that maybe the point of Bailey's experience was that it's better to die on your feet than live on your knees.


Natalka T. said...

“If we can’t find something to die for, it’s not worth it.” Many people would believe this quote is a bit overdramatic for how someone should ultimately live their life. This mentality has grown greatly in part to our society evolving into a people that frown upon hard work, getting their hands dirty and being passionate about things that make their hearts race. Why do people feel that living life like this is unattainable or too good to be true? Why has our society trekked backwards ethically and halted at an extremely disconcerting realm of cynicism and doubt? All too frequently we believe that something so fine must be flawed.

Chauncey Bailey was the exception to the predominant attitude of our society that taking shortcuts is the only way to the top. Throughout the article, Bailey is regularly referred to as a “strong-willed man” whose “career had been marked by controversy, frustration and a search for purpose.” Bailey is like so many professionals, but so unlike them at the same time. The reality that Bailey was faced with a grueling schedule, disappointments, controversy, conflicts of interest and the frustration that his contributions were not changing anything in his community makes him identical to professionals in so many fields. What makes Bailey the exception is that he understood that all these obstacles were not a hindrance to his success, but rather a truly upfront indication that he needed to take what was thrown at him, work harder, and be better.

Adam Engel said...

Chauncey Bailey was a controversial black reported in the Oakland area. Bailey was working on a story that was critical of a bakery and members of it thought they may not get a needed loan from the city should this story come out. Bailey was shot and killed by a member of a bakery to be silenced.

Reading this the first impression that I get is that this man was unjustly killed for standing up for what he believed to be just. He was carrying out the duties that many journalists strive to. He seemed to be a good man looking out for his community and certainly didn’t deserve to die.

However, after reading it again I can’t help but think that Bailey may have had some bias in some of his pieces. Throughout the story it is depicted that Bailey has something of a temper and problem with authority; getting into fistfights at work and being described as frustrated. I also feel that we may not be getting the whole story in that the article stated he occasionally “blurred the lines” between his roles as a journalist and a advocate. Also being described as “more of an advocate than a journalists… He needed to be reined in.” and having to leave a paper for a conflict of interests tells me that there may be another side to this story.

Obviously I don’t feel that Chauncey Bailey should have died or even that it was warranted in any way. I’m just saying the first read of the article makes it seem that Woodward or Bernstein had been shot. I have to ask myself was Bailey that pure and one sided as it this article alludes to.

(Professor Good, if I’m way off and you’re thinking, “what the hell is he writing about”, feel free to leave a comment right underneath)

Howie Good said...

In other parts of the world journalism is a dangerous profession. Thugs and tyrants want to do what they want to do without scrutiny from the press. They'll intimidate, imprison, and murder journalists in order to silence them. As the article points out, it's extraordinary when a journalist is murdered in the U.S. It seems to me when it happens we ought to take more than casual notice.

T Riccio said...

Chauncy Bailey, although described as a great journalist, also seems to have been a dangerous one. When I say dangerous, I mean dangerous in the sense that he had obviously not followed a strict code of ethics throughout his career; he
"had been fired from his previous job because of a conflict of interest". It is also said in the article that Bailey considered himself "The Barry Bonds of journalism-the best and the most disliked". Such an arrogent attitude, coupled with his extreme desire to expose what he believed to be corrupt, could very well have led to his passing. Bailey, an American journalist, was not only killed in the U.S., but in broad daylight, because of a story he was covering. The question for journalists may be when is it too dangerous for a journalist to cover a story, and should they even attempt to cover such stories. It was said of Bailey that he "was more of an advocate than a journalist..He needed to be reined in". I believe that this becomes a problem in journalism in regards to ethics. As a journalist, one is supposed to tell the truth for the greater good. However, how far is too far? When does one cross the line from being a good journalist, trying to expose what is just, to being an advocate, doing whatever it takes for a cause? I believe this is why ethics is such a vital component of journalism. If there were no laws of ethics, journalists wouldn't be journalists, but instead radical advocates or perhaps even vigilantes. I think the case of Chauncy Bailey should be an extremely unfortunate example to other journalists-journalists should keep themselves in check with a code of ethics, regardless of how passionate they feel about a specific issue. Some issues just become too dangerous, innapropriate or inethical.

Howie Good said...

Is there anything wrong -- that is, unethical -- with being an advocate if you're advocating for truth and justice? It's been said that all that's necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

Some might add that the word for doing nothing is "cowardice." On the other hand, rashness or recklessness is sometimes hard to distinguish from courage.

An Aristotlean would put courage as the golden mean between the means of cowardice and rashness.

Howie Good said...

One more thought: There's no ethics without the courage to act ethically. Do most people have this kind of courage? And if they don't, how do we cultivate it? And if we can't cultivate it, then are we doomed to be pushed around by the bullies in the schoolyard and the drug-dealing thugs in the bakery and the tyrants in government?

danielle said...

Chauncey Bailey was a reporter for the Oakland Post. He was shot for standing up for what he believed in. He was a reporter and wanted to be truthfull, no matter who or what it was.
It takes "guts" and a strong willed person to stand up for what they believe in. Bailey was doing his job and doing it well, untill a kid, did not like what he was writing.
Not many people liked him, but he contiuned standing by what he believed in, and did not change his point of view in his stories.

prgirl7 said...

Chauncey Bailey was a controversial advocate for the black community in Oakland, Calif. He was the first journalist killed on U.S. soil for doing his job. Bailey was shot and killed and a member of the bakery was silenced as well.

At a first glance, I feel for Bailey, because the act was unjust In America we have these things called "freedoms" amendments that we are protected under. You got the impression that he was a good man that was trying to take care of his family and his community and did not deserve to die for that.

But after thinking about it some more, journalism can be considered to be a very dangerous profession, because it is one that exposes the truth and words can be left to interpretation. Everyone has an opinion about what should be in the news and what should not be. I believe that journalist should have the biggest back bone because they have to stand behind their work because of their ethics. I do not say that people should die for their passion but I am saying that there is unspoken rules/laws that is understood when they become journalists.

I believe that Bailey was courageous, he might have had problems with authority and others but that made him more relatable in the public eye. Most people and journalist should have this courage but it just as ethics can be blurred so can courage. We gain this courage through life, experiences and upbringing. To have the strength to stand up for what you believe in takes guts and a healthy support system. I would not say that we as a community are doomed to be pushed around by bullies like in the schoolyard. There is always going to be that bully in the schoolyard looking for lunch money but it is how one handles them-selves to know if they can succeed in life. Without hardships people will take too many things for granted and never know the true value of anything. It makes you grow and see what is around you.

What makes him stand out from everyone is that he stood by his work and never changed his point of view on his stories so he built his creditability on that.


henzeg67 said...

"He was an advocate, but he was willing to question his people and didn't always try to romanticize the black community. Ultimately, that killed him." This story is tragic on many levels, however I think what is most shocking here is that he was the first American journalist killed in the U.S in over three decades. As Americans, we pride ourselves on the fact that our country is always progressing, and that we are free to speak our minds. 1976(when the last journalist was killed for doing his job in the US) was a very different time than 2007 is, however this act proves it may not be all that different.

If journalists are afraid to speak the truth for fear of risking their lives, who knows if what you are ultimately reading is the truth at all? Whether or not Chauncey Bailey wrote controversial and bias stories is not the point here. When a journalist recieves feedback from a story, whether is is positive or negative, it has created an effect. It is a journalist's job to question people, and find out the truth of a story. The effect from that story should never be life-threatening. If this continues, sooner or later we will never be able to distinguish what is the truth, or what is written solely for the benefit of staying out of danger.

henzeg67 said...

ohh forgot to write my name- henzeg67 is Olivia!

jess said...

Chauny Bailey was a notorious journalist wo was known for his spitfire attitude and black empowerment activism.
He is important in media ethics because he directly challenges the concept of objecive journalism. He reported news that prooved his cause and was passionate about it. In this particular instance, Your Muslim Bakery was a business associated with a black nationalist group whom had been linked to many crimes in the area. Bailey wrote to expose this business because of their bankrupsy and crimes and also, presumably, because they are against Bailey's personal vendetta. He did this knowing well the death threats the bakery had made to other journalists who had previously reported about them. It seems clear that it was an unethical decision to write the story for the following reason: As editor, Bailey knowingly put the safety of his employees and coworkers in jepardy. His judgement, ironically, led to his own demise.
Another side to this is by writing the story he led the bakery to be shut down, which could have prevented more crimes from occuring. Though, I doubt this violent black nationalist group was stopped by the arrest of just 7 men. Bailey would have known the legistics about the group and he still wrote the story.
The article did say there were 5 other victims that day but it was unclear as to their identities.
I highly respect Bailey as a journalist for his passion but, how far is too far? There is a difference between taking risks in investigative journalism, and risking lives.

TylerT said...

Chauncey Bailey was the first American journalist killed on U.S. soil for doing his job in more than three decades. He was a hard-working and controversal advocate for the black community in the Oakland area. He was 57 years old and was professional in every aspect of his job. Although he did get in people's faces if he thought he was right in any kind of argument.

Bailey questioned topics in his writing and for doing that he was effective. In the bakery he was trying to prove some points that he felt the community needed to know. Bailey had a good reason for doing a piece on the bakery. "The bakery was part of a broader black nationalist social welfare organization founded in the 60's-not affiliated with the Nation of Islam." They were accused of rape, kidnapping, torture, and murder. This needed to be displayed, and no one should be getting killed for writing about something like this. It needs to be brought to people's attention.

Anonymous said...

Chauncey Bailey was firm in what he believed in. He was a committed journalist and advocate for his cause. I find that respectable.

A journalist informs the public so that the public can form their opinion and take action, if need be. If all journalists just stood on the sideline gathering information and spewing it at people, would that make a change? Therefore, the information must be well-rounded, accurate, and truthful. To find that information, a story needs to be developed, analyzed, and researched so that the truth can be heard and so that the public can make an intelligent decision.

With this in mind, a journalist can cross the lines of their ethics because their own opinions and beliefs may conflict with the information found.

Bailey's actions questions "How far is too far to inform the public?"

I think Chauncey Bailey, at times, crossed the lines. Yet, if he didn't, who would? If Bailey never crossed the line, then would the public have known as much about the Barkey's crimes?

It is unethical for a journalist to let their opinions conflict with news that they are reporting. But, it is unethical to not inform the public of the entire situation. In that case, would being ethical consist of crossing the line so that a change can be made or that the truth can be heard?

Bailey did just that.

Emilah said...

Chauncey Bailey was a journalist who was courageous enough to stand up and stand out from a crowd. He was recognized as a journalist just walking down the street as the article states. It also states that he "enjoyed being recognized and approached on the street." How ironic that an everyday occurrence that he enjoyed would end his life. To be shot down because he did not romanticize the black community is disconcerting. Why do writers have to hide behind a veil of romanticism? He was a journalist reporting on an issue; not a novelist or an activist. Granted at times journalists may have topics that they are more sensitive and passionate about, but it is their job as an objective eye to remain as detached to the event as possible. Bailey was proud of the way he performed his job, and rightfully so.
A question that is posed however is what if the man killed a member of Bailey’s family instead? Being a good, moral journalist with a thirst for the telling the truth often comes at a cost. In Bailey’s case it was to be a martyr for the on-going quest of ethic journalism.

-Emily Canty

esousa said...

Bailey was the first American Journalist killed on U.S soil for doing his job in more than three decades. He was a man who stood for what he believed. He wanted people to know about the black community whether it was good or bad of Okaland.
Bailey was an ethical man because he had the courage to stand up what he believed in. He wanted the truth in his stories, he was a man who was passionate about his city and the urban life who wanted change for his people and felt that something needed to be done. To me thats a job of a jounalist to inform the public, to let their community know the truth of their surroundings, if people are scared to do so, they what are we really reading now a days. I can seriously say i respect Bailey for what he has done because not alot of people have that "courage" to stand up for what is right.

esousa said...

Bailey was the first American Journalist killed on U.S soil for doing his job in more than three decades. He was a man who stood for what he believed. He wanted people to know about the black community whether it was good or bad of Okaland.
Bailey was an ethical man because he had the courage to stand up what he believed in. He wanted the truth in his stories, he was a man who was passionate about his city and the urban life who wanted change for his people and felt that something needed to be done. To me thats a job of a jounalist to inform the public, to let their community know the truth of their surroundings, if people are scared to do so, they what are we really reading now a days. I can seriously say i respect Bailey for what he has done because not alot of people have that "courage" to stand up for what is right.

michelle said...

Chauncy Bailey was not only a journalist, but an advocate for the black community, who was shot and killed to be "silenced." He's important to the media community because he was the first American journalist killed in the U.S. in three decades...for doing his job.

Bailey was described throughout the article as strong-willed and passionate, with an in-your-face opinion. But what he was killed for was what any journalist is supposed to do - tell the truth and help the community. He wasn't doing anything extraordinary, such as being a war correspondent. He was simply working on a community story like so many other journalists are assigned to do. The difference is that when other reporters were threatened after investigating the bakery operation, they cut the story. But Bailey ultimately put the truth above his own life. I think he displayed the kind of courage that differentiates the great reporters from the skim-the-surface, just-get-the-job-done reporters. This courage, fueled by passion and dedication, is what produces breakthrough stories that matter.

Another interesting part of the article is his advocacy. In the code of ethics journalists aren't supposed to have a conflict of interest, and it mentioned that Bailey had a hard time with his "competing roles of chronicler and activist." But looking back on the history of journalism, when reporters feel strongly about an injustice or a social problem, the most compelling stories are created. Is Bailey's death going to cause fear and serve as a justification for half-assing their job? Journalists can't be afraid to cover something when the truth is out there to be told. The importance of this story isn't to warn journalists, but to get more protection and awareness that this can happen here. And if it keeps happening, and reporters stop doing their job, then the truth is lost to the "thugs" with sawed-off shotguns.

Justin F. said...

In any profession there are always angles that need to be procedded with caution. Chauncey Bailey didnt seem to notice those angles, and seemed to have become numb to his sorroudings.
Even though he was an advocate for the black community in Oakland, and had been reporting in the area for a long period of time, does not mean that he should let his gaurd down. As an in the field reporter, many things need to be taken into acount, ranging from location of story, to the poeple, to the history of the area, and also the sensitivity of the issue. Because he became so FAMILIAR he let his gaurd down and forget to bring his A game.
I believe that reporting sensitive stories on a regular basis is alot like working at a zoo.
Everyday zoo keepers work with animials, bears, lions, etc. And even though these animals are docile and grew up with the keepers and get fed and taken care of, does not mean that they wont chew there head off or attack the zoo keeper. Most zookeepers dont froget that and inturn stay alive.Bailey like to zoo keeper has a similar responisbgitly but he seemed to get jaded and lost a sence of his sorroundings assuming he was invicible.

Howie Good said...

I'm going to embarrass Michelle, but in a nice way. You should all read her comments. They seem to me to eloquently summarize the ethical dimensions of this case.

Natalie said...

Chauncey Bailey was a reporter and also an activist. There were most definitely times where he faced difficulty with reporting objectively. Conflicts of interest were probably very frequent throughout his career. It seems that he didn't completely separate himself from those interests--he wanted to be a reporter, and at the same time he wanted to use that to promote activism within the black community.
This story has a lot to do with ethics. Whether or not he was objective in his reporting is an ethical issue. If he couldn't draw the line between reporter and activist then there would have been problems with his stories in that they would have reflected too much of his own opinion and motives rather than give an unbias outlook.
In the case of the Your Black Muslim Bakery story, I think that Bailey was doing his job. Even though he wanted to be a part of activism in the black community, that didn't deter him from accurately reporting problems within that community.
Not only did he report on it knowing that it would look bad for part of his community; he went ahead knowing that it could be dangerous to do so. Other reporters had previously been threatened, and one editor even stopped his staff from any further reporting on the organization because of the danger. Bailey stuck with his story and sought out the truth, even when it meant being faced with threats, violence, and anger.

Eric said...

Chauncy Bailey was the first journalist in over thirty years to be killed on U.S. soil in the line of work. Ethics of course play a large roll in this. It is a question any journalist must ask themselves: What is the cost of doing the right thing? Ethics, as an ideal, should be worth standing up for regardless of the cost. It can certainly be seen in other fields, the soldier is willing to die because he believes in his country, or the dissident politician because he believes that his country needs reform. History is full of men and women that have laid down their lives for their morality. Yet we seem to think that it can be something that is separate from journalism. We believe that journalists are not in danger from sticking to their morality.

Chauncey Baily followed his career with an attitude that showed that he didn't feel threatened doing his job. The article said that he enjoyed being recognized. He never seemed to fear standing up to forces allied against him. It is a tragedy that he died for his principles, but in someways it is surprising that this is not a more common occurrence.

Will said...

Chauncey Bailey was a black reporter who was known for his reporting of events in the black community in Oakland, CA. He was shot because he was forward in his opinions toward a bakery called Your Black Muslim Bakery. The story angered members of a black nationalist group, who then sought out to kill him.

His significance to media ethics lies in the fact that regardless of whether he may have known that he would upset people who were radical enough about their views to do what they did, he reported exactly how he wanted to, and was not reclusive or afraid. He is a testament to the strength of will that all journalists should possess in some way.

In reporting his story, regardless of a potential danger to his safety, he exhibited moral and physical courage, as well as outstanding journalistic integrity.

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

Chauncey Bailey was a well known reporter who was not afraid to report the truth. He had written many stories in the past that had caused him to receive criticism and even death threats.

Bailey was seeking the truth and reporting it. The "Bakery" did not deserve to get the loan they were requesting, and Bailey was determined to prove that. He had to have known that his life was in danger, especially since the group was accused of organized crime involvement in the past.

Another reporter writing stories against this organization decided to move 100 miles away from where it was taking place. For some reason Bailey felt that this organization would not kill him. Even if he did think they were going to kill him, he still continued to gather information on the group.

Whether or not Bailey was oblivious to his dangers will never be fully known. I feel that Bailey knew his work on the story was dangerous, but continued to write because it was his job. He was a journalist looking out for the people and he died for his beliefs. Maybe he had more faith in the people then he should have had.

ryan said...

Chauncy Bailey was one of the few journalists that cared more about the truth no matter what or who the story was about. He was a "hard-charging" man that got shot and killed for reporting on a bakery run which was run by a local black organization. His significance to media ethics because of what he stood for and believed. He showed true courage when he decided to put the sotry and the truth before everything, even his own life. As Bailey said once, "If we can't find something to die for, it's not worth it."
- ryan

jlandy said...

Chauncey Bailey was a reporter for the Oakland Post and an advocate for the black community. He is the embodiment of courage and what journalists should strive for. His courage and will to expose the truth ultimately killed him, but he went out honorable and with cause.

He is relevant to media ethics class because he shows that in order to have courage you have to be ethical and willing to find the facts under moral circumstances. He was openly an advocate for the black community which could make it seem like he was bias. However he is constantly referred to a "strong-willed man" throughout the article. He demonstrates the true nature of journalistic integrity. He was so passionate about his job that he did anything to expose truth to his community and protect them from harm. It cost him his life, but he still serves as an example of courage to this day.

Is Media Ethics Education DOA?

It sounds like a joke Jay Leno would tell during his opening monologue on The Tonight Show. Hear about the graduate students at the prestigious journalism school? They got caught cheating on an ethics exam. Ha ha ha. Except that’s actually what happened at Columbia University in late 2006.

Students had been given 48 hours to sign onto a Columbia Web site to take the final exam in a required course called “Critical Issues in Journalism.” They then had 90 minutes to answer two essay questions.

The students were warned to not discuss the questions with each other, but apparently they did. As the headline over a story reporting the scandal put it, “Ivy J-Schoolers Fail Ethics, Ace Irony.”

No one admitted cheating despite pressure from the school’s administrators and pleas from classmates, who feared the scandal would damage the market value of their degrees. Meanwhile, the teacher of the course, New York Times columnist Samuel G. Freedman, refused to comment. But if the disgruntled posts on RateMyProfessors.com are any indication, his students hadn’t exactly been soaking up knowledge. “Maybe he could e-mail his ‘speeches’ to the students instead of making everyone suffer through the most wasted class in j-school. . . ,” one read.

There’s an old cowboy saying that goes, “When your horse dies, get off.” Journalism ethics education is a dead horse. Or else those aren’t vultures circling in the sky.

A Question for Socrates

The question of how ethics is learned, or even if it can be, is as old as Western philosophy. In Plato’s dialog Meno the title character asks, “Can you tell me, Socrates, whether virtue is acquired by teaching or by practice; or if neither by teaching nor practice, then whether it comes to man by nature, or in what other way?” Of course, Socrates, being Socrates, resists giving a definite answer. But we can’t. The sad fact is, students had better get an effective ethics education now or they may never.

Last summer I conducted an ethics workshop for some reporters and editors at the Poughkeepsie Journal, a small daily in upstate
New York owned by Gannett Co., Inc. The woman in charge of organizing the workshop had supplied us with several case studies to examine. I remember one dealt with a classic conflict of interest, a copy editor who moonlighted at a local radio station.

But what I remember most is the air of defeat that clung to the staff as we sat on hard plastic chairs in the break room discussing the cases. I could hear in their voices the bitterness and cynicism of employees forced to follow corporate policies they despised. Recently, for example, the paper had started running display ads on the front page and section fronts, a much more grievous ethical lapse, their mumbled asides suggested, than anything the case studies might have to offer.

I don’t want my students to ever wear the gray, defeated expression I saw that day on the faces at the Journal. But given the downward direction in which the media are moving, and fast, how in the world can I prevent it from happening?

Teaching Media Ethics by Telling Stories

A friend of mine who teaches at a big Midwestern university recounts in class the events of her first week as a reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune. She was sent to Duluth to cover Democratic presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey on the campaign trail. When they were introduced, Humphrey vigorously shook her hand. “Oh yes, Susan,” he said, “I read your stuff all the time.” He couldn’t have read her stuff, though; she hadn’t written anything yet. “Just a few words,” she explains to her students, “but words that taught this fledging reporter a great lesson about pols and the little lies they tell.”

I usually find occasion during the semester to quote I. F. Stone’s dictum, “Every government is run by liars and thieves, and nothing they say should be believed,” to make the same point. But Susan’s story makes the point better. That’s because it has existential force. Her story vividly captures in a way a secondhand quote can’t the realities of a reporter’s life.

Some might think telling “war stories” is a waste of precious class time. I’ve a colleague who didn’t want to fall into the “trap” of regaling students with stories ad nauseam (“which, let’s face it, is easier than teaching or grading,” he said). So one semester he kept track. When he toted it all up at the end, he was surprised that he’d used less than an hour - out of 45 – talking about his newspaper experiences. And yet, he admitted, it was his stories that students seemed to remember most.

“Stories teach us how to live,” Daniel Taylor said in his essay, “The Ethical Implications of Storytelling.” What he meant was that stories preserve our experience for contemplation and evaluation. Although not all stories carry a heavy message, there’s an entire category of stories, so-called “exemplary tales,” that are told to convey a moral.

Our war stories are potentially just such tales. They can provide evidence, in ethicist John Barton’s words, of “how real human beings live through various crises and trials and remain human.” My colleague who kept tabs on his storytelling has described his stories as cautionary. Most, he said, deal with “screwups I learned from.”

But sometimes the storyteller and the audience can’t agree on what exactly the moral of a story is.

When Susan was a cub reporter on the Tribune, she interviewed the Beatles, who were on their second tour of the States. She got into their hotel room by dressing up as a waitress in an ugly, mustard-colored uniform and accompanying an actual room service waiter upstairs. Ringo took one look at her little plastic name tag – it read “Donna Brown” – and snorted, “What kind of name is that?” The waiter nudged her in the side. “Tell them what you real name is,” he urged. She did, as well as her reason for being there. Rather than throw her out, the Beatles politely answered her questions. They even let her phone for a photographer. The next day her story ran on the front page, with a photo of John sitting at a table and looking up at her and laughing as she poured coffee in his cup. She still has a glossy print of that photo somewhere.

Many of Susan’s students think she’s nuts for not having the photo hanging up in her office. They also think she’s nuts for saying she’d never participate in the same kind of stunt today. To her celebrity-struck students, disguising herself as a hotel waitress to get an interview with the Beatles seems soooo cool. They lose all sight of the fact that it wasn’t a story of vital public interest that demanded undercover methods.

Susan intends one lesson when she talks about her hard day’s night, but her students, living in a paparazzi-saturated culture, draw another. “It may be a lost cause,” she remarked to me.

Or maybe not. Negotiations over what the point of a story is can be part of the point of the story. In the process of negotiating, we test different interpretations, try out different themes. This is helpful. This is educational. Lawrence Kohlberg, the Harvard psychologist famous for his research on the stages of moral development, contended that “the teaching of virtue is the asking of questions. . . not the giving of answers.” Stories don’t necessarily have to yield clear moral rules to be of value. It’s enough sometimes if they just give us something to think about.