You never know where your next ethics lesson might come from.
The principal at my children’s elementary school likes to make students think about ethical situations from time to time, and found a good lesson about integrity in the form of a chapter from the 1974 children’s novel, “Soup,” by Robert Newton Peck (who is perhaps better known for writing “A Day No Pigs Would Die”).
My kids relayed the story as told by the principal, and, having read earlier in the day about a life insurance producer being indicted on fraud charges, it struck me as being strangely appropriate for even a much more mature audience of insurance and financial advisors.
During a school assembly, the principal told the story of when Robert, the book’s narrator, and his close friend “Soup,” a rather mischievous schemer, tried to pull one over on someone in order to get something they really wanted but had not earned.
The book is set in small-town 1930s Vermont, where the author also grew up, and deals with the daily lives of the main characters. Soup is described as being well meaning, but is constantly coming up with elaborate plans that invariably land him and Robert in trouble. Robert is more sensible but less wily, and frequently finds himself being conned into going along with Soup’s ploys.
Such is the case in Chapter 5, titled “Cheating Mr. Diskin.”
Soup and Rob need twenty cents to go to the picture show in town, and will be heartbroken if they miss it. Worried that the tin foil they were going to recycle at Mr. Diskin’s wouldn’t net enough for both of them to get into the movies, Soup comes up with the idea to put a stone inside the tin foil to make it heavier and thus worth more.