MONEY-SMART KIDS


Teens Exercise Business Ethics

Janet Bodnar

High school seniors can illustrate their character -- and win $5,000 for college -- by answering a tough ethical question in this essay contest.



Here's a scenario for both parents and high school seniors to consider:

As part of her summer lawn-care business, 17-year-old Jessica mows the lawn for her neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Lee, for which she is paid $20. The Lees frequently ask Jessica to do other yard work, such as pulling weeds, planting flowers and raking leaves. The Lees have not offered extra wages for the additional work, and Jessica has been too shy to ask. But her other customers do pay her additional wages for extra work.

Jessica is saving all of her money for college and would like to make as much as possible. One day, after working for the Lees, Jessica checked her payments and noticed they had included an extra $100 bill with the regular $20 payment. Jessica has worked enough during the summer to deserve the extra money, but doesn't know if the Lees intended to give her such a large amount. What should Jessica do?

Answering that question will win one high school senior a $5,000 scholarship, the top prize in the second annual ethics essay contest sponsored by JA Worldwide (Junior Achievement) and Deloitte Touche USA. To enter, high school seniors must submit an original essay of 500 words or less at JA Worldwide's Web site, www.ja.org/ethics. Entries will be accepted until February 3, and will be judged on how well the student uses an ethical decision-making process in developing a response.

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The contest is part of JA Worldwide's "excellence through ethics" program, a business ethics curriculum sponsored by Deloitte that is used in all Junior Achievement programs for grades 4 through 12 in the U.S. Last year's contest drew more than 8,000 entries.

Also part of the program is an annual poll conducted by Harris Interactive that gauges the attitudes of teens toward ethical behavior in the workplace. In the most recent poll, the number of teens who said they would act unethically to get ahead if there was no chance of being caught dropped to 22%, down from 33% in 2003.

However, more than 40% of those responding admitted they might act unethically if instructed to do so by their boss, and more than one-third would likely lie to their boss to cover up a mistake they made at work. "Our ongoing study shows that teens know the right answer, but need support and ethics education," says JA Worldwide president David Chernow.



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