Codes of conduct: how do we know how to behave?

trafficlights● What instruction does this give motorists?

● What incentive is there for a motorist to obey this instruction?

● Is there anything to stop a driver going through a red light?

Most societies have some kind of ‘code’ for behaviour and conduct, which the majority of people within that society will follow. In some cases these ‘codes’ are written down in the form of rules and laws; in other cases, they are simply shared ideas about how to behave towards others.

Here is an extract from a ‘code’ that exists in the UK, The Highway Code:


6: Motorways. You MUST NOT walk on motorways or slip roads except in an emergency (see Rule 249) Laws RTRA sect 17, MT(E&W)R 1982 as amended & MT(S)R regs 2 &13 


● Why should you follow these instructions?

● What might the consequences be if you don’t follow them?

● Who is this ‘code’ trying to protect?

Acting right

Can you think of any other ‘codes’ that give people guidance on how to go about their lives?

Record your ideas in the chart below. Show the circles of influence that inform your day-to-day code of conduct: e.g. family.

Summary Activities 

● Think back over all the ‘codes’ for behaviour that you and your class thought of.

● Do you feel it is important for society that people have some sort of ‘code’ to help them decide how to behave?

● Do you think individuals can follow more than one ‘code’? Could you give any examples?

● Do you think different communities following different ‘codes’ should be able to get along?

● Should there be a code of conduct when it comes to freedom of speech? Is it ok to say what you like, even if it offends somebody?

● Should there be a code of conduct when it comes to creative activity – e.g. music, film, writing? What code of conduct should the creators have? What about the consumers?

Explain your ideas, making your points as clearly as possible, and remembering to use reasoned, balanced arguments.