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Lessons Learned from FIPSE Projects II - September 1993

Ethics

Public concern about the failure of colleges and universities to develop a strong sense of ethical behavior in their graduates dates from the Watergate era. It has only been strengthened over the years by a series of major scandals involving people whose higher education, the public feels, should have provided them with a stronger ethical rudder. While higher education recognizes the limitations of instruction in ethics in channeling behavior, many programs, particularly professional ones, have responded seriously to the public concern.

The St. Cloud State program is a fine example, because of both its disciplinary breadth and its use of practicing professionals in the classroom. While the ultimate test of such a program, the lifelong attitudes and behaviors of the students who have completed the courses, can probably never be measured, changes in attitude and understanding between the beginning and the end of the course are firmly established.

The quality of ethical judgements in medical treatment has received similar public attention and led to the mandatory establishment of hospital ethics committees in most states. Higher education has an important role to play in training committee members in ethical thinking, a challenge that has been taken up successfully at the national level by humanities faculty at the University of Connecticut Medical School.

Both of these projects exemplify a new interest and willingness among philosophers to help people learn to deal thoughtfully with the practical problems of acting ethically.

[Union College] [Table of Contents] [University of Connecticut]

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Last Modified: 02/22/2006