I am a regular reader of University of Houston historian Steven Mintz’s blog at Insider Higher Ed. In his most recent post, he responds to Ezekiel Emanuel’s New York Times op-ed on ethics education in American universities. We wrote about that piece here.
Mintz is generally supportive of Emanuel’s piece. A taste:
Let’s not ignore ethics education—and let it languish as a subspecialty within philosophy, where it can become too abstract and less practical or applied. At the very least, let’s do a better job of preparing students to be able to hold two competing ideas in their heads and to hold more nuanced views about complex topics.
Dr. Emanuel’s article points to a big problem at today’s universities: the lack of any collective agreement about what kinds of students we want to graduate or what the ultimate responsibility is among those who are charged with educating undergraduates.
But I am growing more optimistic. The winds of change are in the air. Recent events have underscored glaring gaps in the higher education that colleges provide their students. There is a deepening sense that we are producing graduates who can’t write as well as they ought to; lack the mathematical and statistical literacies needed to function effectively in a data-rich, data-driven society; aren’t sufficiently literate about the social and natural sciences; and, worst of all, are succumbing to overly simplistic, unnuanced views of dizzyingly complex issues.
The most practical answer, I suspect, may not lie in stand-alone courses on ethics and moral reasoning, but in embedding ethics education across the curriculum. How about incentivizing faculty in every discipline to incorporate an ethics component in their classes?
In my U.S. history survey classes, I teach a host of ethically fraught issues involving slavery, Indian removal, territorial expansion, foreign intervention, the use of atomic weapons, persistent racial inequality and much more. I myself need to do more to treat these as ethical issues.
Regardless of your discipline, you, too, have opportunities to incorporate a serious discussion of ethics in your classes. Let’s do it.
Read the entire piece here.
My own institution, Messiah University, a place where Christian ethics is fused throughout the curriculum, just added a separate ethics component to its general education program. All students at Messiah must now take a course in ethics, from the perspective of a variety of disciplines, in order to graduate.