The dilemma of teaching ethical dilemmas Jenny Robertson
Aims • To provide an overview of teaching and learning related to ethical dilemmas in preparation for AS3.4.
Firstly ... What is ethics? • Ethics refers to well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues. Ethics, for example, refers to those standards that impose the reasonable obligations to refrain from rape, stealing, murder, assault, slander, and fraud. Ethical standards also include those that enjoin virtues of honesty, compassion, and loyalty. And, ethical standards include standards relating to rights, such as the right to life, the right to freedom from injury, and the right to privacy. Such standards are adequate standards of ethics because they are supported by consistent and well-founded reasons. (Ref Markkula Centre Santa Clara University)
....Cont. • Ethics also refers to the study and development of one's ethical standards. As mentioned above, feelings, laws, and social norms can deviate from what is ethical. So it is necessary to constantly examine one's standards to ensure that they are reasonable and well-founded. Ethics also means, then, the continuous effort of studying our own moral beliefs and our moral conduct, and striving to ensure that we, and the institutions we help to shape, live up to standards that are reasonable and solidly-based.
Another definition .... FYI • ‘The field of ethics (or moral philosophy) involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. Philosophers today usually divide ethical theories into three general subject areas: metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics.’ (Ref University of Tennessee)
Metaethics • The study of the origin and meaning of ethical concepts. • Where our ethical principles come from, and what they mean. Are they merely social inventions? Do they involve more than expressions of our individual emotions? Metaethical answers to these questions focus on the issues of universal truths, the will of God, the role of reason in ethical judgments, and the meaning of ethical terms themselves
Normative ethics • Takes on a more practical task, which is to arrive at moral standards that regulate right and wrong conduct. This may involve articulating the good habits that we should acquire, the duties that we should follow, or the consequences of our behaviour on others.
Applied ethics • Involves examining or analysing specific controversial issues, such as abortion, pornography, access to fertility treatments or euthanasia. • Noting that for health education purposes, the issue needs to be one that relates directly to people’s well-being.
NZC – HPE links • The combination of ideas related to metaethics, normative ethics, and especially applied ethics fits well with the socio-ecological perspective, and the values underpinning the H&PE approach to health promotion, and particularly the way this understanding of ethics relates to the values of social justice.
As for ‘dilemmas’ • Think of a dilemma much in terms of a dictionary meaning – a quandary or a predicament - a situation in which somebody must choose one of two or more alternatives
So what is an ‘ethical dilemma’? • For health education purposes, an ethical dilemma is typically a controversial issue (related to people’s well-being) that presents a situation where people (in a society) have differing perspectives (inclusive of values and beliefs) about what they think is morally right or wrong.
What the learning needs to unpack for AS3.4 • Spend some time developing understanding what ethics is about, particularly ‘applied ethics’ and ... • What an (applied) ethical issue is (ie one that is controversial and is a distinctly moral issue (and not just a legal one or a matter of social policy) • For reference use online university websites (see handouts and NCEA tasks)
Select an issue • In 2012 the external assessment specifications will limit the choice • In 2013, the move to internal assessment for 3.4 will open up that choice – select something of interest to students AND which is an issue of current or recent debate – it needs to be supported by recent and relevant evidence (some NZ in addition to any international)
Investigate • A range of people who express ideas that are generally in favour, and those who are generally against the issue (ie). • What is it they believe is right or wrong and where do these ideas come from? • Use lists (see those supplied as additional notes) to decide upon the principles people are adopting when making these (moral) decisions.
.... And ..... • Key ideas to develop are thing like .... are the moral beliefs based on personal or social benefit (eg personal gain or social good), or based on duty towards others? • Ensure that students collect actual examples from their investigations that they can use as evidence to back up their explanations in their analysis.
The ‘critical analysis’ (so far) • 1st criterion: Explain, comprehensively, a contemporary dilemma or ethical issue from differing perspectives. • The critical analysis lens here is the process of working out what the nature of the ethical dilemma is, then analysing where the moral thinking and beliefs for and against come from and what they are based on.
And then the tricky bit ... • 2nd criterion: Analyse, perceptively, possible implications of the differing perspectives on the well-being for individuals, others, and society. • At the moment the focus is on: Individual(as related to human rights and personal safety), others (in relation to social structures like family or friendship or other peer relationships), society (as related to culture and opportunities for health promotion)
Suggestion • Pose a situation based around a person directly affected by the issue. • What impact will the people who hold views for and against the issue have on the affected person’s well-being ... As an individual, in their relationships and as part of a society ....? • NOTE this gets a bit contrived!!!! Try to identify the more meaningful aspects ... TODISCUSS ..... using the lists of principles
Something we need to add into the mix • In order to keep the focus of the implications on the ‘ethical’ aspects of the issue and not on the practice in itself (legal or otherwise), the use of a set of principles like those provided (there will be other versions) is needed to work out what they implications might be • Task and discussion to work this idea through .....
Task ... Select a familiar ethical dilemma • From your general knowledge, identify a reason why some might support the issue and others are against it - what beliefs/ values etc do they hold and WHERE do these come from? • Relate or match these values/beliefs to ONE of the sets of principles supplied – NOW decide what the implications for the well-being of people and society might be .....
For excellence • A range of perspectives for and against and the basis for these - with relevant evidence clearly related to the main aspects of the debate (avoid too much fringe stuff – keep to the main debate). • Consideration of the individual, other and societal impacts in accordance with the framework provided for these and with a focus on how the perspectives NOT the actual practice impact on well-being.
Work this thinking through • Pose a situation based around a person directly affected by the issue. • What impact will the people who hold views for and against the issue have on the affected person’s well-being ... As an individual, in their relationships and as part of a society ....? • Recall: Individual (as related to human rights and personal safety), others (in relation to social structures like family or friendship or other peer relationships), society (as related to culture and opportunities for health promotion)
The alignment – what’s changing? • External to internal – frees up context and choice of issue • Excellence criterion: ‘Analyse, perceptively, a contemporary ethical issue in relation to well-being.’ • First part stays much the same – the (critical) analysis requires ‘explaining the differing and opposing perspectives on the issue, and the reasons for these different perspectives’
... And .... • Get rid of that nasty second criterion and make it more flexible in order to talk about the impacts of the ethical dilemma on the well-being of people and society (in combination not necessarily separately) so the remainder of the analysis is about ‘explaining the implications of these differing and opposing perspectives for the well-being of people and society’