I recently ran across a good paper, written in 2005 and posted to the SSRN website: “A Survey of Ethics Courses in State College and University Curricula,” by Angela Hernquist. Her final question is one that students should be asking their professors and deans in every department and school on this campus: “If the manner in which ethics is incorporated into the undergraduate curriculum is a direct reflection of the goals and priorities of the institution, what constitutes a ‘well-educated’ student at your institution?” Hernquist poses some well-worn but still important questions about the choices available to faculties (stand-alone ethics electives vs. integrated ethics material, for example), and she does a nice job of surveying faculty teaching objectives and student learning objectives. After a semester that has seen some skepticism about the value of ethics instruction in higher education, the question her paper poses is just as pressing (and just as resistant to pat answers) as ever:
On a regular basis, we have seen the headlines in the news implicating governments, companies, and individuals for unethical conduct and it is apparent that ethics are an integral component of the challenges and opportunities that present themselves in everyday life. Certainly, higher education is not the only answer to the teaching of ethics. However, it seems only logical that a well-educated individual who successfully graduates from an institution of higher education should have developed and exercised some critical thinking and reasoning capabilities to deal with the complexities and issues involved with ethical dilemmas as part of their education and preparation for professional practice.