Friday, February 1, 2008

Teaching Ethics

Last night I got in trouble because my 4.5 hour class got out 1.5 hours early.

Now for those of you who are in shock at the idea of keeping students in a class for 4.5 hours--fear not--you are not alone!

The class I teach is an introduction to Ethical philosophies, told from a pluralistic point of view--so we basically cover as many ethical theories as possible and learn why they're good, and why they're bad.

My students are here to study culinary arts, business, or medicine.

They don't care about Peter Railton or Ayn Rand.

But I have a responsibility to ensure that their education is well-rounded and that after they receive their diplomas--they can happily sit around the Thanksgiving table and nonchalantly drop a comment about the unhumanitarian pitfalls of act-utilitarianism. Isn't this why we go to college?!

My agenda when starting the class was to cover Ethics according to various religious points of view:
1) Navajo
2) Buddhism
3) Islam
4) Christianity
5) What do all these faiths have in common?

After a small break and a student presentation, we were going to break into groups to address individual student questions. I have the students bring questions to class every week. These questions help me to keep the discussion specific to their interests. I split them into groups of 2 and 3 and had them pick out 3 or 4 questions from the pile of questions and look for answers within the text book. Then they got up and presented their findings.

We took another break.

Then I introduced the idea of utilitarianism to the class.

I realize I could have spent more than an hour explaining the difference between act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. But we covered two clear cut thought experiments. We covered the good ways that utilitarian thought could be used to make choices. We covered the ways in which utilitarian thought devalues individual lives.

We covered it all.

and their little brains were still swimming from all the different religions we had previously covered.

So--rather than make them suffer through my droning for another hour and a half--

I let them go early.

Just as they were exiting, the Dean came by to visit the class.

Yay for timing!

Next week, I'm droning! Who cares about the limits that one brain can take in one night! Who cares about being the most interesting teacher! Who cares about watching the students fall asleep as you share your deepest feelings on compatibilism?!!

Not me. Nope. I'm a very secure person. And a good teacher who knows when enough is enough!

1 comment:

Ace said...

Wow. I can't imagine the Dean walking in. Although I've had my share of interesting experiences teaching too. :) Mostly having to do with substitute teachers.