Ethics for the Graduating Class: Issues, Needs, and Approaches

Ethics for the Graduating Class: Issues, Needs, and Approaches

Theresa M. Vitolo (Gannon University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-114-8.ch014
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Abstract

Teaching ethics is not about teaching right versus wrong, but is about teaching informed discernment, conscientious decision making, and balanced living. So should teaching these behaviors be the domain of higher education? For many years and in many institutions—even today—the teaching of ethics has not been embraced as part of the charge of higher education. However, as society has had to assimilate technology and as it has had to face the repercussions of unethical and illegal behaviors, one questions the ethical training of the professionals making the decisions. Since these professionals are the products of higher education, many institutions and accreditation boards are requiring their students to have exposure to ethical philosophy. Students in the technical fields may not benefit from a purely philosophical presentation of ethics. In fact, introducing the ethical dilemmas associated with real-life decisions about technology can be very formative and revealing to the student. While institutions have always been teaching students how to debug technology problems, institutions also need to teach students how to debug ethical decisions—to become aware that ethical decisions are also technology problems to be analyzed, understood, and appropriately resolved. Challenges to the goal of presenting ethical decisions as technical dilemmas arise from a variety of factors, however. The students and professors may be from different generations, from different cultural backgrounds, and from different professional experiences— and simply are of different points in personal development. Teaching ethics needs to identify these differences and develop the common ground for a shared, ethical perspective enabling a healthy stance for the profession. The arena facing the teaching of ethics in the technical professions and approaches to utilize are identified and described. The on-going challenges limiting the effort are explained. Altogether, a composite of the ethical dimension of graduating college students in the information systems and information technology (IS&T) fields is developed.

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