Ethics in Today's Universities

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"Beliefs; The university's role in instilling a moral code among students? None whatever, some argue" is an article written by Peter Steinfels. The article focuses on the opinion of several college professors about whether morality and an ethical code of conduct should be taught in universities. The article presents both sides of the argument and quotes from different educators but does not take a stand on whether ethics should be part of the university curriculum or not.

My initial reaction after reading this article was that academic institutions should only focus on education. I believed that a code of ethics should be established by my parents and my family and to some extent by teachers in grade school. After all, I reasoned, by the time I was 18 and in university, I already knew what was right or wrong and there was no need to waste time on an ethics class. I started to agree with Dean Fish who is quoted in the initial paragraphs of this article as writing in "The Chronicle of Higher Education," "You can't make them into good people, and you shouldn't try." After all, people never agree on what is right or wrong and everyone has their own standards and opinions. Starting a discussion would only open up a whole can of worms so it was best for Universities to forget about teaching ethics and to do what John J. Mearsheiner says in this article, and to leave it to the student, "to figure out the truth if there is one."

As I continued to read, I did figure out the truth, and changed my mind about my initial thesis--that the University should focus on academics and be "collectively silent on the issue of morality." That approach has not worked I believe. Cheating is very common within many univ...

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...should be guided by what Dennis Obrien, President of the University of Rochester, mentioned in this article calls "ascetic morality inherent in the very notions of research, discovery and scientific truth," How can we have "ascetic morality," or morality of any kind if we do not talk about it, if we sweep it under the carpet and wash our hands of it, and fail to include it in the curriculum. In response to Dean Fish who said we must not address the ethics issue because it will promote "vulgar multiculturalism and a soft core version of 60s radicalism," I say, he is wrong. I feel the strength of our country derives from being a melting pot of so many cultures, beliefs and values. I agree with the author that there will be divergent views and that it may be difficult to arrive at a consensus--that should not stop us from offering Ethics as part of the curriculum.

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