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In this activity your students grapple with real problems faced by real people working together in small groups. This type of activity can help them develop small group discussion and decision making skills.
I based the first three situations on news accounts, the fourth on the film 12 ANGRY MEN. Should you want additional ones, you can easily create your own. Scan newspapers and newsmagazines (paper or digital) until you find a story that would appeal to your students. Immerse yourself in its facts, then draft your own handout. Click here for more suggestions and resources.
- during this class period students will focus on a real world problem
- there are multiple possible outcomes to the situation, any or all of which might be "right"
- the purpose of the activity is to
- organize and conduct an effective small group
- explore the situation
- identify possible outcomes
- weigh the consequences of each possible outcome
- select an outcome by majority vote or consensus (depending on the situation's requirements)
For those of you who use reading assignments to help students expand their vocabularies, I have two suggestions.
If you are looking for examples of Tough Choices faced by individuals, take a peek at the work of Rushworth Kidder. His book How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living is incredible. You can read the first chapter online. If you like what you read, you'll probably want to see Kidder's commentaries on contemporary events. You'll also find a dilemma of the month posted on his Institute for Global Ethics web site. Their links to other ethics sites is also useful.
In a middle school class I taught, I created a set of 3 assignments built around ideas Kidder presented in his book. Here are links to them.
- Spotting ethical situations
- Writing values statements
- Resolving ethical dilemmas
The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, prompted a tidal wave of analysis. I found Kidder's thoughts among the most useful.
Dear Abby is an activity that allows students to explore ethical dilemmas from a different perspective.
Here are additional links to sites where you'll find discussion about ethical dilemmas facing contemporary culture.
Justice is one of the most popular courses in Harvard’s history. Nearly one thousand students pack Harvard’s historic Sanders Theatre to hear Professor Sandel talk about justice, equality, democracy, and citizenship. Now it’s your turn to take the same journey in moral reflection that has captivated more than 14,000 students, as Harvard opens its classroom to the world.
This course aims to help viewers become more critically minded thinkers about the moral decisions we all face in our everyday lives.
In this 12-part series, Sandel challenges us with difficult moral dilemmas and asks our opinion about the right thing to do.
He then asks us to examine our answers in the light of new scenarios. The result is often surprising, revealing that important moral questions are never black and white.
Sorting out these contradictions sharpens our own moral convictions and gives us the moral clarity to better understand the opposing views we confront in a democracy.
This course also addresses the hot topics of our day—same sex marriage, affirmative action, patriotism and rights—and Sandel shows us that we can revisit familiar controversies with a fresh perspective.
Professor Sandel believes the process of thinking our way through the difficult moral questions of our day—figuring out what we think, and why—helps make us better citizens.
And, for those who like their intellectual stimulation on paper, Professor Sandel's book, Justice: What Is the Right Thing to Do?, is available from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Justice-Whats-Right-Thing-Do/dp/0374180652/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1255397661&sr=1-1
This site is designed to help high school biology teachers wanting to prepare a standalone bioethics course, or to incorporate bioethics into their existing curriculum.
This is the University of Pennsylvania's award winning site that covers many aspects of bioethics at the dawn of the 21st century.
This site is MSNBC's archive of recent essays by Arthur Caplan and Glenn McGee. They are short, to the point, and enticing.
This site is CNN's archive of essays by Jeffrey P. Kahn of the University of Minnesota's Center for Bioethics.
Among other things, each fall the Josephson Institute publishes the results of its annual survey of American youth concerning violence and ethics. Check in to see how we stack up. You'll also find lesson plans geared to children of all ages.
The Indiana University School of Journalism says about its site, "This set of cases has been created for teachers, researchers, professional journalists and consumers of news to help them explore ethical issues in journalism. The cases raise a variety of ethical problems faced by journalists, including such issues as privacy, conflict of interest, reporter- source relationships, and the role of journalists in their communities."
The stated mission of this site "is to provide engineers, scientists, and science and engineering students with resources useful for understanding and addressing ethically significant problems that arise in their work, and to serve those who are promoting learning and advancing understanding of responsible practice in engineering and science."
As I type, the argument over the safety of food produced from genetically modified organisms rages. Here are links to sites that allow you to explore it.
- New York Times coverage of the genetically modified foods issue
- The UK's Guardian Online coverage
- The Why Files looks at the science behind the news.
- SCOPE looks at the risks and benefits of genetically modified foods
- Yahoo's links to a wide range of sites and articles
- Monsanto's defense
- In May 2000, the Prince of Wales entered the fray and triggered a slew of criticism.
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original web posting: Wednesday, May 31, 2000
last modified: Wednesday, November 18, 2009