Ethics courses for universities

ethics course

Universities are centers of learning and development.

Discovering the world, and bringing discoveries to the world.


There’s a continuous change in discovering and understanding of how things work in the world. There’s a continuous connection between the dynamics of society and the dynamics of learning and development.

Clearly, universities and society are related.


The goal of learning is to prepare students for their work and life in society. Students are the future of society. What they will do, will have an effect. They will be the ones who have to respond to society’s future problems.

But in reality learning in universities is often detached from society.
It’s not embedded in the reality of society.

What are insights worth, if society doesn’t accept it?
What are solutions worth, if it’s not being implemented in society?


You want students to become conscious, caring individuals, who see the world around them, and understand how their work is connected to it. You want your students to keep their sharp eye and critical mind, because they are the ones who will be making the changes in the future. But they need to be aware that those changes are effecting society and they have a responsibility in it.

The students time at university will be meaningful, when they don’t just learn the textbooks. They need to reflect on the reality of complex ethical dilemmas they will be dealing with in their future practice. Their future work, whether it’s research or practical work, will have ethical dilemmas. It gets problematic when these ethical dilemmas aren’t recognized.

ethics courses for universitiesThey will have to be able to respond to ethical dilemmas. On time. With sound arguments. Empathetic to people in society.

Having a knapsack full of knowledge of their field alone will not be sufficient.

Through an Ethics Course they will be taught how to decide on the moral right action. They will learn how to systematically reflect on ethical dilemmas, on issues that have an effect on multiple amount of people. New research, new technologies, new views that solve one problem, create another. Ethical dilemmas arise. The ideals and values of researchers, society and government can conflict. Continuous development in technology and research raises ethical questions and problems: what is the right thing to do? Is progress always right? What positive and negative effect does your work have on the world? Knowing how to answer these questions, make students more responsible individuals. Now, and later in life and work.

Look back at your student life, which courses were useful?

Did you take classes because they were about life? Do you remember later at work, when you were confronted with an ethical dilemma? whatever you choose to do, the action would never be right?  And worse, you had to be accountable for what you’ve done? I know a lot of students don’t want to take ethics courses. They think it’s boring and unnecessary.

Dilemmas? Are there any dilemmas? People in society just don’t understand. And any moral problem can be easily solved. That’s the standard reaction for saying that Ethics is not necessary to learn. While you think later in life: I wish I had ethics classes, that are useful later in life.

But I know, and you as a coordinator in charge of the curriculum know out of experience, that students will be confronted with dilemmas. Continuously they’ll have to be accountable for what they say and do. Wherever they will work.

 

They will need clarity and depth to understand the values, needs and ideals of others.

And it’s up to the universities to teach them.

People who put ethics courses in the curriculum don’t follow the silent obedient path of saying yes and amen to what they’re told to do. They think about what is needed. They reflect, they see connections between the curriculum and society, they see the necessity of ethics.They choose a job in education, because they want to have influence through students, students who will have an effect on their society, environment and surroundings.

This might sound strange, but honestly: I used to hate Ethics during my philosophy education.

I thought the ethics classes were boring, and not connected to the outside world. I didn’t feel it. It wasn’t real. So, I know the deal. I know what it takes to let ethics sink in, how to make it real, personal and resonating.

I let students go through different emotions of frustration, happiness, anger, because I am pushing their boundaries, letting them think about the things they say, and how it connects to the real world. They sometimes complain that they get a headache from all the thinking and reflecting, but at the end of the course they are enthusiastic, understand the use of ethics, and some even take a minor in philosophy.

ethics course for universitiesEthics is one of the oldest subjects taught, yet it’s value isn’t recognized anymore.

Universities can be very methodical, cold, and rational. That has its good sides. Universitie should teach students theories and science. It should have a methodical way, and things need to be stated correctly.

But the culture of universities should also be a culture of an open critical mind.

Open and critical to oneself and one’s own thoughts, values and paradigms, because this does have an effect on learning and development.

And it should be a culture of an open mind to the values and emotions of people in society. Being open for emotions and values isn’t soft, and it doesn’t have to blur learning and development of theories and practice. It makes what you learn real. It prevents conflicts and gaps between them as future professionals and society. Everything has emotions and values, denying that is placing yourself in a disconnected ivory tower. Ethics teaches students to have a nuanced, independent and open mind to understand people in society who have nothing with science/educated people.

ethics courses for universitiesAbout Fenanda Jacobs

Besides my work as a consultant and trainer, I’m happy to give lectures and work groups in Ethics at several universities for several years. The students have a very diverse background, ranging from Biology and Physical Therapy to Bio-Medical Sciences and Social Law.

I care about the students themselves, their well-being, and them having their ideals put in the world with integrity, that they stay whole, and truthful to themselves, be flexible and grounded at the same time.  That they know what they’re doing and why they are doing it, and that taking responsibility is a good thing.

I will serve the students by teaching in a calm, open and personal way, but also critical, pushing the edges of their thinking. I allow them to makes mistakes and explore new depths, and let them have fun with it. This way makes them feel more comfortable, which is necessary for better understanding.

The way I work is with honesty, a great sense of responsibility of my work, and I practice what I preach. I don’t bullshit students with bullshit answers. When I don’t know an answer – which is common in ethics – I tell them I don’t know, but I will research the question with the students in a truthful way.

 

In an Ethics course, students will be working on:

  • Understanding the different ethical theories.
  • Practicing their reasoning skills.
  • Uncovering the different layers of (hidden) perspectives, arguments and values.
  • Becoming aware of their thinking, feeling, views, and values.
  • Finding words to express what they think and feel about certain situations in their field.
  • Practicing discussing emotional subject matters.
  • Becoming open-minded and nuanced about a variety of views.
  • Scanning for opportunities, improvement, new ideas to solve ethical dilemmas.

Every field has it’s own specific dilemmas

The fields in which I  work are:

  • Life Sciences (like Biology, Ecology, Environmental Sciences, Sustainability)
  • Health Sciences (like Biomedical Sciences, Health Care, Medical School)
  • Social Sciences (like Anthropology, Communication, Sociology, Law)
  • Technical Sciences (like ICT and Engineering School)

If you’re interested in an Ethics course for your university, you can contact me with your request.

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