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Five (5) ethics courses that are offered by the Faculty of Humanities and Education that have as their focus or an element of ethics training will be explored in this paper. These courses can be found in the Departments of: Language, Linguistics and Philosophy; Caribbean Media and Communication Centre (CARIMAC) and the Department of Theology in conjunction with the United Theological College. The Department of Language, Linguistics and Philosophy offers three undergraduate level courses (PH10B; LG30A and LG31A) and a postgraduate course (PH60B). For the purpose of this paper, the three undergraduate level courses will be explored due to a lack of information regarding the postgraduate course. The undergraduate level course that is offered by CARIMAC (MC20M) will also be explored. In addition, one course that is offered by the Department of Theology in conjunction with the United Theological College will be explored.
The Departments of: History and Archaeology; Literatures in English; and Modern Languages and Literature have no courses that focus on or have an element of ethics training. Upon a visit to the Department of Modern Languages and Literature, students were told that the focus of the Department was on Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese languages and literature. Though the receptionist did not verbally relay that there was no need for ethics in the studying of languages, her non-verbal expressions indicated the thought. Further, when she was asked if there were any courses in ethics training, she reminded the students that "this is Modern Languages and Literature!" The visit to the Department of History and Archaeology yielded the same fruit with the Head of the Department advising students that there were "no such courses' offered in the Department. The receptionist at the Department of Literatures in English voiced the same sentiment as those in the Departments of History and Archaeology and Modern Languages and Literature and explained that the best Department to ask for assistance with information on ethical courses was that of Language, Linguistics and Philosophy.
Department of Language, Linguistics and Philosophy
PH10B-Ethics and Applied Ethics
Ethics and Applied Ethics (PHIL 1002/ PH10B) is a three (3) credit, mandatory, level one core course for the major in Philosophy. The course is delivered in two lectures and one tutorial weekly, and is assessed through one tutorial presentation worth ten percent of the final grade, one essay worth thirty percent, and a final two hour exam worth sixty percent. The course can now only be taken in semester two but was previously offered in both semesters one and two. It is unknown at what point and the reasons why the course is now only offered in semester two.
The receptionists and Department staff members were unable to give the history of course lecturers prior to 2006 and did not appear to have the information on file. Nonetheless, students were advised that since 2006, Mr. Harvey Willis has been the lecturer for the course. Additional information could not be obtained as to the date at which Ethics and Applied Ethics commenced, however, the oldest course outline that could be located on the Department's file was that of 1997 (see Appendix A).
This course focuses heavily on morality and the role it plays in the decision making process of persons. It explores the relationship between morality and religion, education, politics, and the law and outlines theories that relate to "moral goodness and right action and their relationship with duty" (taken from the course description on the UWI website). Students learn about major theories (e.g. Absolutism, Relativism, Freedom, Causal Determinism and Fatalism) as well as ethical theories encompassing normati-ve (i.e. Utilitarianism, Kantianism and Virtue Ethics) and meta (Intuitionism, Emotivism, Prescriptivism) ethics; and are then required to apply their knowledge to moral issues such as Abortion, Capital Punishment, Euthanasia, Discrimination and Social Interaction (see Appendix B for 2009-2010 course outline).
These topics are ones that are important to philosophy as a major aspect of the field of philosophy is addressing such areas as knowledge about the self, existence, and truth, with an emphasis on rational argument. The course appears to be laid out in such a way that it is aligned with philosophy as a field. The presentation of the theories at the beginning of the course introduces students to the foundation on which much of their thinking further down in the course will be dependent on. The students, however, are further required to critically assess these theories, and analyze, compare, and question them. This fosters the required quality of thinking in the field of philosophy. In the second part of the course, the moral issues are introduced, and the student is now given an opportunity to now apply their knowledge and critiques of the ethical theories to practical moral situations.
It is not a requirement for undergraduates in general:
It is thought that this course would be beneficial to all students (philosophy, psychology linguistics etc.) given its attempt to combine theories, by way of its philosophical focus, with applied ethics. Both of these qualities would help students to develop or modify their personal ethics, and further help them in their general professional endeavours. In spite of these positive aspects, this course is not a requirement for all students within this faculty and as ethics is important to all fields, the course should be a mandatory part of each area of academic focus. Leaving it up to the students' discretion (that is as an elective), means an increased possibility of an output of professionals with limited understanding of ethical guidelines and perhaps even questionable integrity.
The content of the course has been observed to encompass the important aspects of ethics as it is related to philosophy. The course may be more effective, however, as a two part course, or a year long course. The course will have similar structure, but the first course would cover the ethical theories, and the second course will cover their applications to the moral issues presented. In this way, material would be covered more thoroughly and in depth.
The course places a heavy emphasis on learning the various theories. Lectures are primarily devoted to arguing and debating the theories, while tutorials touch on the moral issues mentioned above. Thus sufficient time is not spent discussing moral or ethical dilemmas, as it is thought that when students write their final paper they will take a position about one of the issues stated above (i.e. Abortion, Capital Punishment, Euthanasia, Discrimination and Social Interaction) and therefore do not need to partake in class discussions that are focused on applying theoretical knowledge to practical dilemmas.
Although the course aims to foster critical thought, as it compels one to "think outside the box", and form an opinion about "right and wrong" based on the major ethical theories or frameworks it is limited in the social issues it chooses to focus on as was previously mentioned. Furthermore, it does not try to relate to the different professions for which students are being trained to give them a more in depth understanding of how ethics would apply to their professional lives, thus the applied portion becomes limited in its scope. For example, a student may wish to pursue a life in Academia and may need to understand the nuances of dual/multiple relations which are issues they would not have covered.
The final exam focuses on the theories instead dilemmas, which seems to devalue its applied component. This highlights the interpretation that the course is less concerned with finding solutions or providing ethical guidelines to moral issues; and more on learning and understanding philosophical theories.
Department of Language, Linguistics & Philosophy
The Art of Public Speaking - LANG3001 (LG30A)
The Art of Public Speaking is a semester long course that is typically offered in the first semester of the academic year. While it is a course offering in the Department of Language, Linguistics and Philosophy, the lecturer, Vivienne Harding, noted that a significant percentage of the students belonged to the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC). This course, an elective for third year students, offers three credits and requires that students have a grade of 'C' or better in either, UC120/UC10A/UC10B/FD14A/FD10A (required language foundation courses) to participate. Each student is expected to attend three hours of class each week, which includes one hour of lecture and two hours of workshops.
Though not a significant portion of the course itself, the topic of ethics in language and communication and specifically in public speaking, is typically addressed during the fifth week of the semester and is one of six content areas covered. Chapter 2 in Stephen Lucas' The Art of Public Speaking (2007) is the text used to guide this session. Ethical considerations for this section of the course include the importance of ethics to public speaking, guidelines for ethical speaking, guidelines for ethical listening as well as plagiarism. Given the nature of presentations, speeches and public speaking in general, research on the part of the presenter is expected. During the process of relaying investigated secondary information, the speaker would be expected to carefully and accurately represent the information found, ensuring that the appropriate authors, for example are given due credit. This ethical presentation of information would also entail the speaker avoiding abusive language and being fully prepared. With regards to ethical listening, audience members are expected to be courteous, attentive and to avoid prejudging the speaker.
This course covers ethics in a manner that perhaps is taken for granted or not even considered. While the idea of avoiding plagiarism is instilled into the university's students, the implications of not crediting authors may not be considered in the context of a speech. Similarly, it may be likely for most persons to consider being inattentive during a speech as impolite but perhaps it may not have been regarded as an ethical breach. That being said, LG30A seems to succeed in bringing forth ethical issues in an area that can easily be overlooked.
Outside of the content, the time spent discussing these issues seem too concise. Taking into consideration the wide array of topics and the practical nature of the course, it may be understandably difficult to cover all the areas relevant to ethics in public speaking. However, instead of spending only 3 hours, it may be more appropriate to dedicate two to three lectures, in order to ensure sound coverage of the key points of ethical considerations given the limitations of time.
Finally, given the significant amount of practical work involved in this course, the assessment methods used seem appropriate, even without a section or assignment that directly addresses ethical behaviour. Ethical conduct for this topic is something that has to be integrated throughout the semester. Furthermore the assessments, in particular the speech writing and speech analysis assignments, should integrate relevant ethical procedures such as comprehensive research of the speech topic to be presented.
Business Communication: Principles and Practices - LANG3101(LG31A)
Business Communication: Principles and Practices is a third year elective offered in the first semester of the academic year. It is a three credit course that requires a grade of 'C' or better in UC120/UC10A/UC10B/FD14A/FD10A (required language foundation courses) for enrolment.
According to the course outline, the course seeks to endorse students' understanding of the principles and processes of business communication. It also aims to develop students' skills in transactional, informational and persuasive correspondence in various business scenarios. LG31A does not have an entire ethics related component; however in week three of module one lecturers address Ethics in Business Communication. This lecture is taken from a variety of sources including the texts, Business Communication by Mary Ellen Guffey (2006) and Ethical Perspectives for Caribbean Business by Noel Cowell (2007). Components of ethics in business communication include integrating knowledge of relevant principles, such as integrity, to develop effective decision making and communication skills. It also entails important goals of effective business communicators such as abiding by the law, telling the truth, labelling opinions as such and not as facts, being objective, communicating clearly, using inclusive language (not excluding individuals or specific groups) and finally, giving credit. A brief background is given in these texts on the history of ethics as well as importance of ethics in the business setting.
Although the course outline states that the subject is evaluated through in class assignments only and therefore does not offer final examinations, this seems to be a recent change as examination past papers are as recent as 2008. The reason for this change is unknown; however questions from past papers are still being used in the "in-course test" administered in the ninth week of the semester. The test for this semester included a tree part question on an ethical case study (see appendix).
One of the strong points of the way this course seems to be taught currently is that it appears to value the importance of considering some of the unique cultural experiences that may occur in the Caribbean business community. Though small, the Caribbean community may evoke different situations than the work environment overseas. In the Jamaican context for example, employees may be fearful of telling the truth or speaking against fellow co-workers or bosses owing to a fear of having their lives threatened.
Similar to the Art of Public Speaking, ethics should be integrated throughout the course and therefore should not be isolated to a specific time frame. In spite of this criticism, this course seems to go a step further however in that they also learn to assess case studies and apply theoretical skills to real life situations as indicated by the level of application required by the in-course test.
Language Ethics (LANG2001) - (LG20A)
Language Ethics was a course designed to introduce students to the ethical considerations which affect language use. This course unfortunately is no longer being offered due low enrolment rates. A course once taught by Dr. Ramsey, this course was last taught in the second semester of 2004/2005 according to Professor Vivienne Harding. A possible solution to the issue of low enrolment might have been to make this course compulsory to language and linguistic majors. The course description given in the departmental handbook shows overlaps in the topics currently covered in other courses, such as the Art of Public Speaking, and could reduce the need for lecturers to do in depth discussions and focus more on other content area.
Caribbean Media and Communication Centre
Media Ethics and Legal Issues (MC20M)
Media Ethics and Legal Issues is a mandatory three (3) credit course for the major in Media and Communication. It is delivered in semester two with a weekly two hour lecture as well as an hour long tutorial. MC20M is assessed through two in course assignments which represents a total of 60% of the final grade as well as a mid semester exam worth 40%. There is no final exam for this course. MC20M is also a general pre-requisite for all CARIMAC programmes and is the only course offered that focus on Ethical training. The course has a practical and theoretical component. The Practical component focuses on legal issues that arise in the field such as defamation and freedom of expression. The theoretical component explores areas such as ethical theories and nature of law. This type of course content allows students to not only have a theoretical grasp but also a practical understanding of the ethical issues that are likely to affect them when they embark on their careers. It also sharpens their ethical decision making skills by providing opportunities for the students to apply their theoretical knowledge and understanding to practical situations.
In the practical component, concepts are applied using case studies. Students are given an opportunity to demonstrate understanding of the material through discussions of case studies and essays.
The course generally seems very comprehensive as it encompasses statute law, common law, theories, ethical considerations and Codes of conduct.
The course is an important aspect of the field of media and communication because it involves gathering, processing, and disseminating information through various media such as the television, internet, radio and newspaper. However, the focus of the course appears to be too general and so students may only be exposed to the foundations of ethical discourse. The course is delivered in three hours over a one semester time span. The time allotted for sessions is adequate for a general introduction of ethics; however, there should be a follow-up course that focuses specifically on the particular profession/programme being pursued.
Department of Theology in conjunction with the United Theological College
Introduction to Theological Ethics (T13B/THEO2302)
Introduction to Theological Ethics (T13B) is a first year course that introduces students to notable theorists in Theological Ethics and these notables' position on personal and societal morality. There are no prerequisites for doing the course and if the course is successfully completed, three (3) credits are awarded.
The course is mandatory for students at the United Theological College who are pursuing a Certificate in Ministerial Studies. The course does not appear to be mandatory for students pursuing a Licentiate in Theology, Bachelor of Arts in Theology or the Certificate in Ministerial Studies.
Though the course is not mandatory for most of the three above-mentioned Theological programmes, other Ethics courses are required for successful programme completion. Nevertheless, due to the fact that there may be no standardization in the content area covered across the various courses, Theology students may receive varying levels of ethical training.
It appears that there are less than ten (10) taught ethics courses in the Faculty of Humanities and Education and these courses are largely concentrated in the departments of: Language, Linguistics and Philosophy and Theology in conjunction with the United Theological College. As there is no ethics course that is mandatory for all students in the Faculty of Humanities and Education, there may be a discrepancy in the equality of ethics training thus some students may be exposed to an inconsistent and in some cases insufficient exposure to ethical issues and realities they may face upon graduation.
This is a re-typing of the 1997 course outline for PH10B/Ethics and Applied Ethics as the staff in the Department of Language, Linguistics and Philosophy were unable to provide a hard copy of the course outline.
PH10 Ethics and Applied Ethics
Offered: Semester II
This course first critically outlines some of the major theories of moral goodness and right action. Attention is focused on the concepts of moral rights and duties.
The second half of the course then takes a series of 'live' moral issues and discusses possible argued responses to them, including some generated by the ethical theories outlined in the first half.
The aim of the course is to sharpen critical thinking about contemporary moral issues, as well as developing philosophical techniques within ethics.
1. The possibility of an Ethical Theory
Moral truths-Are there facts of the matter about what is morally good or right?
Freedom, Causal Determinism and Fatalism.
The alleged gap between fact and value
Social, racial and sexual discrimination
Two lectures and one tutorial topic.
One exam (2 hours)-60%
One long or two short essays-40%
Main Book List
W.D Hudson. Modern Moral Philosophy. Macmillan, 1970.
James Rachels ed. Moral Problems. Harper & Row, 1971
Jonathan Glover. Causing Death and Saving Lives. Penguin, 1977.
Is ethical relativism a defensible doctrine?
"Without freedom of the will the notion of moral responsibility makes no sense." Discuss.
Comment on the alleged gap between fact and value.
Critically examine one normative ethical theory
Comment on the plausibility of one meta-ethical theory
Is abortion ever morally justifiable? Defend your answer.
Under what circumstances, if any, is euthanasia morally permissible?
"Capital punishment poses important philosophical questions."
Examine one moral issue in the light of two ethical theories.
Comment on the similarities and differences between racism and sexism.
This is a re-typing of a portion the 2009 course outline for PH10B/Ethics and Applied Ethics as the staff in the Department of Language, Linguistics and Philosophy were unable to provide a hard copy of the course outline.
PH10 Ethics and Applied Ethics
Offered: Semester II
The focus is on the theories of the nature and justification of ethical concepts and decision procedures. Issues include relation between motive and moral justification. Is morality objective, relative or absolute? Is moral knowledge possible? What is the relation between morality and sociology, politics, law, conscience and religion? Theories of moral goodness and right action and relationship to duty are explored. Issues in applied ethics are explored with a view to sharpen critical thinking about burning contemporary moral issues.
Part 1: Possibility of an ethical theory.
Major theories: Absolutism, Relativism, Freedom, Causal Determinism, Fatalism and Moral truths.
Moral Issues: Abortion, Capital Punishment, Euthanasia, Discrimination and social interaction
Two lectures and one tutorial topic.
Tutorial attendance and presentation
Essay (2500 words)
Sample Tutorial Topics
Do humans have free will, or are we fated?
Is Euthanasia ever morally justified