Why We Did It
Peter N. Berkowitz, Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission
Each year, school campuses fill up with new and returning students from diverse backgrounds - each seeking to achieve their ascribed visions of success. Some have already chosen their career paths, While others have yet to decide. One question in all their minds surely is what the future will bring. This is a time to recognize that one's choices bear consequences.
The educational setting will hold many challenges for them - some academic, some economic, and quite often, those that confront the ethical systems students were raised on. A study from Rutgers University showed that 62% of all university students admitted to cheating during the course of their matriculation. What does that startling percentage indicate? What does it mean to our Texas college students? Do they understand the deep impact their choices will have upon them and others? The problem was brought to the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission's (THGC) attention by many faculty asking for advice about topics that they may include in their instruction to guide students to make correct ethical decision and choices.
"Choosing right over wrong is one of the most important decisions a young adult can make."
In Texas, the new core curriculum is modiﬁed to include personal and social responsible perspectives. The THGC took on the task of identifying those topics that students must consider to perform at the best level to achieve their education. Under the direction of Dr. Anna Steinberger, our Higher Education Ethics Initiative subcommittee of twelve noted ethicists spent several years determining how to address our professors’ concerns. Working with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the THGC issued a contract to The University of Texas El Paso Academic Technologies department, to prepare educational modules for teaching both college and high school faculty how to address these topics.
Dr. Jeffrey Spike, Professor at the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics and Director of the Campus-Wide Ethics Program at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, noted that the “purpose of these topics is to have students choose right over wrong and be responsible for the consequences of their choices. What we propose are topics to be used … laying the foundations for appreciating the importance of ethics for decisions they must make. The topics are important because they focus on the issues every student faces in their freshman and sophomore years, when students are most in need of guidance.”
If we are to have a society where everyone has an opportunity to succeed and to live a fulﬁlled life, then we must practice our chosen professions with honor and integrity. The privilege and right of receiving an education is not without its challenges, but those who honestly achieve their goals will derive the satisfaction of knowing that they also serve as examples to the next generation.
We wish you success in your journeys wherever they may lead.
How We Did It
The Creative Studios Team @ Academic Technologies
Academic Technologies at The University of Texas at El Paso is known for its commitment to innovation, creativity, and effective integration of technology into teaching and learning for higher education. When the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission (THGC) ﬁrst approached us about this project, we were excited at the prospect of creating something engaging, meaningful, and useful for faculty to their professional development.
We quickly learned that the challenge regarding instruction in ethics is that many students are typically not exposed to identifying, analyzing, and applying ethical principles in their respective levels and ﬁelds of study. While general educational classes are designed with concepts and skills in mind to provide foundational knowledge to students, ethical paradigms of personal and social responsibility are not necessarily integrated directly or effectively.
In addition, students may lack ethical awareness (the process of identifying the ethical issues involved, the parties who have a stake in the action, what is at stake, and what the action options are), ethical judgment (the process of weighing the ethical considerations that bear on the situation and determining a course of action), and ethical action (the process of deciding that something is “right” or “wrong” is not enough—the value must be demonstrated and applied in one’s own behavior and in the treatment of others).
"We conceived of these modules; therefore, as introductory in scope, helping students set themselves on a course of life, and identifying values they can live by in order to achieve a happy and fulfilling life."
What we weren’t expecting is how the design and implementation of this project would affect our team so personally. We engaged in spirited conversations and reﬂected on our own ethical systems and decision-making. We shared stories from our own lives, some of which ended up as content or as media in these modules. It was an experience that none of us will forget.
Our ultimate hope for this project is for high school and college faculty to gain strategies and resources to integrate ethics and ethical concepts effectively in their classes, but also that students learn and apply this knowledge into their own relationships, into other classes they take, and into their communities.
The ﬁnal product for ethics, after all, is action.