Letitia Meynell argues that professional schools must both integrate ethics across their curricula and include ethics education taught by people external to the profession and the school.
The case of the Dalhousie Dentistry School Class of 2015 Gentleman brought to the fore both the importance of ethics and our failures to adequately teach ethics at the university. While ethics is important across the academy, it is distinctively important and particularly challenging in professional training contexts. For better or worse, professionals generally are accorded positions of authority and respect in our society. They are frequently in positions of trust whether with regard to individual patients and clients (as with health care professionals and accountants) or with the public at large (as with engineers and architects). Thus it is reasonable to think that substantial effort should be put into equipping students in professional programs with a wide ranging and nuanced understanding of ethical issues and challenges, ranging from those particular to their line of work to quite general concerns about the public good.
While some maintain that professional schools should integrate ethics into their curricula—an approach that has recently been taken by Dalhousie’s Faculty of Management—I think there are important limitations to this approach. After all, ethical responsibilities must be understood not only from the perspective of those within the profession, but they must also be responsive to the interests of others not in the profession.
In house only ethics education risks insulating professional ethics from general ethical norms and practices that should inform the members of any just and functional society.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.