Thursday, June 01, 2006

Professional Ethics

BBC Story
NPR Story

It seems that soldiers in Iraq are now going to be taking basic ethics courses. My first thought on hearing this was, you mean they don't take ethics courses already? But then I remembered that many of my collegues in pastoral ministry haven't even taken ethics courses. Clearly some of our American CEOs are a bit lacking in ethics training too. And I'll bet that most Christians can't even tell you where to go in the Bible to find ethical teachings. (My first stop would be Matthew 5-7). Even in my whole career in academics, I myself have only taken one ethics course, and how much of it do I actually remember? So is it any suprise that our soldiers aren't receiving ethics training? Maybe we USAmericans need to take another look at how we do and teach ethics.


Anonymous Brian said...

I agree that there's a problem. I think part of the issue is we don't have a clear understanding of how we operationalize ethics. In government, when we talk about ethics we're typically talking about minimum standards of behavior. But I would strongly argue that meeting those minimum standards isn't any proof that someone is truly "ethical."

In corporate America, I think we can all agree that stealing money, lying about your financial statements to increase stock prices, and defrauding your customers is unethical behavior. But what about offshoring your workforce to save money, or intentionally underfunding (without violating the law) your pension plan, or only complying with minimal environmental standards even if you know your practices are harmful? Those are all unethical behaviors in my book, but aren't discussed as we talk about ethics for corporate america.

I think the real problem is that as a society we're very uncomfortable talking about truly ethical behavior, so instead we keep it on the surface and focus on minimum standards of acceptable behavior.

4:13 PM  

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