Greetings from Big Sky country…

I’ve been speaking today to the Centre for Ethics here in Missoula, at the University of Montana, about the purpose of teaching Ethics as an academic subject.

Some of the points we discussed were:
¢ In an ethics class we take students – and don’t in our classes in Higher Education –transmit an ethic.
¢ We school our students in the problems of identifying the good – but we refrain from dictating their conclusions.
¢ They come to us, they ponder the good –then we set them loose..
¢ What have we done?
¢ We ask that they understand, but not that they implement…

I asked whether we ought to see ourselves also as helping students develop their moral character? Unlike a more straight empirical discipline, the teaching of ethics may be an area where we wish to bring about in some sense a transformation of the student: should this be our goal?


Comments says:

Hello David,This is a very interesting topic for me. First, I just had to click on the “big sky” title because I would like to think that we have big skies in Colorado too. Second, I am pursuing my master’s degree at Naropa University in Religious Studies. This is a little odd since my undergrad degree was Political Science. My eventual goal is to find a way to teach tolerance in the classroom. I would like to think that tolerance could be considered a civic ethic, but I am not completely sure that America is there yet. I am intrigued by your question about the transformation of the student. I wonder if the transformative (i hope, anyway) practice of compassion can be part of the traditional classroom. On the other hand, my university goes a little overboard on the contemplative side of things. Seriously, renouncing the world and sitting on a pillow is a bit of a cop-out if you ask me. My question is: how can one achieve a balance between intellect and intuition while remaining engaged with others? I still struggle with that one and I hope to pass the conundrum on to the next generation. Laura (from the Philosophers list)

David W... says:

Be assured – there are no pillows to sit on at the University of Gloucestershire…

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