Advances in science demand an earlier introduction to ethics
Posted on September 14, 2011
You might recall an article I posted in July that made the case for moral instruction at the high school level. David Briceno wrote that:
Even though most young people are not immoral, criminal or evil, there still needs to be secular (nonreligious) ethics classes in America’s high schools that teach modern moral issues so that teens can be well-informed when it comes to making right moral choices in their lives.
This sentiment was echoed last week by Paul O’Donoghue, a clinical psychologist and president of the Irish Skeptics Society, who wrote in the Irish Times that:
In an increasingly multicultural and secular environment, which continues to undergo rapid change, it is crucial that formal education and training in the methods of ethical and moral reasoning and analysis be provided as early as possible in the education system.
I agree with both Briceno and O’Donoghue. It is a shame the American and other public school systems ignore formal instruction on basic and foundational concepts like right and wrong, good and bad, and moral character. Childrens’ beliefs on such concepts shape the kind of people they will become, and kind of acts they will perform.
Yet O’Donoghue has another compelling reason for an earlier introduction to ethics. Advances in science and technology — which promise to eradicate disease, extend human life, improve cognitive abilities, and allow parents to choose the sex, and know the future health, of their babies — raise ethical questions not previously considered by much of humanity.
There is also an evolving philosophical movement that concerns itself with future possibilities in science that are likely to generate new ethical challenges. … Given scientific advances, what may now seem like science fiction may rapidly become real and available. To preserve a vibrant and effective democracy we need our citizens to be well informed, competent and critical thinkers. To achieve this we need to ensure that the necessary experience is available to students at the earliest appropriate stage in their education.
Just a thought: if the general argument for ethics instruction (i.e., that ethics is important) does not resonate with people, perhaps this more modern and specific argument will. I’d like to think so.