Ethics & Contemporary Issues

Teacher: Debbie White  Extra Help by appointment.

Ethics & Contemporary Issues Course Overview

Debbie White, Room 304, D Block

Essential Questions

· Is there a moral order out there independent of us, the way there is a physical world? (What does it mean if there is and what does it mean if there isn’t?)

· Who/what is important to consider when making moral decisions?

· What makes something morally right or wrong? (We’ll look at different theories.)

Learning Objectives: To understand ethics and its place in your life; to read analytically; to discover what kind of moral thinker you are.

Units (this is subject to change):

I. General and Famine

· Talking about philosophy etc.

· Current Issues

· Famine

II. Theory

· Plato

· Egoism

· Utilitarianism

· God and Ethics

· Kant and the Categorical Imperative

· GE Moore (intuitionism) and Ayer (the end of ethics)

III. More Issues

· Abortion

· Animal Rights

IV. Acting on Ethical Principles (Living a Moral Life)

Graded Work

Weekly Journal: to record and reflect on instances of ethics in real life.

Class/Group Exercises (not all class exercises are graded): Mostly, you’ll respond individually to a prompt (sometimes you will receive it before class, so you can think about it) and then meet with a group to discuss.

Assignments: These will be take home and related to a reading (also take home).

Quizzes: To assess your understanding of a topic. They are either take home or in-class oral (but you would have the questions ahead of time).

History Strands for This Course

Enduring Understanding/Essential Knowledge Students will look at different major philosophical theories and issues. Among the topics explored will be famine, Plato, egoism, utilitarianism, God and ethics, Kant, relativism, abortion, and animal rights. This strand will measure how effectively students demonstrate and understand the key ideas studied in class.

Research Students will build on and explore knowledge learned in the classroom by obtaining information from multiple sources, giving appropriate credit to their sources. This strand will reflect a student’s ability to find and comment on the learning from doing research.

Effective Communication Students will work to write with a clear focus and coherent organization. They will also express their ideas and knowledge orally, as well in formal and informal discussions and presentations. They will pose questions and listen to others.

Work Habits This strand reflects students’ work completion, their preparedness for class, and their participation.

Weight of strand as part of your final grade

  • Enduring Understanding/Essential Knowledge (25%) 
  • Research (15%) 
  • Effective Communication (20%) 
  • Work Habits (40%) 

We will cover in class what meeting expectations for graded work looks like.

Classroom Policy

· Be on time and be prepared.

· Be present and engaged (I know this is sometimes tough—life can be distracting; if you have an issue, come see me.)

· Stay awake—but if you fall asleep, we will wake you.

· Respect others’ viewpoints.

· No electronics (see me for approval because of need)—unless you want to share with everyone what is distracting you from class.

Homework Policy

· Homework is to be completed on time; classes will sometimes be based on assignments so it’s important that you complete them before class.

· Homework will either be in Google docs or distributed in class.

· If you are absent, email me or come see me about making up any missed work.

· You may not make up homework that was completed in or discussed in class. In such cases, you will be given a different assignment to complete.

Academic Integrity—hey, it’s an ethics class

Plagiarism/cheating of any kind (presenting someone else’s material as though it’s your own without citation or reference) is not tolerated. If you plagiarize, you will receive no credit for the assignment in question and will have to meet with (at least) me. Plagiarism wastes your time as a learner (they are not your ideas so you’re not learning) and our time listening to what are not your ideas.


Come see me if you need help or have questions. I don’t have set office hours but we can set something up.