I really like the video that we reviewed this week. Even though it was a little cheesy, it helped to take the ethical concerns that we have been reading about seem less abstract. I haven’t been part of the research situation like this, but it something we hear about a lot.
I think that especially in today’s environment where the public and elected officials are not giving their full confidence to academics and scientist and researchers, we all have to do our best to be above reproach. Issues like global warming become muddled in the public debate when the public, begins to trust charismatic but non-experts over experts in the field.
In the video, I was the graduate student Kim who had to report Gregg. There were times when I realized how social and departmental pressures could be a barrier to the types of actions that this situation required. I’m happy I went through the exercise to hopefully better prepare me if something like this comes up at a later date. In the military, we trained for every contingency that we could think of before going on a mission. The scenarios that we encountered didn’t always come true but we were better able to do our job when we prepared for them.
This is one of the moral difficult readings for me. I really have anxiety about cheating and plagiarism in my classrooms. I have had instances when the student turns in papers or answers that are plagiarized. I usually begin every instance of an infraction or a possible infraction by talking to my supervisor or a faculty member I trust. I don’t necessarily give the mentor details about who the student is, but I look for their experience in similar situations. They’ve given me a lot of ways to handle the issue including reporting it at times.
One of the ways that I have handled cheating is to try to create assessments that are difficult to cheat on. Rather than students picking A, B, C, or D in a multiple choice exam, I will try to assess them using essays or short answers. In political science and international relations, we have the luxury of testing a student’s critical thinking. I don’t want to make an assessment typically where the student can pass by just parroting back the facts that I gave to him or her.
I really appreciated the opportunity to learn more about this topic. It’s something that unfortunately is not going away.
This weeks reading reminded me of the reasons I wanted to teach. I had a handful of teachers who have helped me over the years and did so ethically. I had an IR professor who was very vocally in one theories camp. He never said that I needed to see the world the way that he did, but he was honest about his own views. I was very early in my education and didn’t know much about the field, I questioned him about his theoretical camp and brought up one of the major flaws in it. He thought about it for a minute and then looked me in the eye and said, yes that was true.
It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but he could have very easily lied or exaggerated or told me a half-truth; because I was so ignorant I wouldn’t have known the difference. He took the high road and it made all the difference in the world to me. He allowed me to come to my own conclusions.
Not all of my professors have been ethical or competent, but the good ones have made all the time and money I’ve spent on education worth it.
I found this week’s reading interesting. The first concept that I liked out of the reading was that ethics are based on common sense. That with all of the complex and convoluted rules that go along with professional ethics, I think it’s important that we maintain enough agency as teachers as researchers as administrators to ask the question “is this right or wrong”. We should learn the rules and work to stay inside of their boundaries, but we can’t rely on a dead sheet of paper to tell us what’s right or wrong. The most important rules in our country, the U.S. Constitution, are interpreted and re-interpreted over and over. The rules only have value as long as we are critically and objectively thinking about them.
The second idea I really liked is that the ethics of the social sciences dictate that we work on issues that improve society. I have often felt this but didn’t know how to articulate it or if I should. I’ve seen a lot of research done on subjects because they were easy to research or a paper could be published quickly. While these criteria help people’s careers they don’t necessarily help the societies that they live in. Karl Marx one of the great heroes of the social sciences wrote so that he could help a group of people he thought were being exploited. In our publish or perish culture I feel like many of us, myself included, have lost track of what we’re actually aiming to do.
Thanks for giving me room to think about this