Ethical Changes in the Classroom Term Paper

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The Vietnam War was a turning point in the Army's growing realization that senior military leaders, and not just political leaders, had a responsibility to be able to speak to soldiers, to the American people, and to the press about ethical issues.

The Professionalism Study of 1970, examined institutional systems and requirements for success in the Army, attitudes and values of senior officers, and tasks for the 1970s. One of the striking conclusions of the first study was that the Army contained "untoward and unhealthy pressures to strive for success" on the part of officers. Systems that regulated the selection, education, promotion, and reward of Army officers were in need of major correction.

It was clear that the Army needed to evaluate its concepts of values and ethics.

During the decades of the 1970s and 1980s senior commanders in all the services began to exert their influence on the direction and content of ethics instruction. Courses in ethics were added to the curricula in the Army service schools, at the service academies, in ROTC instruction, and at the war colleges. The vast majority of Americans agreed that the Army had fought in the Gulf with restraint, had avoided many of the problems it had encountered in Southeast Asia, and had performed missions of humanitarian relief in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and Europe with total dedication. A 1973 Harris poll had revealed that by the end of the Vietnam War, the American public ranked the military only above sanitation workers in relative order of respect.

After Operation Desert Storm, it seemed that the ethical reputation of the military profession was at a high point in the eyes of the American public. After that same period, in 1994-98, the service academies and even some state military schools came under media fire for breakdowns in good order and discipline. In 1994 a string of criminal incidents involving midshipmen at Annapolis caused concern at the highest levels of the Navy's leadership. The Army undertook the task of determining and explaining its values, and the rationale for those values, in a new statement of the Army ethic.

In early 1995, a study, Character Development in the U.S. Army: A Proposal to Change the Future, proposed a strategy for a Character Development Program in the Army which would reflect "a developmental and progressive process of training." Such a process would build a standardized, progressive, developmental, and sequential curriculum in character development.

One group of officers argued that character development was the central goal of leadership. Character development could include embedding the Army's values of loyalty, integrity, respect, and personal courage in the developmental process, to produce a person of healthy self-esteem and reliability. The character development supported by the Army and by virtue ethics had some advantages. It could be applied universally, was not dependent on any understanding of religious virtues.

Virtue ethics also offered a tempting first step for those who may not have had any other moral grounding.

The motivation for virtue ethics was one of self-interest and self-development. The necessity of spiritual support for personnel in crisis was not only recognized by the Army, but also by others who related it to teaching and learning processes.

The growing violence in secondary schools and neighborhoods has affected some students' pre-college educational experiences in ways totally foreign to the traditional student, and most of today's teachers were these traditional college students. The 1998 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth, Survey Data on Youth Violence portrays a troubling picture of the attitudes and actions of America's youth regarding guns and violence. Fifty years ago, such issues were not faced on a regular basis by teachers in the classroom as they are today. According to the 1998 data, 24% of male high school students, and 18% of male middle school students, say they took a weapon to school at least once in the past year. Numbers such as these were unheard of until recent times.

In the 1998 study, males were substantially more likely to carry weapons than females and older students were more likely to carry weapons than younger ones. Still, 5% of all students 10 to 12 years of age say they took a weapon to school. 6% of all 13 to 14-year-olds reported to have taken a weapon to school. On a separate question, 14% of males in high school, and 9% of those in middle school, said they "sometimes" carried a weapon to school for protection. More disturbing, 59% of males in high school, and 35% of those in middle school said they could get a gun if they wanted to. 70% of all high schoolers and 73% of all middle schoolers said they hit a person in the last twelve months because they were angry. Though less likely to engage in violence, a majority of the females, 63% in high school and 68% in middle school, reported to have hit someone in anger during the past year. Teachers must face this problem of student violence in the classrooms of today.

Michael Josephson, founder and president of the Josephson Institute of Ethics and the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, states that the 1998 survey data reveals "a hole in the moral ozone and being sure that children can read is certainly essential, but it is no less important that we deal with the alarming rate of cheating, lying and violence that threatens the very fabric of our society." The CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition points out that a contemporary solution for teachers dealing with dilemmas such as these is "character education," or the six pillars of character: responsibility, trustworthiness, respect, fairness, caring and citizenship.

In addition to the problems of violence in the classroom, teachers also face cheating, lying, stealing and drinking at school, more now than ever in the past. 71% of high school students admitted to cheating on an exam at least once in the past twelve months and 45% said they did so two or more times. In the same 1998 study, 92% lied to their parents in the past twelve months, 79% said they did so two or more times, 78% said they lied to a teacher, 58% two or more times, and more than one in four said they would lie to get a job. The ratio for student stealing has also increased. 40% of males and 30% of females reported having stolen something from a store in the past twelve months. Furthermore, nearly one in six students reported to having been drunk during the past year and 9% said they were drunk two or more times.

These studies also show that from 1992 to 1996 statistics of students and crime and cheating, honesty and integrity, things are going from very bad to worse. Curiously, 91% report that they are "satisfied with my own ethics and character." Josephson finds this "especially troubling," stating that "young people know what they're doing is wrong... there is an inconsistency in what they say they believe and how they act." The study reports that young people say they know their teachers and parents expect them to be honest and ethical. 83% stated that "my parents always want me to do the ethically right thing no matter what the cost" and only 7% reported that "my parents would rather I cheat than get bad grades." survey researched by the Pinnacle Group in Minnesota found that 59% of the high-school students surveyed would willingly face six months probation in order to do an illegal drug deal worth $10 million dollars. 67% reported that they did in fact plan to inflate their expense account in the business world, and 50% stated that they would lie to achieve a business objective. In another study by Professor Donald McCabe of Rutgers University, 76% of those planning careers in business admitted to having cheated at least once on a test. In the same study, 19% admitted to having cheated four or more times, and 68% of future doctors, 63% of future lawyers, and 57% of future educators admitted to having cheated at least once.

Educators are concerned because these studies are reflections of America's current students, who will be America's middle managers in the year 2020, and the CEO's, senators and representatives in 2030. The overriding implication of these trends is that conventional assumptions about students, the collegiate experience, learning, teaching, and assessment will not serve higher education well in the 21st century. These trends require teachers to re-examine and transform the current assumptions about the ways we engage students in the educational process. This re-examination must carefully scrutinize beliefs about who our students are, how they learn, their level of preparation, other demands being made on their time and attention such as family and work. Their educational and occupational goals must also be taken into consideration as well as their current beliefs about the roles and responsibilities of teachers and students. The learning/teaching process and how it can best be facilitated must be evaluated, and how…[continue]

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