Ethics educators face challenging questions about how to awaken their students into authentic moral reflection, ethical reasoning, and decision-making. How do students get started? How are matters de-familiarized for them? Do they need to be “cracked open” as decision-makers? Do they need to start by learning how to spot the dilemmas? Or have they progressed to such a point in their own experience that hard decisions are obvious and right in front of them all the time? Do they need case studies, do they need simulations, do they need improvisational theater, do they need clinics? Great creativity can be brought to bear on finding effective ways of making questions of ethics real for students, something to be lived, not merely studied, an area where we are as likely to make mistakes as to succeed.
The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics has been working with the Program in General Education and the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning to develop a new Ethics Pedagogy Initiative. As a component of the initiative’s early efforts, The Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation has generously approved support for three years to aid in the revamp of the General Education undergraduate requirements for courses in the nascent category of Ethics & Civics. The initiative aids new course development and course support, with the goal of improving ethics and civic education across the University and beyond.
Specifically, we are working on creating interdisciplinary courses that will fulfill the new General Education requirement in Ethics & Civics (beginning 2018-19) and that will bring more faculty from the professional schools into undergraduate classrooms. Currently, we are convening faculty from across the university to develop courses on the following topics:
I. A.I. and Ethics
○ Such a course is planned to create space for students to grapple with the rapidly
developing frontier of dilemmas posed to democratic society by machine
learning, social media, autonomous machines and the like.
II. Ethics and Identity
○ This course envisions centering on the questions surrounding how identity
formation, be it on an individual or communal level, influences public life within
an increasingly cosmopolitan, multicultural, and multilingual global system.
III. Doing “Good Work” in the Gig Economy
○ Given the vocational challenges in the evolving workplace, such a course aims to
equip students with the frameworks to navigate their choice of work, role
morality while there, and questions raised by the constant shifts of the “Gig
IV. American Political Thought
○ Pulling from faculty expertise at FAS and the Law School, this course intends to
provide a fresh foundation for understanding the American political tradition.
V. Ignorance, Lies, Hogwash and Humbug
○ This course interrogates the post-truth age, the cognitive limitations we face in
consuming information, potential interventions for promoting truth and
knowledge, and philosophical challenges to democracy that the post-truth age
Christopher Robichaud, who is a Senior Lecturer in Ethics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, is now serving as the Director of Pedagogical Innovation. In collaboration with the Bok Center, he oversees the work of four Ethics Pedagogy Fellows (EPFs). EPFs receive specialized training and will offer instructional support, in the form of consultations and workshops, to Teaching Fellows across the University assigned to Ethics & Civics courses.
In conjunction with a number of other University entities, this team is developing and collating teaching resources such as new video resources, simulations, case studies and teaching guides. This work includes collaborating to revamp a summer Social Studies program for high school students in Greece and supporting the creation of new General Education offerings that connect with the Edmond J. Safra Center’s themes and areas of expertise. The Center’s pedagogical initiatives are strengthened through collaboration with our National Ethics Project research team.