GOING BEYOND MERELY WHAT IS RIGHT,
AND WHAT IS WRONG
For this activity, go towards the corner of the room
that you agree with.
Stand by one of the four posters in a corner: “Agree”,
“Somewhat Agree,” “Disagree,” and “Somewhat
-I have control over the grades I receive.
-If I work hard on an assignment, I deserve a good
grade on it.
-If I complete every requirement in an assignment, I
deserve a good grade on it.
-Receiving a “C” on an assignment means that I met
the teacher’s expectations, but did not exceed them.
Main Entry: eth·ic
Etymology: Middle English ethik, from Middle French ethique, from Latin
ethice, from Greek ēthikē, from ēthikos
Date: 14th century
1 plural but sing or plural in constr : the discipline dealing with what is
good and bad and with moral duty and obligation
2 a : a set of moral principles : a theory or system of moral values <the
present-day materialistic ethic> <an old-fashioned work ethic> —often
used in plural but singular or plural in construction <an elaborate ethics>
<Christian ethics> b plural but sing or plural in constr : the principles of
conduct governing an individual or a group <professional ethics> c : a
guiding philosophy d : a consciousness of moral importance <forge a
3 plural : a set of moral issues or aspects (as rightness) <debated the ethics
of human cloning>
Going Beyond Dictionary Definitions
The central question of ethics is:
"What ought one to do?"
Whenever you are faced with this question, you are
dealing with ethics.
In seeking to answer the question of "What ought
one to do?" we are left with some enduring truths:
Ethics is about relationships
It's about struggling to develop a well-informed
It's about being true to the idea of who we are and
what we stand for
It's about having the courage to explore difficult
It's about accepting the cost
Going beyond a dictionary definition
A few years ago, sociologist Raymond Baumhart
asked business people, “What does ethics mean to
you?" Among their replies were the following:
"Ethics has to do with what my feelings tell me is
right or wrong."
"Ethics has to do with my religious beliefs."
"Being ethical is doing what the law requires."
"Ethics consists of the standards of behavior our
"I don't know what the word means."
These replies might be typical of our own. The
meaning of "ethics" is hard to pin down, and the
views many people have about ethics are shaky.
What, then, is ethics? Ethics is two things. First,
ethics refers to well based standards of right and
wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do,
usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to
society, fairness, or specific virtues.
Secondly, ethics refers to the study and development
of one's ethical standards.
Learn More About Ethics
a. Why do the professors quoted in this article
disagree with students’ assertion that if they work
hard they deserve good grades?
b. Do you agree that students have a heightened
sense of entitlement when it comes to grades? Why
or why not?
c. Do you agree that students’ sense of entitlement is
due to “increased parental pressure, competition
among peers and family members and a heightened
sense of achievement anxiety”? Would you add
anything to that list? Would you take anything off of
d. Do you think that teachers at this school subscribe
to the belief that if students “do what they are
supposed to do and meet the standard requirements,
that they will earn a C”? How would you characterize
the grading policies at this school?
e. In your opinion, what would be the fairest
approach to grading? Why?
A group of concerned community members have
noticed grade inflation at our school and have made
a presentation to the school board arguing for the
following policy to be put in place:
“Starting next year, the default grade at this school will
be a C. In order to receive a higher grade, students must
do more than simply meet the standard requirements in
any given class.”
The school board has not yet decided whether or not to
institute this policy and they have enlisted your help to
research the issue. They have asked that you hold a
debate on the proposed policy to help inform the school
community about its pros and cons before a decision is
made. What is the ethical thing to do in this
matter? Should we change the way we grade?