April 23, 2009

My Forthcoming Chronicle Review Piece [and Sternberg's Current One]

The Chronicle of Higher Education is publishing an article of mine on the challenges of teaching and disseminating ethics in business school. Watch for it. It should be out sometime next month in the Chronicle Review section. I'd post an excerpt but I'm bound by the copyright until 30 days after publication.

However, the current issue contains an interesting and related article by Robert Sternberg, Tufts Dean of Arts & Sciences, offering a "new model for teaching ethical behavior." While it might not strike everyone as completely new, it's a decent attempt to define what counts as ethical thinking and behaving.

Sternberg uses his background in psychology to show what he takes as eight steps commonly undertaken during "ethical behavior." As the title suggests, this isn't merely a decision-making tool but a model for teaching students to grasp the process of ethical thinking itself. It's essentially a map of the kind of thinking one must go through to act ethically. Unfortunately, if one fails to recognize an event as ethical to begin with, the steps are useless. But as Sternberg rightly suggests, his model--if accurate--should at least help us better understand why so many smart and well-educated people continually fail to think through them.

You can read it via subscription. Here's an excerpt:

"In 1970, Bibb Latané and John Darley opened up a new field of research on bystander intervention. They showed that, contrary to expectations, bystanders intervene when someone is in trouble only in very limited circumstances. For example, if they think that someone else might intervene, bystanders tend to stay out of the situation. Latané and Darley even showed that divinity students who were about to lecture on the parable of the good Samaritan were no more likely than other bystanders to help a person in distress.

Drawing in part on Latané and Darley's model of bystander intervention, I've constructed a model of ethical behavior that applies to a variety of ethical problems. The model's basic premise is that ethical behavior is far harder to display than one would expect simply on the basis of what we learn from parents, school, and religious training. To intervene, to do good, individuals must go through a series of steps, and unless all of the steps are completed, people are not likely to behave ethically, regardless of the ethics training or moral education they have received and the level of other types of relevant skills they might possess, such as critical or creative thinking."

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