1. Ethics and Social Justice: A Review of Theoretical Frameworks and Pedagogical Considerations
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I. Examining Ethics toward Social Justice 3 1 Ethics and Social Justice: A Review of Theoretical Frameworks and Pedagogical Considerations Tiffany Chenneville Ethics help us to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong. Because values influence these distinctions, ethics vary by culture and by discipline despite the fact that morality is considered to be universal (Haidt, 2007). Definitions of social justice also vary. Aristotle described two different types of social justice—equal justice and distributive/proportional justice (Walster & Walster, 1975). Meanwhile, Adams, Bell, and Griffin (2007) describe social justice as both a process and a goal. Variations notwithstanding, there is a clear link between social justice and ethics. In fact, Novak (2000) argues that any definition of social justice that does not include a focus on virtue should be dismissed. According to Haidt (2007), “people are selfish, yet morally motivated” (p. 998), suggesting that despite competing self-interests, we all are oriented toward social justice to at least some degree. There is also a relationship between ethics and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). However, most discussions in this context are centered on the ethical issues surrounding the scholarly activities around teaching and learning (Hutchings , 2003), not necessarily the importance of teaching ethics. For example, Hutchings (2003) describes issues related to sharing student work and research design as ethical considerations when researching teaching. Nonetheless, SoTL is inexplicably linked to both ethics and social justice. Recognizing the important relationship between social justice, ethics, and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, the purpose of this chapter is to explore theoretical frameworks and approaches for teaching ethics as part of larger social justice initiatives in the college setting. 4 | Chenneville Ethical Frameworks and Social Justice Ethical frameworks help guide moral decision-making and, therefore, are important when thinking about SoTL related to social justice. Because of their popularity and the likelihood of student familiarity, the following theories are highlighted as a place to launch college classroom discussions about the importance of social justice: virtue ethics, deontology, utilitarianism, and principle-based ethics. These theories can be categorized as either ethics of conduct or ethics of character. A cursory overview of each theory is provided below along with a discussion of how each applies to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning about social justice. Virtue Ethics Aristotle is the name most commonly associated with virtue ethics, a normative moral theory that focuses on the importance of possessing certain virtues (Willows, 2013). Normative moral theories are theories that describe how people should behave based on standards or norms. Aristotle’s virtue ethics assumes that virtues are stable character traits, and the focus is on individual character. Aristotle distinguished between intellectual virtues and moral virtues and was concerned primarily with the latter with the exception of prudence, or “practical wisdom” (Willows, 2013, p. 9), which allows us to act on our virtuous dispositions. Other virtues include justice, courage, generosity (Willows, 2013), integrity, benevolence, and respectfulness (Knapp & VandeCreek, 2012). Virtue ethics assumes an ethical person will have the right mix of motivation, knowledge, and character. Whereas some ethical theories stress the enforcement of rules, virtue ethics stresses character building. Virtue ethics lends itself nicely to discussions about social justice. After all, justice is among the important virtues a person should possess, according to Aristotle. By stressing justice as a virtue worth possessing , students are forced to ponder what justice really means in a societal context. In its broadest definition, social justice is concerned with the fair distribution of wealth, privilege, and opportunities. Those who embody justice as a virtue are likely motivated to better understand how to ensure the fair distribution of wealth, privilege, and opportunities among individuals in a society. Deontology Kant is the name most commonly associated with deontology, also known as dutybased ethics, which relies on compliance with rules (Knapp & VandeCreek, 2012). The imperative is to do the right thing for the right reason. Intentions matter but consequences do not. Others can be used as a means, but not only as a means, to an end. In deontology, a distinction is made between hypothetical and categorical imperatives. Adherence to hypothetical imperatives, which involve if-then reasoning (e.g., If I want to earn a good participation grade, then I have to go to class), is prudent. Adherence Ethics and Social Justice | 5 to categorical imperatives, on the other hand, is a duty. Categorical imperatives command people to act in certain ways at all times, regardless of the “if” (e.g., you should...