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Teaching College Students How to Solve Real-Life Moral Dilemmas

An Ethical Compass for Quarterlifers


Robert J. Nash and Jennifer J.J. Jang

Teaching College Students How to Solve Real-Life Moral Dilemmas will speak to the sometimes confounding, real-life, moral challenges that quarterlife students actually face each and every day of their lives. It will spell out an original, all-inclusive approach to thinking about, and applying, ethical problem-solving that takes into consideration people’s acts, intentions, circumstances, principles, background beliefs, religio-spiritualities, consequences, virtues and vices, narratives, communities, and the relevant institutional and political structures. This approach doesn’t tell students exactly what to do as much as it evokes important information in order to help them think more deeply and expansively about ethical issues in order to resolve actual ethical dilemmas. There is no text like it on the market today. Teaching College Students How to Solve Real-Life Moral Dilemmas can be used in a variety of ethics courses.
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Part One: Starting the Course: Key Ethics Concepts and Problem-Solving Tools


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In part 1, as in the start of our “Ethics of Helping Relationships” course, we introduce our conceptual approach to ethics. We present some of the more technical ethical vocabulary in an updated, real-world way. We redefine the term moral compass, a phrase that has found its way into the ethics literature lately. We develop our preferred phrases—moral narratives or an ethic of character—that we believe are truer to our way of teaching students to think about their moral identities, and to develop their understanding of ethical ideas, as lifelong works-in-process. We introduce our course syllabus as a way of showing what we do, and how we do it, in teaching a semester-long course in ethics. Our course, by the way, is one of the original, and longest-standing, courses in a professional school in the country. And, of most importance, we introduce, as well as explain and exemplify, our Four Moral Languages approach to analyzing and resolving ethical dilemmas. Finally, we close out part 1 with a down-to-earth glossary of key ethical terms, the first time we have ever done so in print.

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