A new course this spring will help prepare students for the ethical dilemmas they may face in life after Penn.
In “Lying, Cheating, Stealing and Killing,” jointly offered by the Bioethics and Political Science departments, a team of instructors across the School of Arts and Sciences, the Perelman School of Medicine, the Law School and the Wharton School will guide students through ethical issues in the fields of law, business, medicine and politics.
The course will be lecture-style with small recitations. It will tackle topics ranging from torture, war and sex scandals in politics to issues of privacy in the law.
Professors Ezekiel Emanuel, Nancy Hirschmann, Anita Allen and Alan Strudler will each teach a section of the curriculum in their area of expertise in a logical order.
“Each professor ends their lectures with topics that lead more or less into the next professor’s,” Hirschmann explained, who teaches the politics section of the course.
Hirschmann stressed that the course content will be fairly integrated given the universal themes that each instructor will explore, despite having four professors teaching the course.
For example, the moral philosophy that Hirschmann will discuss can help shed light on the dilemmas that other professors may introduce in their own fields, she said.
Moreover, all of the instructors’ respective topics “involve a basic problem of acting for others … whether those others are patients, clients or constituents,” she added.
While Penn features many cross-school offerings, this course exemplifies its commitment to interdisciplinary study, according to Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Dennis DeTurck. A class that cuts across four separate schools is especially rare, he said.
Penn currently offers one other course that’s similar to the upcoming offering, the Integrated Studies Program.ISP is for College freshmen enrolled as Benjamin Franklin scholars. However, DeTurck noted that ISP only involves three professors.
Currently, about 60 undergraduates are enrolled in the course. A majority of about 50 are College students majoring in the Biological Basis of Behavior, Health and Societies and Biology. A handful of students are in Wharton, Nursing and Engineering as well.
“Having this mix of different kinds of pre-professional students is what they’re looking for,” DeTurck said. In fact, he added, the group’s diversity will likely enrich the course itself. “The field of ethics can have something to say about a variety of situations, so getting the legal, political, medical and business perspectives will make the course richer than if it were just one [discipline].”
In addition to the broad perspective it offers, this topic may be especially relevant to Penn given how professionally focused many of its undergraduates are, Emanuel said. He helped pioneer the course and will teach its bioethics section.
College senior Rachel Greenberg registered for the course because she hopes to work at a bioethics research facility once she graduates. As a pre-med psychology major, she added, “the connection between the human mind and medicine is really interesting to me.”
College senior Mark Barry also enrolled in the class because he hopes it will help him prepare for a career in medicine as he begins medical school next year.
Yet despite their individual ambitions, Barry said he thinks this new course will be universally helpful in deepening students’ analytical skills.
“The style of thinking the study of ethics makes you use is more important than the topic alone,” he said.Comments powered by Disqus
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