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Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal
SJR: 0.123

ISSN Imprimir: 2151-805X
ISSN En Línea: 2151-8068

Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal

DOI: 10.1615/EthicsBiologyEngMed.2012004846
pages 87-106

Moving Ethics Curricula Forward

Charles N. Bertolami
College of Dentistry, New York University, 345 East 24th Street, New York, NY 10010


We do not really teach ethics, we teach about ethics−a subtle but crucial distinction. Ethics curricula are qualitatively inadequate to the extent that they focus on delivering content rather than on influencing lives. This article approaches ethics education from the perspective of 3 levels of learning: informative, formative, and transformative, and it asserts that conventional ethics courses confine themselves to informative learning but fail to transition effectively into the formative and transformative phases in which authentic behavioral change becomes plausible.
Two assumptions are made: (1) that students are no more ethical than the man in the street and (2) people always can change for the better. Although arguable, it is safer to make these assumptions because only in doing so is it possible to avoid designing ethics curricula solely for the purpose of delivering information, and thereby underscoring the importance of transitioning students through all 3 levels of learning. Transformative learning in ethics must be experiential, requiring a conscious and volitional effort by educators to inculcate realistic but heroic expectations for professionals whose work intrinsically embodies elements of the heroic. This is not that difficult if we can help students see their own heroic potential.

PALABRAS CLAVE: ethics, dentistry, professionalism

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