#12 An Ethical Island: Week 3- Utilitarian Ethics (Night class)

The Night class has taken on a mind of its own.

Group Dynamics:

Cyber Island implored me to wait on their 4th member to show up before they began the group challenge. I reassured them that I would add up the Ethical Island Award points and then we would start an Island Survival Adventure. The Top Chefs had not arrived. The 3 Guys Island were all ready to go. The MA’s were missing an islander. It was 5 minutes to 6pm (the beginning of class). Smiley Island all appeared quickly and were ready for the Survival Challenge. Soon after 6pm the final member of Cyber Island appeared with dinner for the entire island (they are bonding so well, but are they learning).

The MA’s had 2 inhabitants so they decided to recruit the sole Top Chef’s island inhabitant to their group. T gladly moved over to join the MA’s. I needed him to make the decision of whether he was officially abandoning his island and whether the MA’s would have him. They agreed to have him and he agreed to stay.

The Island Survival Adventure:

The purpose of this fun activity was to address group dynamics and determine whether the students scored better when working as a group verses on their own. 2 groups Synergized while 2 did not. I asked the students to determine why they worked better or worse as a team. I presume it is the “Leader complex.” Many students think the loudest voice is the smartest person and therefore this person should be the “leader.” Many times quiet people have good and often critical reasoning to add. Hopefully this added insight so they could begin the night’s task of learning about Consequentialists.

The Class Agenda

I often over prepare. I learned, through my time in the courtroom, that I need to be prepared for many directions, but willing to change when the class needs change (or the Judge when I am in court). I had a plan and here it is:

  1. Island Survival Adventure (individual ranking and then group, then discussion)
  2. Addressing group dynamics and addressing not receiving homework (2 groups had members do homework but forget to submit it)
  3. Have each group Diagram on large paper everything they knew about Utilitarianism
  4. Group share on their ideas
  5. Short (very short) Lecture on Utilitarianism
  6. Introduce the Challenge
  7. Introduce resources for the Challenge

8.Use Clickers to evaluate the student’s ending knowledge of applying utilitarian ethics. (they performed well)

The Challenge was to judged by a Gallery Preview. What I mean by this was islands were to post their arguments on the wall (on giant paper) and each person was to vote (by sticky note) for the poster they liked best. The criteria which poster demonstrates the best Utilitarian argument. 2 teams tied.

Ethical Island Award this week went to The MA’s and Cyber Island.

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9. Week 2: Good and Evil (Night Class)

Class Agenda:

  1. Welcome and review (with Clickers)
  2. Pre-Test (with Clickers)
  3. Define Evil
  4. Introduce: Good People Being Evil in 2 Experiments (Milgram and Dr. Zimbardo)?
  5. Present day Evil (Abu Ghraib Prison)? Same or different from experiments?
  6. Challenge: PETA v. Matadors: Is Bull Fighting Evil?
  7. Presentations
  8. Wrap Up- Has your definition changed?

There are currently 16 students in the course (after the add drop period has ended). Last week only 15 students were present and 1 missing, so each island contained 3 inhabitants. This week, I walked into the classroom and noticed Cyber Island had 2 milk shakes sitting on their table sitting far from the 2 students present. I asked, “Are one of those for me?” They said that they were recruiting new members to their Island.

Additionally, before class each student must cast their VIN diagram vote. Today’s question was, “Do you think People are evil, Is it a force, or both?”

Cyber Island

Cyber Island was originally made up of two students. They quickly realized that in order to win the “Most Ethical Island Award” they would need to even out the groups and recruit one more student. They proceeded to the MA’s Island and asked their 4th inhabitant to consider joining their group. She did agree and moved over.

This week all teams were even with 3 inhabitants, but Cyber Island knew a student was missing the previous week and had a plan. There were 2 inhabitants sitting in their seats on their island when I walked in. The 2 milk shakes were sitting all alone across the table where 2 other students could sit.

The new student arrived and began to sit at the closest table to the entrance. The 2 Cyber Island inhabitants started to eye the new student, so I intervened. I asked her to pick another table to sit at (without sending her straight into their trap). Quickly the 2 Cyber Island inhabitants waived her over and offered her the milk shake. Cyber Island now had 4 inhabitants and the possibility to earn an extra 50 points each week (25 if the new inhabitant did her homework and 25 if she did her Journal). I pointed out the possible issues involved in adding an unfamiliar person to the island, but they figured they would take the chance. All this happened before the class began.

1. I introduced the class using 5 question

  • How do you get an A in HUM110: Ethics?
  • Are you happy with your island mates?
  • Does the Most Ethical Island Award factor into my grade?
  • What does the Most Ethical Island Award do for me?
  • What percentage of my grade is based on the Ethic’s Officer?

I cleared up any misconceptions about the division between the student’s grades and the accumulation of Most Ethical Island Awards getting them out of taking the final.

2. The Pre-Test:

I next used the clicker technology to give them a 26-question quiz on ethical theories, ethicists, and fun vocabulary like eudemonia. The clicker technology then graphed the results and demonstrated that the students on average scored between 30% to 50% accuracy.

Partially, I needed a starting point to see what they knew. Partially, I wanted to reiterate that this class would be about learning some deep theories and such. I think both were achieved.

3. Define Evil

Each group was asked to discuss and define “evil.” Many definitions were about “bad” or “unacceptable” behavior. A few added that it might be possession by something or a disorder. Most agreed that even if it was one of those things, the person who commits bad acts should still be held accountable.

4. Introduce: Good People Being Evil in 2 Experiments (Milgram and Dr. Zimbardo)?

The students then watch short video clips on Milgram’s electrical shock experiment that tried to see if “good” people would do “evil” things if someone else took responsibility for their actions. The second film, “Quiet Rage,” was Dr. Zimbardo’s prison experiment.

The student’s reaction to this was curious. Overall, they agreed that if this were real life, it could be considered evil. Except that, it was not real life and therefore cannot be considered evil because it was “acting.” I asked if they thought this could be real? Could they be in a real life Zimbardo Prison and they did not think so.

5. Present day Evil (Abu Ghraib Prison)? Same or different from experiments?

I then introduced them to Zimbardo’s prison in real life. They still found distinctions and were not completely willing to give in that there was “evil” occurring. They could not separate the act from the person even though they predominantly voted that evil was not the person, but an act.

6.Challenge: PETA v. Matadors: Is Bull Fighting Evil?

The Challenge (which would earn them weekly points not for their final grade, but for The Most Ethical Island Award of the day) was to step into the shoes of both sides of an argument and accurately give each side’s argument. They were forced to assume PETA thought bull fighting was evil and that bullfighters thought it was not evil. They researched and then created their presentations (PowerPoint and Prezi) in about an hour.

7. Presentations

The teams were then asked to present and each other team was to score them on a 1-5 rating system for 4 categories. 5 is best and 1 is worst.

  • Define Evil
  • PETA’s view
  • Bullfighter’s view
  • Overall presentation appearance

The students voted and the 2 teams I thought would win (Cyber Island or Smiley Island) did not.

The Smiley’s Island

An interesting perspective came from this island. I was called over and the team (which only had 2 inhabitants tonight) asked, “Do we need 1 definition for evil?” I asked how many would they like and why. The inhabitant answered, “Well it seems like the matadors and the PETA people might define evil differently and therefore we need 2 definitions.” I was quite impressed and said, “I only asked for 1 but I see your perspective. You can write 2 definitions.” Later, during the presentation, they only presented 1 definition and I was very disappointed.

8. Wrap Up

The students were sent home to finish watching the 3 videos and asked to discuss them in an online discussion in Moodle. The students were also asked to do their Life Application. The Life Application this week was to list a time when they were (or acted) evil and a time when they were good. I got many confessions. I am surprised by the openness so far. 1 student claimed he had never do anything evil- interesting…

7. The Theories

The course will run 10 weeks. Each week we will look at a different ethical topic or theory. Here are the topics and theories for the 10 weeks.
1. Introduction
2. Good and Evil
3. Utilitarianism
4. Deontology
5. Rights and Justice
6. Virtue
7. Religion
8. Gender
9. Diversity
10. Wrap up