Ethics Across the Curriculum

The Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership is proud to have just completed a week-long inaugural “Ethics Across the Curriculum” faculty workshop. The opening words of U.S. Naval Academy’s mission statement emphasize the great importance to the study of ethics:

The mission of the United States Naval Academy is to develop midshipmen morally, mentally and physically…

It’s no coincidence that “moral development” is listed first, for in a profession where members may confront issues of who lives and who dies, future military officers must be persons of character.  In that vein, during their sophomore year in Annapolis, all Midshipmen spend a semester in a dedicated study of ethics and moral reasoning for the naval officer. But a single semester’s study almost certainly is not enough. Which is why the Stockdale Center champions the idea of emphasizing ethics across the USNA curriculum.

In June 2020, in conjunction with leaders from the USNA Center for Teaching and Learning, Leadership Education and Development Division, and the Engineering and Weapons Division, the Stockdale Center hosted five faculty members from across the Naval Academy Yard in a quest to help integrate the study of ethics across the broad USNA curriculum. Faculty members from the Chemistry Department, Nimitz Library, and Political Science, English, and History Departments spent the first part of a week reviewing the key elements in the Naval Academy’s four leadership courses, with an entire day spent on moral reasoning and ethics. They spent the middle of the week working with a dozen faculty facilitators on how they might transform an ethical issue within their academic discipline into a lesson plan, drawing upon a moral reasoning roadmap that the midshipmen learned in their NE204 Ethics class. And on closing day, the participants presented their proposed lesson plans to assembled faculty leaders.

The “takeaway” from this workshop is that there exists a thirst amongst academic staff and faculty for learning about how to teach ethics in many different fields. A college or university’s leaders can fill that demand with interdisciplinary offerings like this “Ethics Across the Curriculum” workshop, where ethics  experts discuss with interested faculty members the essentials of moral reasoning, and time and space is made available for faculty members to collaboratively brainstorm  how to embed it within their own coursework or academic activity. End-of-workshop evaluations proved universally positive, and the USNA Stockdale Center is committed to expanding this offering in the future.

We encourage everyone to watch the videos of the workshop proceedings, to see first-hand how leaders from the Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership, in conjunction with interested parties from across the Naval Academy Yard, are working to expand the study of ethics beyond a single class, to encompass a multi-disciplinary effort across over two dozen academic majors, and in the future, to include the Commandant’s staff in Bancroft Hall and the Naval Academy Athletic Association.

The proceedings can be viewed below:

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