Santa Clara University

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2010 at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

The Year in Review


The only thing Democrats, Republicans, and independents really agree on today is that the tone of political discourse in America is getting worse and that this incivility is "hurting our democracy," according to a recent poll by SurveyUSA.

At the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, we have 25 years of experience bringing together people with widely different viewpoints for civil discussion of difficult issues. In 2010, our programs bridged political differences, as well as bringing people into conversation on tough personal questions and thorny ethical issues in a variety of professions and disciplines.

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Jim Leach, chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, speaks at Santa Clara University as part of a national tour to promote civility.

National Endowment for the Humanities Chair Jim Leach highlighted these efforts with his presentation on "Civility in a Fractured Society." (podcast) We brought civility to the discussion of several controversial issues: the mosque near Ground Zero, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, and bullying in school, to name a few. Our Public Sector Roundtable meeting on government pensions was an example of how we use the basic approaches of ethics to create common ground between people who disagree passionately.


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Center Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson interviews Stephan Rothlin, S.J.,general secretary, Center for International Business Ethics in Beijing, on what we can learn from the Chinese about business ethics.

We use a variety of media, new and old, to encourage lively but respectful debate. One of our student fellows created a blog on technology and ethics, The Technological Citizen, where students and others debated issues from cognitive enhancement to our cell phone culture. Some 27,000 people visited the blog, and left more than 500 thoughtful comments. On YouTube, Center Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson conducted a series of discussions with businesspeople on hot topics from data privacy to managing ethical risk.

Teaching young people how to communicate effectively and civilly has always been a focus of our Character-Based Literacy Program, which combines teaching values with teaching reading and writing. The CBL curriculum is currently being used in the alternative/court-community schools in the majority of California counties, in addition to districts and individual schools throughout the country .


Some issues are perennially difficult to talk about: How do people communicate with their parents about the care they will want at the end of life? When is medical care no longer effective, and who gets to decide? The Center's Bioethics Program gave counsel on these potentially divisive questions as they arose for families and for medical providers through our partnerships with local hospitals and hospice. We also provided opportunities for SCU students to learn firsthand about these issues as participants in our Health Care Ethics Internship Program.

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A Student Health Care Ethics Intern learns firsthand how ethical issues are dealt with in a hospital setting.


We invite you to engage with us on these and other important ethical issues and ask for your support in our effort to promote real dialog.

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