Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

LEADership in Ethical Awareness

If you teach one teacher how to address ethical issues, imagine the number of students whose ethical awareness will be raised.

Santa Clara University faculty had that ripple effect in mind this summer when they inaugurated Leadership Through Ethical Action and Decision Making (LEAD), a project partnering the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics with Independence High School in San Jose. LEAD has three components:

[Steve Johnson]
Steve Johnson
Photo by Charles Barry
  • A workshop in ethical awareness for high school English teachers
  • A mentoring program matching SCU students with participants in Independence High's Teaching Academy, a program for students who are interested in teaching careers
  • A tutoring program where Teaching Academy participants work with elementary school children

The workshops will introduce teachers to the Ethics Center's framework for ethical decision making using characters and situations found in the high school literature curriculum, said Center Director Thomas Shanks, S.J.

"Teachers will learn to prompt students' moral consideration of situations by asking such questions as: Whose interests are at stake? Do benefits and hardships seem to be distributed equally? Does a character demonstrate self-interest or selfishness, generosity or greed?" he said.

Steve Johnson, director of SCU's Center for Family, School, and Community, and Shanks conducted the first workshop in July primarily with educators from Independence High School.

"Part of the program shows how we can help students recognize ethical situations and make ethical decisions," Johnson said. "But another part is how we help people deal with the things that get in the way of their acting ethically: controlling anger and impulses, negotiating their way out of a tough spot."

Johnson will also train 15 SCU undergraduates to serve as mentors for the 250 students in Independence High's Teaching Academy, which helps prepare students for careers in education.

The SCU LEAD participants will support students in the Teaching Academy as they, in turn, tutor more than 1,000 elementary school students. Besides academic subjects, the tutoring will include ethical awareness and leadership.

"After LEAD has been tested and refined, we hope it can serve as a national model for ethics education for this age group," Shanks said.