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Ethics Education

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically… Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education."

Martin Luther King, Jr.


The Association of American Colleges and Universities recently issued a “new vision for learning,” designed to guide our nation's educators. In their “Greater Expectations” national panel report, the AAC&U called for educational practices that foster “intellectual honesty, responsibility for society's moral health and social justice, active participation as a citizen of a diverse democracy, discernment of the ethical consequences of decisions and actions, and deep understanding of one's self and respect for the complex identities of others, their histories and their cultures.”

Penn State's own commitment to ethics education is reflected in the University’s strategic plan Priorities for Excellence (, which emphasizes ethics education as an essential outcome of education at Penn State and a key element of student success.

Every day brings news coverage of situations that involved professional and personal ethics and ethical dilemmas. Many of these situations are complex, and graduate and undergraduate students should have opportunities to confront the issues while they are enrolled at Penn State. The University should ensure that no student graduates from Penn State without having had the opportunity to confront issues of ethics and ethical dilemmas, both theoretical and applied.

Having learned, first-hand, at Penn State the urgency of ethics education, President Erickson recently committed to reinforce to the entire Penn State community the moral imperative of doing the right thing—the first time, every time.

The Rock Ethics Institute has responded to these challenges by providing faculty across Penn State with resources for integrating ethics into their classes. Our model of teaching the teachers is designed to provide pedagogical resources and training to a wide range of faculty, in order to encourage the incorporation of ethics issues within their classes. This model ensures that ethics education is not only relevant, but sustainable. Our aim is to make ethics education effective by weaving it throughout the curriculum so that students learn to understand the centrality of ethics to all aspects of their life—personal, professional, and civic.

We join President Erickson in urging every member of the Penn State community to reflect upon the importance of  integrity and respectful community. The best place to begin this process is through the Penn State Principles Curriculum.

Because we research, develop, and teach about tools for dealing with ethical issues, our activities are wide-ranging. But whether focused on the environment, medicine, business, or the academy, and whether working with students, researchers, or professionals in the community, our purpose is the same: to help people meet the challenges they encounter and have the confidence and knowledge to stand up for themselves, their ideals, and the interests of others.