Thursday, December 8, 2011

Topics for my class next term

I'm teaching a course called "Philosophy and Public Issues" next term and I'm in the midst polishing up the syllabus. This class is basically an ethics course in which we'll consider various moral theories and then analyze philosophical arguments related to controversial topics such as abortion, torturing suspected terrorists, climate change, etc. I'm reserving roughly the second half of the class for group presentations and class discussion. I have a number of topics in mind, but I'm hoping to get suggestions from readers of this blog. What current issues facing society do you think are the most important? Once I have a list of topics, I'll conduct a poll and I'll assign the winning topics to my students for their presentations. A "top three issues" would be helpful...

UPDATE 12/31/11: I posted a few additional topics in a second poll. Even if you've voted on the previous poll, feel free to pick an additional topic from the newest one. As of today, the leading topics are: economic inequality; same-sex marriage; health-care reform; climate change; and hydraulic fracturing. These have been added to the syllabus for the course. I'll conduct another poll in early January of the remaining topics and the winners will get added as well.


Anonymous said...

I think these would be interesting:
1. health care reform
2. legalizing drugs like marijuana
3. same sex marriage

Anonymous said...

How about the wars in the middle east.

Anonymous said...

same sex marraige

Anonymous said...

capital punishment

Jesse Steinberg said...

Anon 12/8@12:37:
Can you be more specific? Do you mean whether it was justified for U.S. forces to engage in a conflict with Iraq (Afghanistan, etc.). There are other conficts that you might have in mind, such as in Egypt, Lybia, etc.

Jesse Steinberg said...

I took a poll of a handful of other professors on campus. Here are the results:

Prof A.
1. Increasing Economic Inequality in U.S. Society.
2. Campaign Financing/Undue influence of industry lobbyists, etc.
3. Global Warming and its current and anticipated negative consequences(weather extremes, flooding, droughts).
4. Easy access and proliferation of GUNS (especially hand guns but also military type ones.
5. Agrbusiness /Cruelty to animals.

Prof B.
1. Reproductive rights
2. Immigration rights
3. Healthcare
4. Fracking

Prof C.
1. peak oil/peak energy
2. environmental degradation
3. economic inequalities

Jesse Steinberg said...

Prof D:
Is a CORPORATION A “PERSON”... ”YES” according to a recent Supreme Court decision which has very disturbing implications for economic democracy/campaign financing, etc.

What “defines” or are the criteria for “personhood.”

Arpad said...

I think it's interesting to treat global issues (overpopulation, global worming) as a means for discussing which moral theories everyday people use (utilitarianism or kantian).

Jesse Steinberg said...

Prof E.

Climate change and its effect on food and water production, consumption and distribution

The search for energy vs. increasing demand around the world and how can we tell emerging economies that what was good for us is not good for them?

Inequality of countries. Even the poorest Americans are consuming products made by people who are much poorer and who have no basic guarantees of safety or clean drinking water. And often for pretty frivolous reasons.

Anonymous said...

Obviously there’s foreign policy and as obviously there is war. But there is another facet of foreign policy that makes for an interesting ethical analysis—does a powerful nation have the right to assert its own attitudes, etc. on smaller and weaker nations? --in Senator Fulbright’s famous phrase, “the arrogance of power.” This of course would relate not only to the United States but also to China in Asia and Russia in various republics…

Anonymous said...

I'd like to discuss the healthcare reform and freedom of speech.

Anonymous said...

Since this is a college course, how about cyber/digital cheating? This is becoming more and more relevant with smart phones and the increasing ease of technology use.

R Nelson said...

Sweat-shop labor exploitation in LDC's by the U.S. apparel industry...and implicit support by American consumers

College costs & resulting student loan burden - given evidence of sharply diminished value of the undergraduate degree

Anonymous said...

how things quickly got back to normal after
9/11, the people in the cities not helping one another when seeing another
in need, or how the firefighters especially were put in the back round
again. Mainly how they weren't invited to Ground Zero on the FIRST day the
memorial opened