Tag Archives: ethics



After reading Katz and Ornatowski, and after our discussion in class on Tuesday, I’ve been struggling to figure out what it means to teach ethics—in writing classes in general and in professional writing classes in particular. Flipping through Locker’s textbook, I see the hard-core instrumentalist approach (basically, don’t lie on your resume or CV). “Ethics” doesn’t even appear in the index. I’m still waiting on my copy of Peeples, so I haven’t been able to look at that yet. But I guess I have a few sets of questions/concerns, some of which I’ll have to figure out for myself before inflicting my regime of ethics on students: What do/will I mean by “ethics” in the writing class? I think it’s important—critical, perhaps—to try to get students to understand the implications (theoretical) and consequences (actual) of their rhetorical choices. Katz, to me, would be an extreme example for this kind of discussion. But what do I want them to take from Katz and from any discussion we might have? (Certainly more than polite classroom shock that this could happen.) How do I want them to act—in the workplace, for example—with Katz in mind? And how can I “teach” these ideas through an assignment or activity? Is a lesson in raising awareness, in “making sure you think about your rhetorical choices” enough? And things actually get more complicated, I think, in Ornatowski. The engineer Stephen is certainly thinking about the effects of his rhetorical choice between “hopeless” and “fruitless,” but is this really a question of ethics? If the choice is about what will be the most acceptable way to present a critical failure to the boss, whose ethics are being served? So what would I be teaching my students here? And I guess this links up to my ultimate concern—what is the effect of our stressing an ethical program that students, realistically, won’t be able to implement in the workplace? Are we teaching them that thinking about doing the ethical thing, perhaps even wishing that they could do the ethical thing, is enough? That seems to lie at the heart of the problem that Katz presents.