Table of Contents

Situations Related to Ethical Principles

1. Fulfilling the letter or the spirit of the law?

2. Ensuring diverse points of view

3. Putting a square peg in a round hole

4. Protecting an individual's right to privacy

5. Ethical decisions in instructional media selection

6. Computers: Issues of health and safety

7. Adopting and promoting new ideas

8. A clash of cultures

9. Harassment, bias, and discrimination

10. Whose views? Yours or your institutions?

11. All the facts, please

12. Competing with your employer

13. Handling gifts, gratuitites, and favors

14. Engaging in fair and equitable practices with vendors

15. Greasing the squeaky wheel

16. Influencing your colleagues

17. Exploiting professional affiliations

18. Helping one another

19. Is honesty the best answer?

20. An ethical approach to doing business

21. Fair assignment of responsibility

22. Facing new copyright challenges

23. When a colleague is wrong

A Clash of Cultures

The Situation
David Chutney was not a stranger to overseas assignments. He had worked for several years as a private consultant to foreign companies and governments and had several major design projects to his credit. His work did not go unnoticed and he was eventually retained by a major firm specializing in television transmission systems. He was able to negotiate an arrangement whereby he enjoyed all the benefits of a company employee while maintaining the independent status of a private contractor.

He was soon asked to head up an overseas project for a foreign government. The main purpose of this assignment was the installation of an educational television network to support the client government's distance-learning independent study programs and on-site college instruction. He found the assignment to be doubly exciting. Not only did he see the opportunity to apply technology to make a significant contribution to education in a developing region but it also provided him with his first professional experience outside of Western Europe and North America.

During the initial business meetings, the agents of the client government described in detail the intended end users of the television network and the government's purposes in providing an additional medium for instruction. To them, the most appealing characteristic of the televised courses was that they would preserve the prohibition against the intermingling of men and women in the classroom. Although the televised instruction would be developed in such a way as to be consistent with the male-dominated society of the country, it would be viewed by female students who would receive the instruction apart from the men. Furthermore, through the use of the television network, some women could receive an education while maintaining the custom of remaining at home.

In spite of his sensitivity to cultural differences and his successful tours overseas, David became keenly aware of the ramifications of this television network. It would support a social system that was in conflict with his values and beliefs.


The AECT Code of Ethics—Section 1, Principle 8
In fulfilling obligations to the individual, the member shall in the design and selection of any educational program or media seek to avoid content that reinforces or promotes gender, ethnic, racial, or religious stereotypes; and shall seek to encourage the development of programs and media that emphasize the diversity of our society as a multicultural community.

David was faced with a difficult dilemma. His beliefs were derived from the culture and society in which he grew up and to which he belongs. Should he forsake the project because of a philosophical conflict of cultures? Besides, if he truly wants equality for women, what would do the greatest good in the long run? If the project is successfully completed, a level of education would be available to women that they do not now enjoy. Perhaps increasing that level of education for women would contribute to hastening the day when their contribution to the society will be better appreciated, thus raising their status in that society. If he decides, based on his own personal values, not to participate in the project, should he then resign his affiliation from the firm for which he is working that considers the project appropriate? David must distinguish between his personal views and those of the organization for which he works. Feeling strongly about the principles involved in this decision, David should examine the situation further and carefully think through his personal convictions. When his deliberations are completed, David will have a clearer perception of his own feelings and beliefs. He will also have a better understanding of the nature of ethical decision making. There just aren't any clear, easy, prescribed answers!

Henryk Marcinkiewicz
Director, Center for Teaching, Learning & Faculty Development
Ferris State University

Updated January 21, 2008
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