Podcast of Interest: Lab Out Loud, Episode 19. “Bioethics”

Podcast of Interest: Lab Out Loud, Episode 19. “Bioethics”

June 3, 2010

In this third post in my ‘Podcasts of Interest’ series, where I comment on podcasts with provocative or important science or mathematics content, I bring you another Lab Out Loud episode. Episode 19 features Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, the Director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Kahn and the hosts talk about the importance of ethics in the science classroom. The episode gives some concrete examples of topics that teachers can use to help students understand ethics and to think more clearly about ethical issues (e.g., the Molly Nash case).

Dr. Kahn’s expertise seemed firmly planted in ethics as it relates to biomedical sciences, and he seemed reluctant to help the hosts and the listeners understand how ethical issues can be found in STEM subdisciplines like physics, chemistry, mathematics, or computer science. The only example he could share outside of biomedicine was the ethics of scientific misconduct (e.g., plagiarism or manufacturing of data).

They also talk about bringing ethics into the classroom. All three appear to agree that ethics should be brought into the classroom, but then they began talking about how. Very quickly, one of the hosts started balking at the idea of having a ‘discussion’ with his physics students. It’s as if he were frightened of losing control of his classroom. I was disappointed that nobody told him that releasing the lecture-forged grip on a classroom can be a good thing. Instead, Dr. Kahn implied that it’s important for the instructor to “prepare very well for every argument your students can come up with” before having an open discussion on ethical questions. Talk about discouraging (and, in my experience, wrong)! He didn’t do much to encourage more science teachers to bring ethics into their classrooms.

Find the Episode’s home here and take a listen. The same web page also has a list of additional resources for those who want to bring ethics into the classroom. Length: 27:35.

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