Citizenship Project

Each student will do solo or group work on an aspect of citizenship such as education, healthcare, voting (if your country has it), or some other big topic you can argue is important for being a good citizen. The goal will be to relate all of the ethical systems we study to this larger topic – we will comment on all of the systems, but not all of them will work well.  Goals: 1. Find information: Research the area of your choice, whether education, healthcare, justice, service work, etc. Examples of how to start the research: Interview someone, visit a site, watch a video (includes documentary movies). 2. Organize information: Identify three key findings from your research. 3. Identify a problem: Explain one problem the community is facing. 4. Create a citizen-plan-of-action: Draw or write up a description of potential solutions for the problem.  5. Reference theory: Identify specific theories to support your plan of action – this is where you will link to ethical systems we study in this course. 6. Present the citizen-plan-of-action to a small group in class. If you do a paper (you can do a web site, game, song, video, etc.): five pages, double-spaced, 12 pt Times New Roman. No more than 3 references. Do not quote a lot of other people. Write this yourself. The paper is worth 20 points for five pages.  I would rather you turn in four pages that you wrote (for a deduction in points) than five pages with other people’s words in it. Do not turn in fewer than three pages. Write in your own words. I want you to be the kind of person who does the work and does not try to take a shortcut. THIS IS AN EXAMPLE ONLY Here is a sample submission, in which I define my terms, explain how each of the ethical systems relates to the topic (including which is best and which is least helpful), and provide a personal solution. Your conclusion may focus more on what the larger society should do. Your paper will be about twice as long as this one!   THE ROLE OF JOURNALISM IN CITIZENSHIP   The facets include responsible journalists, who provide a window into the workings of as free society, and also of consumers of responsible journalism, who use well-researched stories to make decisions about government, education, and more.   The ongoing problem, made acute by recent events, is that many journalists are charged with being first rather than being correct, and consumers do not know who to trust. The solution, seen broadly, is for journalists to return to proper techniques, and for consumers to identify half a dozen responsible sources and only read those.   ETHICAL SYSTEMS   Cultural relativism is useful in acknowledging that a writer or news service may come from a particular tradition of supporting the government, or of private enterprise, or of some other specific organization. Stories generated by this group may still be useful, but must be taken in context.   Religion: Journalism on a religious topic must also be understood within a very specific context. It may be relevant only to members of a particular religious group.   Ethical egoism: The ethical egoist journalist probably will not exist in a free society, as such a person is interested in benefitting the larger group. Journalists are normally not in the profession to make lost of money. A consumer of responsible journalism, however, might be an ethical egoist who chooses her sources carefully.   Social contract: This ethical system fits responsible journalism very well in a free society. The journalist seeks out errors in the contract which need correcting, and the consumer consults responsible journalists to know what needs fixing.   Utilitarianism: This system also overlaps nicely with social contract. The responsible journalist is interested in exposing problems which affect the larger group. The consumer appreciates stories on issues which affect many people.   Kant: The responsible journalist has a code of conduct which cannot be broken under any circumstances, including multiple sources and fact-checking layers. This approach is as Kantian as it gets. It is less necessary that a consumer of responsible journalist be a Kantian.   Feminist ethics: Feminism probably does not have a significant contribution to this topic, other than to remind us that we need the roles of journalists to be filled by a diverse corps.   Virtue: A responsible journalist will choose to live out several virtues, including integrity, honesty and dependability. A consumer will trust the journalist and her organization, and hold that group to a high standard.   CONCLUSION, PLAN OF ACTION   As with most issues, virtue ethics provides us with the most angles for solutions. As with many public issues, religion is least helpful for creating public policy; it should remain private.   Responsible journalism can be an important aspect of a free society, by keeping track of various organizations and how well they are performing their duties.   I will continue to adjust the news sources I trust by consulting a new one each week, to see how it holds up to those I already trust. My first step is to find a news source that leans toward conservative angles in the United States. I also intend to try Al_Jazeera, on certain topics.

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