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Ethical engagements in engineering education typically take on a form where students approach and write about ethics with the assumption that ethics is a realm apart from engineering. What would it mean to ask engineering students to consider ethics an essential part of all of their work, and to think of engineering creativity as an implicitly ethical field? This study begins by returning to Steven B. Katz’s (1992) influential essay “The Ethic of Expediency: Classical Rhetoric, Technology, and the Holocaust,” offering an alternate, rhetorical model for how to approach ethics with engineers as an urgent necessity. It then analyzes, as an instructive example, the pitfalls of a commonly used engineering writing textbook, David F. Beer and David A. McMurrey’s A guide to writing as an engineer (4th ed.) (2014), showing how ethics can become supplemental priority for engineering pedagogy despite institutional calls to prioritize ethics in engineering education. It also explores the larger theoretical issue of why this is so, citing warnings by Erin A. Cech (Science, Technology, and Human Values 39:42-72, 2014), Olivia Walling (2015), and a new study by Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog (Engineers of jihad: The curious connection between violent extremism and education, 2016) that limited ethical training may be a serious professional and personal liability for engineers. Finally, presenting student work produced in an engineering writing course at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) involving creative “devil’s advocate” ethics assignments, it shows how defending potentially problematic technologies can help students develop an awareness of how ethical considerations can generate legitimate ideas for new engineering solutions.
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- Ethical Dilemmas in the Engineering Writing Classroom
Kevin C. Moore
in-adhesives, MKVS, Hellmich GmbH/© Hellmich GmbH, Zühlke/© Zühlke