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A call to make morality part of science education

Philadelphia conference emphasizes the need to instruct students in questions of ethics and morality - starting in high school, not college.
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Written by ZDNet Editors, Contributors on

When it comes to teaching science, the quest for breakthrough research seems to be an ever-present goal. But with advances in biotech, ethics issues are unavoidable and must be brought up in the classrooms, a conference on religion and science concludes.

At a Philadelphia conference, the theme was maintaining morality in research and integrity in technology. Arthur Caplan, director of the center for bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, led the talk, reports the Courier Times, a paper covering the Philly suburbs.

"Just because something is new and innovative, that doesn't make it research," said Caplan, an author and columnist for MSNBC.com.

The morning-long forum was organized by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education, a group of eight colleges and universities in the Philadelphia region that collaborates on faculty development and academic programs, said Executive Director Brighid Blake.

Ethics issues need to be brought up even earlier than college, when research often begins in earnest, participants said.

"It's eye-opening that we've come a long way," said Council Rock High School-North teacher Jason Traczykiewicz, whose biology class is studying genetics. "We need to raise those problems to our students and ask them what they think, what would they do."

Biology teacher Ryan Boylan, who is trying to start a medical ethics class at Pennsbury High School, says that students are more aware of technology - and that can be used to spark interest.

"I wouldn't steer students away from the hard cases because they give us the toughest moral fodder to chew on," said Caplan. "As miserable as it is to bring it into the classroom, those are issues I'd like to see students commenting on because it's worth thinking about."

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