Getting an Ethics Charge out of Current Events : Some Doubts About Katrina

TitleGetting an Ethics Charge out of Current Events : Some Doubts About Katrina
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsDavis, M
Conference NameAmerican Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference
Pagination7 p.
Date PublishedJune 20, 2006
PublisherCenter for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, Illinois Institute of Technology
KeywordsCase Study Method , ENGINEERING , Instructional Methods
AbstractOn August 29, 2005, "Katrina" was still only the name of an unusually large cyclonic storm. A few days later, it had become shorthand for a complex economic, political, and social disaster. There is no doubt that engineering students continue to find Katrina interesting and relevant, but the I doubt that Katrina is a good case for teaching engineering ethics - for now at least. First, there is the question of what happened. For a number of crucial decisions, we still do not know what their consequences were or what was thought to justify them. Second, there is the question of what part engineers had in what happened, which decisions were theirs and which belonged to elected or appointed officials who were not engineers. Third, there is the question of what part engineering ethics had, or should have had, in the decisions engineers did make ( whatever those were). So far we lack any dramatic moment such as the Challenger disaster provided, a moment when ethics mattered in a way both precise and interesting. This paper focuses on the first doubt- on the uncertainty about what caused the flood-control system of New Orleans to fail so disastrously.
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