Monday, April 11, 2011

Ethics, Morals, and Teaching College Freshmen

I teach a public speaking class at a local state university.  Because the course is required by all students, I have many freshmen in my classes.  It's basically a skills class, but at the end of every semester the students must present two persuasive speeches, using sound reasoning and avoiding the fallacious use of reasoning, claims, and evidence.  It's my favorite part of the semester, but also the most tricky.

When students make unsubstantiated claims, provide little evidence, no evidence, or evidence that doesn't support the claim, or when students use faulty reasoning, I play devil's advocate to show them their errors.  It's not often that I am given a new argument by a students.  They tend to stick to the tried and true topics that interest them, aliens, social problems, legalizing drugs, abortion, capital punishment, etc.

I was therefore thrown when a student proposed for advocating in favor of medicinal prostitution for patients receiving care for chronic pain and terminal illnesses.  His premise was that if medicinal marijuana is okay, why not?

Today as I prepare for class I have to summon every braincell to discuss with him the moral pitfalls of such an argument.  I plan to discuss the importance of the failure rates of contraception that could lead to aborting the child of a sex therapist created with a terminal patient.  If a child is conceived, does someone determine whether the child is:

  •  Added to the will and provided for by the estate of the (presumably) deceased?
  • Allowed to be brought to term and adopted?
  • Aborted as an unintended by product of therapy?
And of course, who will make this decision: The patient?  The therapist?  The prescribing physician?  The existing heirs of the patient?  If the patient is the one who is pregnant, does this make it impossible for them to receive other treatments that would affect the unborn child?

What is striking about this entire idea is that the notion of sex as palliative care because it makes people feel good is completely devoid of any notion of sex as procreation.

I know we are making great strides in the pro-life movement among college students.  That is an amazing thing,  I  see the changes in student attitudes all of the time.  Ten years ago students never mentioned a desire to have children in the future.  Now most do.

But the suggestion of  medicinal prostitution by a 19 year-old young man from a small town tells me we have a long way to go.  A very long way to go.

***I had my conversation today and the young, thoughtful, man decided to continue,even though this is an  argument he is making only for argument's sake.  And one of my other students who wanted to advocate for homosexual adoption now understands that she must address freedom of conscience issues for religious providers of adoption services.

Overall, a successful day.

Update #2:

My student gave his speech today.  He included stories of the men and women who live at the nursing home that provides his day job.  One man has Viagra PRN to have relations with his wife.  My student said on walking into their room while they were active, "Dinner is ready.  Do you want a fork or a spoon?"  Nice use of humor, but one of the points he made was that women who have partners who do not use condoms are less likely to be depressed.  The study is out of Ireland.  So you see, happy couples who are open to children are happier and live longer.  I knew I could trust him to find the right info!
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