The Bioethics Commission has encouraged and supported bioethics education throughout its projects and activities. Our educational materials, related to our reports, are tailored reach a variety of audiences. As the Bioethics Commission nears the end of its tenure, the capstone report Bioethics for Every Generation: Deliberation and Education in Health, Science, and Technology ties together these educational efforts. Among its eight recommendations, Bioethics for Every Generation included three that focus on improving bioethics education going forward.
First, early ethics education should build a foundation of ethical reasoning, literacy, and character formation. A solid basis in ethics will help children grapple with ethical choices far beyond the traditional classroom, such as how to be loyal to a friend or when, if ever, to break a promise. Those who develop curricula for ethics education should use evidence about childhood and adolescent moral development to inform their instruction, selecting questions and topics that are age-appropriate.
Second, in secondary school and higher education, bioethics education should become more targeted, and prepare students for particular ethical challenges that arise in health, science, technology, and engineering. Professionals should explore ethical questions alongside the technical dimensions of their fields, as critical reasoning skills and moral sensitivity help professionals grapple with the distinct ethical dimensions of their work.
Third, teachers and educational administrators need support, including professional development, to provide effective bioethics ethics education. Such efforts are likely to encounter understandable, but surmountable, obstacles. Among these include a hesitancy to engage students in questions of values, especially in matters that are likely to produce disagreement. Professional development can prepare instructors to overcome such obstacles. For example, training can prepare teachers to enlist support and address concerns of administrators and parents and demonstrate how ethics education is rooted in respect, does not seek to indoctrinate students, and cultivates critical thinking.
To assist educators in understanding the intersection of bioethics education and deliberation, Bioethics for Every Generation has an accompanying suite of educational materials, including deliberative scenarios that provide teachers and students with information on how to model deliberation in the classroom. All Bioethics Commission educational materials are free and available at www.bioethics.gov/education. The Bioethics Commission encourages feedback on its materials at firstname.lastname@example.org.