Social Ethics

E13 Social Ethics, 3 CE Hours, $21

Objectives: At the end of this module, you will: 1. Understand and apply different ethical considerations in family, community and governmental relationships.  2. Use the Social Accountability Model in various ethical cases.


To deal with ethical relationships, you need to find the answers to these questions:

1. How can we live in a family?

1.1 Marriage
1.2 Commitment
1.3 Variations

2. How can we live in a community?

2.1 Care
2.2 Poverty
2.3 Obligations

3. How can we live in a nation?

3.1 Democracy
3.2 Punishment
3.3 Discrimination

4. How can we live accountably?

4.1 Public Trust
4.2 Politics
4.3 Governance

Thought Questions:

What are the major problems in ethics in connection with your family life?
What are the major problems in ethics in connection with your accountability?
How would you respond to an ethical case?


1. How can we live in a family?

What is your lifestyle? What ethical problems arise in this area? Remember to use all available resources as you consider the various ethical alternatives.

M1. Marriage  The Marriage Toolbox
M2. Single, or anyone not married.

1.2 Commitment

Are you set in the above way, or are you searching, changing, etc?

C1. Committed to one life partner, or to live without a live partner.
C2. Honestly seeking to find a life partner.
C3. Living without commitment in this area, promiscuous.

1.3 Variations

What are the ethical issues in the following lifestyle variations?

V1. Living honestly in marriage with a person of the opposite gender.
V2. Living sexually with another person.
V3. Just doing what seems to come naturally.
V4. Moral situations are not constant, the keep changing with various societies.
V5. In considering alternatives, include principles, standards and consequences.

“What is usually the right thing to do in relationships?” Ethical decision-making starts with the identification of the problem. In our study of ethical issues, we will often present the opinions of four characters, namely Small Pinker and Small Browner, and  Big Pinker and Big Browner. Later you will learn who these characters really are. Here are their four answers. Do some sound better than others?

“Whatever makes ME happy is right!”………………………………”Whatever WORKS is right!”

“Whatever is helpful to OTHERS is right!”………………………… “Whatever is FAIR is right!”

Explain some of the various approaches to social ethics.

ERIC_NO: ED419197, Using Professional Ethics to Strengthen Family/School Partnerships: Practical Suggestions., by Wright, Doris J., 1998

ABSTRACT: Professional ethics are designed to set minimum standards of practice and service for school psychologists. Ways in which professional ethics standards of school psychology can be used to build and strengthen work relationships with parents, legal guardians, and other family members are described here. Suggestions for how school psychologists can expand their roles with parents and families are highlighted. Some of the guidelines for school psychologists include: (1) view the entire family as your client; (2) expand your definitions of informed consent and confidentiality; (3) teach advocacy skills to parents, legal guardians, and to other family members; and (4) develop a tripartite teacher-family-psychologist consultation relationship. Some guidelines for parents are: (1) learn the importance of confidentiality and informed consent;(2) seek the support of other parents who utilize similar psychological services; (3) come prepared with a list of questions to ask school psychologists and other personnel; (4) ask for an advocate for yourself and for your children;(5) ask for a consultation with the school psychologist; and (6) understand the ethical practices of school psychologists. Parents should ask to see a copy of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) “Principles of Professional Ethics” and should talk with the school psychologists about what constitutes good ethical conduct and professional practice.  


2. How can we live in a community?

2.1 HELP and CARE

Help Honesty
Fairness Freedom

Where there is a NEED, how do you decide what type of help, if any, you should give?

Help1: Give personal help, by the Good Samaritan model.
Help2: Recommend help from a nonprofit volunteer organization.
Help3: Refer to governmental help, by the Plato/Marx model.
Help4: Refrain from help, in cases where help would do harm, by the Libertarian model.


2.2 Poverty

How can the poor be helped?

2.3 Obligations

What obligations do you have to others?

ERIC_NO: ED268587, Whose Ethics in the Classroom? On the Politics of Ethics. By Sproule, J. Michael,1985

ABSTRACT: The issue of whose “facts” and whose perspective will control classroom discussions of social questions tends to surface in one of two related ways: (1) in connection with efforts to mandate the content of the instructional matter, and (2) in connection with attacks on teachers whose instructional material contains facts or evaluations offensive to a powerful social group or interest. A historical survey of the political monitoring of those who would give instruction concerning the ethics of social action, with focus on the ethics of communication, indicates a rediscovery after World War I of the importance of the ethical communication practices in democratic politics. The popularity of critical propaganda studies in colleges and universities during the mid-1930s was a short-lived phenomenon, however, and in the increasingly tense political atmosphere of 1939 to 1941,opponents of education who probed socialethics often branded ethical analysis as part of a conspiracy to undermine dominant American institutions. In the 1940s and 1950s, forces opposed to critical social analysis levied charges against educators and textbooks. The place of ethics in present day classrooms is, at best, ambiguous. While the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s created a renewed acceptance of inquiries into the nature of modern society, the politics of recent years has seen the anti-critical trends continue, although now in the form of pressure from a variety of social groups harboring strong political opinions about what should and should not be taught.


3. How can we live in a nation?

3.1 Democracy

What are the relationships in a democracy?
Ethics does not control a democracy, the various ethics groups and committees are there only for advice. In a democracy, we try to learn much from history and let history influence our ethical decision-making.

3.2 Punishment

How does society punish people who disobey laws?

3.3 Discrimination

What is discrimination?

Rev – U.S. Employment Discrimination Law


4. How can we live accountably?

4.1 Public Trust

Trust is based on the four ethical imperative, namely help, fairness, honesty, and freedom. Among these, honesty is central.

4.2 Politics

The election process is in the background or all political decisions. One party seeks to gain an advantage over the other. This involves much secrecy and puts a strain on the four ethical imperatives.

4.3 Government

The government is charged with operating on the basis of the four ethical imperatives. It finds it difficult to do so. Thus public accountability is required.

4.4 Social Accountability Model

Accountability considerations start with the individual who is accountable to his/her family, and to a lesser degree to his/her friends, supervisor, and law enforcement officers. All the above are also accountable to him or her.

Acting on the basis of mutual trust and interests.
Avoiding deceptions and predominant self-interests.

Being answerable to your family members, supervisors, and law enforcement officials.
Your family members, employers, and legislators being answerable to you.

Social Positives: consideration, leadership, responsibility, fairness.
Social Negatives: arrogance, lavishness, irresponsibility, conflicts-of-interests.

Examining the level of AGREEMENT between the two parties, the individual and the answerable:

Agree1: total agreement that the case is helpful, fair, honest and free.

A and B

Agree2: some agreement that the case may be helpful, fair, honest and free.


Agree3/disagree: some agreement that the case is unhelpful, unfair, dishonestor oppressive.




The case is considered in light of the four ethical imperatives:

Help Honesty
Fairness Freedom

Helpful       Maybe helpful     Unhelpful

Fair          Maybe fair          Unfair

Honest     Maybe honest     Dishonest

     Free         Maybe free        Oppressive

4.5 How would you deal with a case like this?

“Your boss assigns you a project that you know will not work. Will you do it anyway and sign off on it?”

Answer the following four questions with yes or no.

  1. This is an ethical issue. Yes No
  2. This is an issue of right vs. right. Yes No
  3. This is clearly an issue of Care-orientation. Yes No
  4. You may get fired if you refuse to do the project. Yes No

ERIC_NO: ED414787, Accountability and External Ethical Constraints in Academia, by LeBlanc, H. Paul, III, 1996

ABSTRACT: This paper provides a critique of the culture of self-regulation in higher education, in the context of recent public concerns about accountability in higher education. It discusses the role of the professor within academe, the role of tenure in protecting academic freedom, and the need to address issues of faculty accountability. It then examines institutional accountability, citing the economist Adam Smith’s concept of the need for external ethical constraint, and focusing on the special burden of accountability and self-regulation faced by public colleges and universities. In discussing the question often, it notes that in some cases tenure has been used to protect faculty who are guilty of ethical improprieties, such as creating a hostile environment for or economic exploitation of graduate students. The paper recommends that professional organizations in the field of speech communication develop professional codes of ethics, and that such codes address principles related to the responsibilities of faculty in their relationship to students, to other faculty, to the university, to the discipline, and to society as a whole. (All Eric documents are

4.6  Do a Social Ethics Update with current news, information, and research

Ethics Resources

Ethics Library

Explore your concerns in ethics at three of the following sites:


Study this website for3 hours for an approved 3-hours Continuing Education Certificate (0.3CEUs).
Click here for the self-correcting test & online payment, and 2) receive your certificate immediately online. All are online, nothing by post-mail. 


Recommendations for you: Visit the CARE ETHICS course at In this course, you will be exposed to the ten modules dealing with ethical care, research ethics, palliative ethics, political ethics, codes of ethics, character education, golden rule ethics, conflict of interests, forgiveness and critical thinking.

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