June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.114.1 - 13.114.11
A Study in Engineering and Military Ethics Introduction
Human nature and social awareness can often cause individuals to act or make decisions that are not considered moral or proper by the majority. Merriam-Webster defines ethics as a set of moral principles or a system of moral values.1 Most occupations that require the trust of the general public are held to high ethical standards. These professions include law, medical, engineering, and military, all of which have adopted systems that guide subscribed individuals through moral decision making processes. Most learned professions that uphold such standards prescribe a system of non-mandatory codes of conduct.2 Perhaps the most recognized professional code of ethics was reported by the National Society of Professional Engineers, which defines fundamental canons and includes explicit guidance on professional conduct.
Because ethical behavior is essential to the profession of engineering, ABET Inc., has addressed this topic in Criterion 3, outcome (f): graduates will have an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility. The environmental engineering program criteria (ABET Criterion 9) also requires an understanding of professional practice issues.3 There are numerous examples in the literature on how professional practice issues might be included in engineering curricula, but limited data on methods for assessment.
The United States Military Academy (USMA) Environmental Engineering Program has a robust military ethical education and training program that spans the entire four year West Point experience. It is thought that the moral character development programs at USMA strongly support the professional practice requirements of EC2000.3 The USMA environmental engineering program has been assessing attainment of ethics and other professional practice requirements since ca. 1999. Because all graduates of the USMA environmental engineering program (unless granted a waiver by the program director) are required to take the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam (FEE), it has been used as a metric for this purpose since FEE subject data has been available. Longitudinal data on ethics questions, from the FEE, is presented in Figure 1. The USMA Environmental Engineering cadets have been tracking with the national average (for environmental engineers) on ethics since 2002.
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