Asee peer logo

Ethics Education For The Third Millennium

Download Paper |


1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.264.1 - 3.264.10



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Marilyn Dyrud

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1347

Ethics Education for the Third Millennium

Marilyn A. Dyrud Oregon Institute of Technology


A variety of technological disasters in the 1980s, including Challenger, Bhopal, and Chernobyl, has prompted a renewed interest in teaching engineering ethics at the college level. This paper offers a discussion of need, subject matter, methodology, and resources to enable technical instructors to integrate ethical issues into their courses without sacrificing technical content.


Higher education in America, notes Steven McNeel, “was originally a whole-person education with emphases. . .[on] four components of morality: moral sensitivity, moral judgment, moral motivation, and moral character.” 6 But as knowledge became specialized and fragmented, due to technological development, the practice of teaching morality as the primary focus of education waned.

The destruction of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986, however, spawned a renewed interest in ethics education, particularly among the technical professions. Although other technological disasters, such as Bhopal, resulted in much higher loss of life, the large amount of publicity focused on Challenger brought to the forefront of public awareness a number of ethical issues previously unexplored in open forums: decision-making processes, management/technical staff confrontations, communication between organizational levels and between organizations, and basic engineering design. This paper explores ethics education for technical students, including need, appropriate subject matter, methodology, and resources.


Competency in technical matters is, of course, essential for our engineering and technology graduates. Of increasing importance, however, are the “soft” skills, which include areas such as communications, interpersonal relations, and the social sciences. Indeed, some maintain that a firm grounding in these skills is as important in the workplace as technical facility. Former ASEE President Eleanor Baum, for example, has noted, “The area in which industry would like to see improvement is in the so-called soft skills. . .communication skills, team work, economic understanding, societal context, and global awareness.” The “ultimate benefit,” she explains, will be “engineers who will better satisfy the needs of the workplace and whose best humanitarian instincts will prevail.” 1

Boeing corporate manager of college and university relations, Al Hametner, similarly stated

Dyrud, M. (1998, June), Ethics Education For The Third Millennium Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/1-2--7105

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 1998 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015