As the school year heads into final exams, we share with you a case study about the ethical dilemma a student wrestles with after he sees a classmate cheating. “The Final Examination” is an edited version of a story from a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. He writes about a conflict he faced between the school’s honor code and the ruin he might bring to a classmate’s potential career.
The case study can be used to help students understand the thought processes that individuals take when grappling with difficult decisions. Students will see that making ethical decisions is not always as easy as it seems and that all decisions and actions have consequences.
Many of the classes we offer at the Newseum focus on ethics — media ethics as well as personal. Should a journalist put down a notebook to attend to an injured person? Should an editor publish photos that may be offensive to some viewers?
We help students understand that ethics is a system, usually involving a series of questions we ask ourselves, to decide what’s right or wrong, and to make good choices. Our laws and rules (at work and at school) are examples of standards we attempt to impose on each other. But ultimately, each individual must decide for himself or herself what is the right, and principled or honest, thing to do.
On the surface, this may sound simple, but it is not always so. As “The Final Examination” illustrates, sometimes we have conflicting loyalties. What are we to do when a good friend has violated the school’s honor code? What should we say when asked to cover up another’s indiscretions?
|Download a pdf of the case study|
Reproduce the pages for your students. There are questions at the end to help guide the discussion.
Although the case takes place during the Vietnam War, the struggle over right and wrong is timeless.