What ethical challenges does your profession currently face?
What ethical challenges will your profession face in the near future?
How can researchers and educators prepare students and young professionals to meet these challenges?
These questions are being addressed in a project of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE), which has called for “A Year of Conversation on the Future of Practical and Professional Ethics.”
In the second half of the twentieth century the United States and other developed countries faced a decline in the reputation of many professions in the face of prominent scandals. External and internal scrutiny into the practices and principles that do or should guide professionals were accompanied by widespread efforts to update or create codes of ethics, the development of formal programs of ethics instruction in pre-professional
training, and a stronger emphasis on continuing education in many professions.
In the twenty-first century, we find that much of the existing work on professionalism and professional ethics has fallen behind emerging conditions that affect how young professionals see themselves, their relationship to employers, each other, and the ethical decisions they face, as well as their views about education, work, family, and work-life balance.
These conditions include
- changes in the workforce, such as precarious labor markets; a proliferation of new assessments and tools used in hiring, retention, and collaboration; and an increasingly diverse, and often enervated, professional workforce;
- the rise of freelance professionalism and personal branding, as well as competing forms of specialization, credentialing, networking, and professional communication; and degree and résumé inflation;
- cultural and social changes, such as shifting notions of the public and private; the impact of big data on standards, privacy, and confidentiality; the decreasing influence of organized labor, religion, and political parties; and the rise of affinity-based thinking;
- the expanding roles of regulatory and administrative bodies in various sectors, including the surveillance regime born of international terrorism; and
- the impact of high debt, post-Recession housing patterns, and healthcare inflation.
As technologies, demographics, and economics continually shape and re-shape culture and society, professionals must identify and address concomitant ethical issues.
APPE has been hosted by the Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions at Indiana University Bloomington. Following the Poynter Center’s 40th anniversary in 2012, and looking forward to APPE’s 25th annual meeting in 2016, in October 2014 four of the Association’s Founding Members – Sissela Bok and Dennis Thompson (Harvard University), Deni Elliott (University of South Florida, St. Petersburg), and David H. Smith (Indiana University Bloomington) – co-sponsored a meeting at Harvard of a small group of scholars and professionals to discuss the future of practical and professional ethics. One outcome was “A Year of Conversation on the Future of Practical and Professional Ethics.”
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