Teaching Methods: Ethics in the

In this regard, one general officer states, “Military ethics based upon me-ism or egotism cannot function. Military ethics is about knowing whom and what we owe. That is exactly what is meant by service before self (in the Air Force), selfless service (in the Army), or commitment (in the Navy and Marine Corps)” (Toner, 2003, p. 37). This larger sense of duty and responsibility is the crux of military ethics today: “Military ethics cannot properly exist without the concept of owing. If we know why we owe what we do, we are able to recognize the obligation, responsibility, and duty which give rise to moral thinking and ethical reasoning” (Toner, p. 37).

Nevertheless, there are broader considerations involved in any discussion of military ethics that must be taken into account as well, particularly in an increasingly globalized world where different value systems and cultures will undoubtedly affect the perception of what is ethical and what is not. For instance, the war on terrorism, Rosenthal (2002) suggests, “will test the definition and limits of the ethics of war. Soon the need to consider competing moral claims will become imperative” (p. 87). In the meantime, the need for ethical instruction in the military classroom remains a highly important component of developing soldiers who will be effective in accomplishing their respective missions by providing a set of guidelines that can be used to help guide them through ethical dilemmas and unknown situations where such training may be the only relevant guidelines they have available.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The research was consistent in showing that the study of ethics in general and the teaching ethics in a military setting are certainly not new, but are rather thousands of years old. The research also showed that although some observers argue that it is not even possible to effectively teach ethics, others believe that it is not only possible but highly desirable to do so for a number of reasons, including the inculcation of solid citizenship values and those attributes that are necessary for success in various professions. This profession-specific approach to ethics instruction was shown to be especially relevant for the teaching of military ethics because of the unique mission assigned to the armed forces.

Finally, the research was absolutely consistent in emphasizing the need for an understanding of this assigned mission and the individual soldiers responsibility for accomplishing it.

Some general recommendations that can be use to help achieve these goals include the following:

People must seek to broaden and deepen their command of many sources for ethical standards to enlarge the resources for guidance in decision making and communicating;

People must sharpen their ethical sensitivities so that they may identify and understand the issues and problems calling for ethical judgment;

People must develop a set of ethical guidelines to use for confronting ethical dilemmas;

People must deepen the will to communicate with increasingly high ethical quality; and,

People need better insight into themselves, to perceive their values clearly, to be willing and able to engage in self-examination, and to strengthen ethical commitment (Jensen).


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