Teaching Agricultural Ethics
Author: Zimdahl R.L.
Source: Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, Volume 13, Number 4, 2000 , pp. 229-247(19)
A survey was conducted in the United States in 1998 and 1999 to determine what members of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC) and of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) offered agricultural ethics as an undergraduate course. Of the 59 responses, the survey found 15 US universities that have a course on agricultural ethics or one that includes the topic. This paper will discuss the survey's findings and offer six reasons that explain why so few universities include agricultural ethics in their curriculum. The six reasons are: 1) lack of education in ethics and philosophy on the part of agricultural scientists; 2) lack of institutional or disciplinary incentives for agricultural scientists to reflect on their work and its effects; 3) lack of administrative leadership in colleges of agriculture due to their failure to understand the benefits of agricultural ethics; 4) continuance of the prevailing assumption that agriculture is inherently ethically correct; 5) the felt necessity by agricultural scientists to defend themselves against what are perceived to be unjust and inaccurate criticisms of agriculture; and 6) a reluctance to engage in ethical reflection because it may raise more problems than it solves. The paper's central question is why ethics is not taught in more colleges of agriculture. Those who teach know that their students are tomorrow's farmers, business people, professors, and policy makers. If we who now teach and administer fail to include true ethical study in our student's education, our students will still be defensive when confronted with an ethical issue and unable to respond except with assertions based on the production paradigm, the correctness of which, although unexamined, we taught them. If the agricultural faculty does not recognize the opportunity and the obligation to participate in the shaping of values, then the values of agriculture will be shaped elsewhere in the institution and in society.
Document Type: Regular paper
Publication date: 2000-01-01