About Bioethics Education
Believing that it is essential that the public are informed so that they may engage with the ethical and social issues raised by developments in biological and medical sciences in a rigorous and rational manner, Deborah Stevens established Bioethics Matters in 2006. The degree of interest and level of demand expressed from within a wide variety of educational arenas led Bioethics Matters to specialise into Bioethics Education in 2010.
Sound critical thinking requires students to put their thoughts into a coherent and systematic framework. For this to happen it is essential that students are taught about the nature of ethics, which of course, is something that human beings have discussed for several thousand years. We want our students to understand those traditions and how they inform different sides of an ethical debate.The opportunity for students to have time, materials and support to reflect on issues and to access the variety of traditions and world views about what it means to be a responsible human being, are limited within the subject areas of the day to day curriculum. Bioethics Education student seminars describe the latest developments in biotechnology and their ethical, cultural, legal and social implications, while introducing students to the tools required to grapple with these current and future dilemmas.
We must understand the science
As members of a democratic society who wish to participate in social decision-making around biotechnologies and their applications, we need to understand the science. That is, there is a need for factual accuracy. We also need to be able to analyse the arguments for and against their development and use - to be able to analyse presuppositions and assumptions and to really understand alternative perspectives to our own - not necessarily to agree with them, but to be able to acknowledge where differing beliefs stem from.
We must understand ethics
To paraphrase Aristotle, to understand what ethics is you have to study ethics. Therefore, one of the implications of saying that we must include the teaching of ethics in the school curriculum is that teachers must be properly trained. Bioethics Education offers in-service training and professional development for teachers. This can be on a whole staff or subject teacher basis. In addition to describing the latest developments, the teacher seminars model practical techniques for effective teaching of Bioethics and supply resources for immediate use in the classroom.
Scientific developments in biotechnology are gathering pace
Over the last three decades we have seen ground-breaking scientific developments that involve the manipulation of living organisms and the very creation of life. The pace of development and the application of new scientific technologies are ever increasing, as are the ethical, social and legal ramifications associated with them.
Few of us fully understand the biotechnologies or are truly aware of the pace of change, let alone are equipped to rationally reason which practices should be embraced and which should be controlled. And if we are finding it difficult to cope with the pace of change, how much more difficult will it be for our young folk who are to inherit our society?