The usual discussions of academic ethics and freedom revolve around the issues of what we may teach. Here, I'm concerned with how we teach and examine. Thus this paper is concerned with process rather than substance--perhaps an unusual concern for an academic but currently of interest to me, having recently served a year in the federal bureaucracy where process is dominant over substance.
A physician who knew of improved procedures to facilitate the health of a patient but chose to use older, proven less effective, means, purely for his/her own convenience, would clearly be guilty of medical malpractice--unethical behavior. I contend that the same accusation is valid against many university physics faculty engaged in the traditional forms of teaching introductory physics, to the growing bodies of nontraditional students, and showing very little concern for what these students are actually learning. This failure to distinguish between teaching and learning not only has ethical implications; it contributes to the growing public disenchantment with its public universities, the decline in support and resources extended to such academic institutions, and to a swelling chorus of attacks on tenure and other customary and useful faculty prerogatives. Tenure has honorably served as protection for the ethical curmudgeon in academia. Growing unethical behavior of the academics will remove this protection from all--ethical and pragmatic alike.
Saperstein, Alvin M., "Research vs. Teaching: An Ethical Dilemma for the Academic Physicist" (1996). Ethics in Science and Engineering National Clearinghouse. 396.
Retrieved from https://scholarworks.umass.edu/esence/396
Acknowledgement and Disclaimer
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. SBR-9511817. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The texts of the workshop talks have been prepared by the speakers themselves. The other material has been prepared by the editors based on discussions during the workshop and feedback from those who have read earlier drafts. While every effort has been made to accurately reflect the facts and opinions supplied by these contributors, the editors take full responsibility for any inaccuracies.