Jonathan Marks: Teaching

Jonathan is director of the Bioethics Program and teaches two core courses he developed--Perspectives and Methods in Bioethics (BIOET 501) and a course on "macro-perspectives" / public health ethics and law (BIOET 502)--to a multidisciplinary group of graduate students from across the University.  He also teaches the undergraduate bioethics capstone course (BMH 490) in which he exposes students to material addressing intersections between law, policy, and ethics. He sometimes teaches PHIL 119 Ethical Leadership at Penn State, a course he revised to highlight systemic and institutional dimensions, and to draw on scholarship from a variety of disciplines (in addition to philosophical texts).  Before coming to Penn State, Jonathan taught a variety of courses in the US and Europe on a range of topics including international business regulation; EU law; and international human rights law.

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Ethical Leadership Syllabus by Jonathan H. Marks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Course Description 

In the wake of the Sandusky crisis, there is no more important issue facing the Penn State community than the question of ethical leadership.   This course provides an introduction to theories of ethics and leadership.  It is designed to help students not only to reflect more deeply on recent events at Penn State, but also to develop an understanding of ethical leadership more broadly—in business, government, and the professions.  The course explores concepts of ethical literacy, moral blindness, wrongful obedience, bystander responsibility, institutional ethics, loyalty and dissent, moral exemplars and integrity.  The readings draw insights from social and political history, biography, literature, and social science research (in particular, from the emerging field of “behavioral ethics”)—as well as philosophical texts.

Structure of the Course

Ordinarily, ethics courses begin by giving students grounding in ethical theory, and then work through case studies to give students practice applying ethical theories to practical problems.  We begin this course in a different way.  We start with a set of ethical questions raised by recent events (for example, the Sandusky crisis at Penn State or the ignition switch problem at GM) , and then work through ethical theories to explore how they might enrich our understanding of these questions, and how they might enable us to better address them.  We also draw on literature, film, social science, history and biography.  Although we apply what we learn throughout the course to recent events at Penn State, we also explore comparisons with other examples of ethical leadership and failures thereof.  These examples are drawn from a variety of spheres including business, politics and the professions.  At the end of the course, we return to events at Penn State to explore how our understanding has been enriched. 

Course Schedule

Week 1:  Introduction and Case Study

Weeks 2-3:  What is Ethics? Moral Literacy, Ethical Theory, and a 'Toolkit'

Week 4:  What is Ethical Leadership?

Week 5:  On Integrity and Corruption

Week 6: An Introduction to Moral Psychology and Behavioral Ethics

Week 7:  Moral Blindness and Contrived Ignorance

Week 8:  Bystander Responsibility and Identifiable Victims

Week 9:  Ethics and Proximity

Week 10:  Role Morality and Wrongful Obedience

Week 11:  Of Gods, Demons, and Mortals:  The Quest for Moral Exemplars

Week 12: Institutional Ethics and Organizational Perspectives

Week 13: Ethics and Societal Change

Week 14: On Loyalty and Dissent: Whistleblowing and Civil Disobedience

Week 15:  Review and Additional Case Studies

In the discussion of the Sandusky crisis at Penn State, assigned readings include:

The Freeh Report (2012)

Spanier Response to Freeh Report

Sandusky Presentment (2011)

Breakdown of Sandusky Verdict (2012)

President Erickson's Statement on the removal of Joe Paterno's statue

Penn State "Fact Sheet" on NCAA Sanctions (August 2012)

Malcolm Gladwell, In Plain View (New Yorker, 2012)

Michael Bérubé, Why I Resigned the Paterno Chair (Oct. 2012)

In addition to numerous news articles and op-eds in the New York Times, the Centre Daily Times, and the Chronicle of Higher Education (among others), there are a number of scholarly publications.  For a collection of scholarly essays on this topic, please click here.