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Ethics

Is Empathy Overrated?

Reading: While it may result in tremendous good, empathy can also be narrow, biased and surprisingly insensitive, argues psychology professor Paul Bloom.

Does empathy make the world a better place? It certainly looks like it. After all, empathy drives people to treat others’ suffering as if it were their own, which then motivates action to make the suffering go away. I see the bullied teenager and might be tempted initially to join in with his tormentors, out of sadism or boredom or a desire to dominate or be popular, but then I empathize — I feel his pain, I feel what it’s like to be bullied — so I don’t add to his suffering. Maybe I even rise to his defense. Empathy is like a spotlight directing attention and aid to where it’s needed.

Pets

Dog's dinner: DNA clue to how dogs became our friends

Dogs have been dining on human food scraps since the early days of their domestication, it appears.

Our canine companions developed the ability to digest starchy foods during the farming revolution thousands of years ago, according to DNA evidence. Scientists think dogs may have been domesticated from wolves when they came into settlements, scrounging for food. Modern dogs can tolerate starch-rich diets, unlike their wolf cousins, which are carnivores.

Junk Food Ban

Talking Points

Privacy

Questions for discussion:

  1. What is privacy?
  2. How do you maintain your privacy at home? At school?On the Internet? When using Facebook? When you travel? When talking on the phone?
  3. What are the reasons why privacy is important for you?
  4. To what extent do public officials have a right to privacy?

Euthanasia

Questions for discussion:

  1. What is the difference between euthanasia and suicide?
  2. Is there a difference between euthanasia and murder?
  3. Does a family member or a doctor have the right to turn off a life support machine?
  4. How long should doctors keep someone alive who is brain dead?

Is envy eating us alive?

Reading:

Is Envy Eating Us alive?

Have you ever been in the situation of seeing someone you perceive as an equal succeed beyond their – and your – wildest dreams? Have you ever struggled to understand how they did it, given that they are, according to you, no more talented or skilled than you? If the answer to these questions is yes, you have likely struggled with the painful feeling of envy.

The problem of choice

Reading:

Should Governments Nudge Us to Make Good Choices?

Our decisions are constantly shaped by subtle changes in our environment. Even choices that feel deliberate and conscious can be swayed by cues that we may not even notice, such as social norms or the setting of a default option. Behavioral scientists use the phrase “choice architecture” to describe the ways in which the environment influences how we decide.

Should gay marriages be legalized?

Reading:

Gay marriage declared legal across the US in historic supreme court ruling

Same-sex marriages are now legal across the entirety of the United States after a historic supreme court ruling that declared attempts by conservative states to ban them unconstitutional.

In what may prove the most important civil rights case in a generation, five of the nine court justices determined that the right to marriage equality was enshrined under the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.

Should cannabis be legalised?

Reading: 

The National Cancer Institute Says Cannabis Kills Cancer

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) updated its website to include various studies revealing how cannabis may inhibit tumor growth by killing cells, blocking cell growth, and blocking the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow. The institute also said that cannabis does this while protecting healthy cells.

NCI released the following statement after updating its website:

Cheating

Questions for discussion:

  1. What is your definition of cheating?
  2. Have you ever cheated?
  3. Why do you think that people cheat?
  4. Have you ever cheated in an exam?

Cloning

Questions for discussion:

  1. What is cloning?
  2. What are the advantages of cloning?
  3. What are the disadvantages of cloning?
  4. Do you think animals should be cloned?
  5. Do you think vegetables should be modified?

Pride

Questions for discussion:

  1. What is pride?
  2. Are you proud of your country?
  3. Do you feel more pride in yourself or in others?
  4. Are you proud of your heritage?
  5. Do you think you were always a source of great pride for your parents?

Genetic Engineering

Reading: 

"Genetic moderation"

WITH food security firmly on the international agenda, there's a growing appetite to look again at the opportunities promised by agricultural biotechnology.

Scientists working in this area are excited by new techniques that enable them to edit plant DNA with unprecedented accuracy. Even epigenetic markers, which modulate the activity of genes, can now be altered. The promise is to modify crops to make them more nutritious or resistant to disease.

Culture & Customs

 1. What customs do you practice? What customs do you think should no longer be practice?

2. What are your favorite customs?

3. What customs do you think should be revised?  

4. What customs (from elsewhere) do you think should be included in our culture?

5. What are the five most important values of your culture? (For example, Family)

6. What in your culture are you most proud about?

7. If you could change one thing about your culture, what would it be?

Culture Shock

1. How do you feel when you leave your home culture and enter into a completely new culture?

2. What is culture shock? Have you ever experienced culture shock?

3. What is reverse, or re-entry, culture shock? Have you ever experienced reverse culture shock?

4. What do you think is important when visiting another culture?

5. What other cultures have you met people from? What has surprised you when you've met people from other countries?

Cultural Differences

1. What do you think is interesting about your culture?
2. Do you know much about your own culture?
 3. When people from other countries think about your culture, what do they usually think of?
4. What has surprised you when you've met people from other countries?
 5. Have you looked at Internet pages from a different culture? If so, how were they different from those of your own culture?
6. What do you like about your culture?What don't you like about your culture?

Nursing Homes, Retirement Communities, Disabilities and Handicaps

Questions for discussion:

  1. Why do you think people send their elders to nursing homes?
  2. Do you think sending your loved ones to nursing homes is a kind of abandonment?
  3. Do you think we should take care of our parents when they grow old? Is it a family duty?
  4. Do you ever get tired of family duties?
  5. Does the government in your country care of people in their old age?
  6. Would you consider living in an retirement home when you're older?

Family & Alternative Lifestyles

Questions for discussion:

  1. Do grandparents help to look after their grandchildren in your country? Who should take care of old people, in your opinion?
  2. Do unmarried couples live together in your country these days? What do people in your society think about this kind of arrangement?
  3. Do people in your country ever decide to remain single and not create a family? If so, what does the rest of your society think?
  4. Is polygamy allowed in your culture? Is it OK to have more than one spouse? Would you like this life style?

White Lies & Truthfulness

Questions for discussion:

  1. Are white lies good or bad?
  2. Is a white lie still classified a lie?
  3. Is it okay to tell white lies?
  4. Does telling a white lie make you a bad person? When is a white lie acceptable?
  5. What is truthfulness? What do we mean when we say that a person if truthful?

Cultural Diversity

Reading:

Cultural Diversity: Differences in race, ethnicity, language, nationality, or religion among various groups within a community, organization, or nation. It is the mosaic of individuals and groups with varying backgrounds, experiences, styles, perceptions, values and beliefs.It is the variety of human cultures in a specific region, or in the world as a whole.

Racism

Reading: Race law debate touches emotional chord – in parliament and out

'For people who have experienced racism, it is a deeply personal debate,' says Labor senator Penny Wong.

Every so often, issues arise on the political landscape that offer a window into political representatives who are most deeply touched by them. Race is always one of them. It inspires a passion unseen on most other subjects.

Consider the Abbott cabinet where, up until now, leaks have been rare. Yet proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act inspired a wholesale leak this week.

Behavior

Reading:

A doctor entered the hospital in hurry after being called in for an urgent surgery. He answered the call asap, changed his clothes & went directly to the surgery block. He found the boy’s father pacing in the hall waiting for the doctor. On seeing him, the dad yelled:

“Why did you take all this time to come? Don’t you know that my son’s life is in danger? Don’t you have any sense of responsibility?”

Family

Reading:

SON: "Daddy, may I ask you a question?"
DAD: "Yeah sure, what is it?"
SON: "Daddy, how much do you make an hour?"
DAD: "That's none of your business. Why do you ask such a thing?"
SON: "I just want to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?"
DAD: "If you must know, I make $100 an hour."
SON: "Oh! (With his head down).
SON: "Daddy, may I please borrow $50?"
The father was furious.

Freedom

Questions for discussion:

Authoritarian Style: Pros and Cons

Reading: Korea's Hierarchical Culture a Factor in Crash?

Some U.S. media are focusing on Korea's hierarchical culture as a factor in the crash of Asiana flight 214 in San Francisco, saying this makes communication among pilots difficult in an emergency.

Foreign Policy magazine in an article titled, "Why Flight Safety in [Korea] Lagged Behind Its Economic Boom" on Monday, the magazine quotes bestselling pop psychologist Malcolm Gladwell as saying a hierarchical culture can threaten safety.

Manners

Manners are laws that set a standard for a human behavior. But unlike laws, there is no system for punishment except social disapproval. Things to ponder over:

  1. Who sets up rules and why do we need them? Do rules make our lives easier or more difficult?
  2. Blowing your nose in public is OK in England but rude in Japan. Slurping noodles is OK in Japan but rude in England. Why manners differ from culture to culture? Who decides what’s rude and what’s not?
  3. How do you distinguish a good behavior from a bad one?
  4. Why are there so many rules around: a) table and food, b) personal look, hygiene, c) money?
  5. Do you think we play by the rules of society only because of fear of social disapproval? Are you tolerant towards those who don’t play by the rules of society?
  6. What should be the rules of using cell phones?

Women and work

Overtime, women have become more powerful in the working world. Today we see women in positions which at one point used to be male-dominated, like lawyers and doctors. Women are trying to become more successful at work but still face an extraordinary dilemma: Family or Work? They try to sequence between the two, but it is still hard… Read the full article or download it in Word format below.

Questions for discussion:

Is it easy for you to say "No"?

Questions for discussion:

  1. Is it easy for you to say “No”? In what situations it’s particularly easy? In what situations it’s quite easy? In what situations it’s particularly difficult?
  2. Is it easy for you to say " I don't know"?
  3. Is it easy for you to say " I don't understand"?
  4. Is it easy for you to say " I don't care"?
  5. Is it easy for you to say that you’ve changed your mind?
  6. Is it easy for you to admit your mistakes?

Rudeness

Questions for discussion:

  1. Are you sometimes rude?
  2. Why so many people behave politely in public but allow themselves being rude with dear people – friends, relatives, spouses? Do you think it should be like that?
  3. If someone is rude to you, are you generally rude back?
  4. What acts of rudeness bother you most?
  5. What rude behavior do you see in public every day?

Sex Education in School: Pros & Cons

Reading:

Free condoms... for 12-year-olds?

A Massachusetts school district plans to give middle schoolers prophylactics and a sex-ed lecture. Many parents are less than pleased

ECC in social networks

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