Hastings Center Program Builds Students' Critical Reasoning Skills
Students from Kent Place School, an independent school for girls in Summit, New Jersey, are spending their summer visiting The Hastings Center as part of a groundbreaking pilot project in which they examine a major topic in bioethics – the use of medicine in human enhancement. The project, undertaken in partnership with the Ethics Institute at Kent Place School, is led at the Hastings Center by Josephine Johnston, a research scholar, and Jacob Moses, the new media director.
An aim of the project is to create resources that enable teachers and students in the United States and elsewhere to use a modified version of The Hastings Center methodology to investigate bioethics issues as part of a high school curriculum. The methodology involves bringing together people with a range of perspectives for a careful and respectful investigation of multifaceted dilemmas in bioethics. In exploring human enhancement, the 12 students are researching and discussing cases that deal with such topics such as cosmetic surgery and performance-enhancing drugs. A number of Hastings Center research scholars participate in the discussions and are mentoring the students.
One of the students, 16-year-old Ashley Gapusam, finds the program very beneficial. “When we discuss things it’s like we are teaching ourselves,” she said. Gapusam also said that the case studies have had a real impact on her. “In looking at the case studies, I’ve learned how one tiny detail can affect how you see the overall problem. It’s never cut and dry.”
The Hastings Center staff is also learning as the program develops. “We’re learning an enormous amount, including what resonates easily with students and which issues and questions they need more help to understand and appreciate.” Johnston said.
The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School, located in Summit, N.J., was founded in 2007 and fosters the study of ethics and ethical decision-making in primary and secondary school communities.