Exploring Behavior, Expression, and Ethics
In Unit 2, we began our discussion of human behavior, expression, and ethics by defining these terms and considering some broad examples. Now we delve even deeper, considering some very specific examples of historical/cultural events and how they affected human behavior, human expression, and the ethical issues surrounding them. You will find that these issues influence global and cultural responses and also trickle into the professional and personal lives society. By the end of this unit, you should have some ideas of how your own topic affected behavior, human expression, and ethical issues.
Examine how historical/cultural events have influenced society's behavior, expression and resulted in a need for ethical consideration
Apply critical thinking to analyze responses to your historical event
Course Outcomes practiced in this unit:
LI499-2 Apply appropriate theories and concepts to personal, social, and organizational issues in a formal research project statement demonstrating the
What do you have to do in this unit?
Following are summaries of the activities you need to complete this week. You can find these activities in this order in the left hand navigation.
In the readings this week, you will explore human behavior, human expression, and ethical issues at a deeper level, having the opportunity to explore these issues as they relate to several examples of significant historical events. Likewise, you'll read about applying critical thinking skills in order to analyze your research topic.
Reading 1 - Exploring Human Behavior
You may have had the opportunity to reflect on significant historical events in SS310: Exploring the 1960s: An Interdisciplinary Approach, earlier in your program. It was during this course that you looked at events such as the development of the space program, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War, the countercultural movement, the civil rights movement, the feminist movement as well as revolutionary changes in music, fashion, and art. People at that time may have reacted differently to these events, but regardless of how they responded, their responses were exhibited through behaviors. Whether it resulted in a change in the way they dressed, how politically active they became, how they expressed their grief or anger, whether they joined a war or burned a draft card, their behavior was an expression of their response to the event.
Consider a significant cultural event such as the feminist movement, which has occurred in waves and had roots as early as 19th century. Behaviors in society changed dramatically as women had more options in the workforce and were better paid for their work with some even opting to pursue fields that were previously only available to men, such as become ordained clergy. Women who were granted rights for “no fault divorce” suddenly had the opportunity to change their relationships with greater ease and there were more options with regard to pregnancy and the use of contraception. Women had better access to colleges and therefore could pursue career goals. The movement had an effect on language as well, as many women opted to take the title of Ms. instead of Mrs. or Miss. There also was a shift for more equality in using terms like “humanity” instead of “mankind” or saying “he/she” instead of always using “he” when gender was unknown. In many cases, husbands and fathers took on a more active role in traditional household duties. The behavior of women (and men, too!) changed greatly due to this significant cultural event.
As you reflect on all these behavioral responses to our example of the feminist movement, you might also use your critical thinking skills to discriminate how the event affected different groups. For example;
• Were individuals from particular cultural backgrounds underrepresented or absent from this movement (by class, race, culture, etc.)? If so, why?
• Did the movement result in a change of society’s expectations? For example, how did expectations for women change?
• What ethical issues were now being debated related to the movement (right to contraception, reproductive issues, access to the workforce, etc.)?
• What examples of human expression (art, literature, music, fashion, etc.) are connected to the feminist movement?
As you can see, sometimes the issues of behavior, expression, and ethics are inextricably intertwined. But this can make exploring your topic that much more comprehensive.
Just as we explored some of the issues of behavioral responses, expression, and ethics related to the feminist movement, you will also be doing the same as you write about your own topic. It’s helpful to
note that sometimes the behaviors observed in connection with the event are immediate and personal (such as a woman deciding to join the workforce instead of being content to get married and have children) or have lasting effects on society (such as the controversial debate over military intervention in other countries). You will be using your critical thinking skills to analyze the different ways your topic has affected human behaviors—whether on an individual level or as a whole for society. For example, as you conduct your research, you will be required to analyze what you are reading and consider how the event influenced society in a variety of ways. You will have to be open-minded in exploring how new ideas may have affected society in this particular context and time period. You may find that your research challenges what you think you already know about this event and you will look for patterns or links in behaviors of society related to this issue.
Reading 2 - Exploring Human Expression
You’ve already seen how human expression can be integrated with human behavior in the first reading. You will likely find this to be the case in your own research, but let’s practice our ability to identify examples of human expression once more.
Let’s take another example of a historical event—this time, let’s think about how people responded to the horrific events of September 11, 2001. When suicide bombers flew planes into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington DC, and crashed a fourth plane into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the horror and shock affected people in many different ways.
Obviously, this was an event that sparked a range of intense human emotions—fear, anger, grief, etc. It is human nature to take these emotions and find an outlet for expression, whether it is in a public form or privately. Countless movies, books, articles, and debates were developed after the events on the topic. Even the criminal trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, who was convicted of conspiracy related to the event, provided an opportunity for expression as both the prosecutor and defending attorney presented their arguments. People developed websites, poems, stories, and songs to express their feelings about the event. Many tributes were created in the forms of memorials and celebrations of the victims’ lives. Benefits and fundraisers were also an expression of people’s emotions and support. There were countless expressions of art in the forms of monuments, architectural designs, paintings, photographs, sculpture, and more. People take comfort in finding ways to express their emotions in times of pain and uncertainty, but likewise, we also feel compelled to express ourselves in contexts of joy and happiness, too. Many forms of art have been inspired either directly or indirectly from a significant cultural or historical event.
An article entitled "The Arts" by Heather Beal, appeared in the National Forum in 1994. In this article, the author begins by commenting on several examples of human expression in the form of art (crafts, paintings, sculpture, etc.), but then continues to reflect on her realization that many forms of art are actually powerful expressions of human emotions, most particularly concentrating on the Jewish
Holocaust of World War II. In this case, the human expression of resistance to the atrocities the Jews encountered was particularly haunting. The author comments,
“The very fact that Holocaust artists continued to create in the midst of such total annihilation and deprivation seems to me to be the supreme act of resistance. While the majority of these artists perished, over 30,000 of their works survive today.”
This truly captures the human drive for expression. The full article has been placed on reserve in the KU Library and can be accessed with the following link and password:
Once again, consider how human expression is often driven by a response to behaviors or a significant historical event. It may also be driven by cultural elements such as race, class, gender, or social expectations. Certainly the ethical issues related to the example of the Jewish Holocaust are obvious. Human behavior, expression, and ethical issues are often interconnected.
Reading 3 - Exploring Ethical Issues in Context
The study of ethics can be traced back as far as ancient Greece with the teachings of Socrates, Aristotle, and other philosophers who debated how knowing "right" from "wrong" would lead to happiness, a sense of fulfillment, and a life with purpose. However, ethics is so much more than simply identifying “right” and “wrong.” In many cases there are shades of grey where moral reasoning can yield situations where there is “right for me but wrong for you” or “right under certain extenuating circumstances and wrong under others.” In applying ethics to practical life, we find that ethical issues often put us in impossible situations and often raise more questions than answers.
Let’s take a look at another historical/cultural event in US history. The period after World War II through the 1950s was known as the Cold War and was characterized by great tension between the US and the Soviet Union (which has since been disbanded). This time period was riddled with military movements, spying, the development of weapons (especially the competition between both sides to develop nuclear arms), the race to space, and competition in technology as well as extensive propaganda on both sides. It was during this time that Senator Joseph McCarthy vigorously pursued supposed communist sympathizers in the federal government, the entertainment industry as well as the arts, fueled by the widespread fear and distrust sparked by the Cold War. “McCarthyism” became known as the practice of recklessly attacking individuals without substantiated evidence. McCarthy’s efforts led to numerous accusations of cover-ups in the US military, the infiltration of communists working in the US State Department, an attack on civil liberties and freedom of expression as writers, actors, and other artists were falsely identified as communist sympathizers, and there was a general feeling of fear and mistrust in the US.
Some of the obvious ethical issues related to this event were the use of unethical methods to identify threats to US security by exploiting the general atmosphere of fear during the Cold War. In addition, issues of censorship of the arts and artists and the influence these actions had on society, as well as biased and unbalanced reporting of the news and the response to free speech were all of questionable ethics. Many people were unfairly (and wrongly) accused of being communist sympathizers and were scrutinized and penalized unjustly. In times of political upheaval, is it ethical to take advantage of the atmosphere of mistrust for the sake of national security? Is censorship warranted for the benefit of patriotism and politics? These are some ethical questions that have been raised in response to this historical event. Effects of McCarthyism continue to haunt society even today as we consider how ethical ethnic profiling is during times of national security—for example, immediately following September 11, 2001, many people of Middle Eastern descent were detained, questioned or held under an umbrella of suspicion due to extreme concerns of national security. Were these behaviors ethical in light of the security issues?
Once again, you will be relying on your critical thinking skills to assist you in analyzing your particular topic to identify ethical issues. In some cases (such as the period of McCarthyism) you will see how ethics may have been compromised, or you may reflect on how the event resulted in a need for ethical reasoning (such as how “McCarthyism” now is used to describe unsubstantiated and unfair attacks on personal character). Your selected event may have led to new ethical considerations (such as how the women’s movement raised ethical questions about equality) or how the event brought about new considerations about ethics. Regardless, virtually every significant historical/cultural event has ethical issues integrated and your ability to analyze and evaluate the issue will help you to identify them. Using sound reasoning, being open-minded, and having an awareness of your own biases are critical thinking skills that will help you to analyze the ethical issues related to your topic.
Reading 4 - Using Critical Thinking to Analyze Your Topic
If you will recall, we reviewed critical thinking back in Unit 1 when we discussed how it includes the ability to make rational, thoughtful decisions, to consider various perspectives of an issue, to recognize when and how emotional factors influence our behaviors as well as skill in distinguishing facts from opinions. Another important aspect of critical thinking includes analytical skills. This will be useful when you explore your historical event and think about how it has affected human behavior, expression and ethics. A good critical thinker can ask the right questions when researching an issue and examine it closely. It is helpful if you can take a perspective that puts you in the appropriate context. So, for example, you might be able to understand how a historical event you are researching may influence values and attitudes of that time period that are quite different from those that society holds today. Your ability to do this will give you a greater understanding of your topic.
When you are reflecting on how your selected topic affected human behavior, expression, and ethical issues, ask yourself some of the following questions;
• How did society respond to my event? How were they changed by it?
• How did the people of that time express their emotional response to the event?
• What changes in art, music, literature, fashion, politics, or social activism occurred?
• How did my event change history? What are the lasting effects on society today from this event?
• What are some ethical issues that resulted from this event? Were there two (or more) perspectives being debated with regard to the issue?
• Were there values or reactions to my event that were a strong contrast to how we might respond to a similar event today? What has society learned from the experience?
These questions will help you in the seminar discussion as well as the discussion questions for this unit.
In this unit, we took a closer look at how society responds to significant historical or cultural events through behavior and expression as well as considered how our critical thinking skills will support our ability to analyze these responses. Come to seminar prepared to discuss the questions on the following page.
Remember that you should make every effort to complete the assigned readings for the unit before the seminar so you will be prepared to discuss the topics.
What are some examples of how people react to significant historical/cultural events? What behaviors may be a response to the event?
How do people use expression as an outlet for their feelings about a particular event? What are some examples of this?
What are some of the ways ethical issues come into play with regard to historical/cultural events? What are some examples of ethical issues that have global implications? What are examples of ethical decision making in various professional fields as well as in personal life?
How will you use critical thinking skills to identify these issues?
To participate in seminar for this unit, complete one of the two available options:
Option 1: Participate in a synchronous seminar discussion. You are strongly encouraged to participate in the live seminar for this week’s discussion if possible. Many students find this live discussion very helpful because your instructor will clarify the seminar information and your classmates may pose questions that you also have about the material.
Option 2: If you are unable to attend the live seminar, complete the Option 2 written assignment that follows. Your responses to the questions above should be composed in complete sentences and paragraphs and be 100-200 words in length. APA style is required.
You should create your seminar responses in MS Word. Save your answers and submit them to the Unit 4: Seminar Dropbox. The Dropbox is located at the top of this class on the blue toolbar. Be sure to complete all questions to earn your seminar points.
For more information on submitting your work to the Dropbox, click the Dropbox Guide button.
Now that you have a topic to explore and have begun your initial research, brainstorm about some possible ways your topic has affected human behavior, human expression, and ethical reasoning and how you might address these in your paper. Using the template provided through the button below(or found in Doc Sharing), discuss at least one effect/cause in each area (human behavior, human expression, and ethical reasoning), and explain why you believe these behaviors were a result of your event.
Submit your Unit 4 Project through the Dropbox. Click the Dropbox Help button for more information on submitting your work.
LI499 Unit 4 Project Template:
Exploring Human Behavior, Expression, and Ethical Issues
Now that you have a topic to explore and have begun your initial research, brainstorm about some possible ways that it has affected human behavior, human expression and ethical reasoning and how you might address these in your paper. Respond to questions 1-4 below.
What is your topic? What is your potential thesis?
Discuss the behaviors that have resulted from your event topic. Consider the following as you discuss behaviors related to your topic:
What were some of the behavioral responses to the event (war, riots, celebrations, in the manner people dressed, actions they took, causes they joined, etc.)?
What emotions were tied to these behaviors (anger, joy, grief, etc.)?
Why did people respond the way that they did
Did different groups (cultural, religious, genders, etc.) respond differently to the event? If so, why?
Effects on the way people dressed, how political they became, change in traditional roles/society’s expectations
Discuss some of the ways people expressed themselves in response to your topic event—these can be expressions immediately at the time of the event or even years later. These can include the following:
literature, poetry, plays, songs
art, architecture, photography, sculpture
culinary art (food dishes)
Other questions to consider as you research human expression related to your topic are;
What was the emotion that led to the expression (shock, horror, triumph, fear, etc.?)
How does diversity affect the expression (do some ethnic groups produce certain forms of art, how is art connected to gender, religion, race, etc.?)
4. What are the ethical issues related to your topic? Think about whether your issue was a result of ethical concerns or if the event, itself, raised ethical concerns. Also consider the following in your discussion:
Are there opposing perspectives on this issue?
Are there extenuating circumstances that sometimes make this event viewed as “right” or “wrong?”
How do religious beliefs, nationality, ethnicity, gender, economic status and other aspects of diversity influence the interpretation of this event?
Is there an “absolute truth” regarding this issue?
Has hindsight changed our views of the ethical issues?