Professional Ethics ....

i have this really interesting class this sem called professional ethics . It could be a really boring one but the prof really really lights up your brain ... and makes you think . We discuss actual cases where an ethical or moral decision was needed to be made and then try to see what we'd have done in the same place . You know .... place yourself in that person's boots . Really makes you think and the answers we give tell us sooooo much about our innner self . Ususally there's no wrong or right , it's simply the way you are . As our professor says , the objective of the course is to make us see where other people are coming from , their "DEFAULT moral positions" and to be able to make a good ethical judgement . Here's one of the really interesting ones .... it has everything , moral dilemna , life and death decision and its time critical . A real crunch situation thats very very possible . It's actually a real incident . Think what you'd have done .

Here's the case

You're a station master of a small railway station out west in the 1940's . Only 2 trains pass your station everyday . One stops and the other merely passes your station at a speed of about 70 miles/hour . Your job responsibilities include security and safety . You are personally resposible of making sure the railway tracks between the platforms are free of pedestrians when the trains are approaching .

It's the time for the non-stopping train to pass through your station , you go out to have a look and you see it at the very horizon . About a couple of miles out , but coming pretty quick . Then you see about 4 small children playing on the tracks about half a mile away in the direction the train is coming from . The children are in the 5-7 year old age group . What do you do ?
ONE : Try getting the children's attention and alert them to the danger , but there's not much you can do at that distance . SO you're basically leaving the children be at their own fate .
TWO : You can switch the train to the second track going through your station , but that track ends after another few hundred yards . So doing that could lead to derailment and death of hundreds of people .
THREE : Anything else you can think of .

I know what i would've done and it made me understand my default position and i realised i've been very consistent on it through my life . It has been a guide to all me decisions in such situations .

If you're curious , the actual station master tried to attract the attention of the kids and then tried running to them but in vain . The children died but the train passengers were safe .

It just goes to show how much can suddenly be thrust upon you in a matter of seconds . Our jobs no matter how mundane require us to be ready for anything and to think about it , isn't that what life's all about , whether you can perform during the crunch . Isn't that what true success is all about ? I wonder how i'd actually react ? I'm really thankful for having taken this course , it gives me an insight into what can happen .

I like to think i handle things well when it really gets to the edge . I believe its really my finest hour , where i really perform my best . In an argument i can probably even back my belief up with examples where i've been icy cool and managed well under intense pressure . But even i was a little shaken at the sudden development of things in some of the cases i've ome across . Gave me a new perspective on what the level of preparedness must be . When the right answer comes to you as an instinct , thats when it really is any kinda preparation . Also the more you study about this , the more you learn to be extra careful of your everyday decisions in your professional life . I'm so impressed i'm sure if any day i open a company i'll make sure ethical positions and standards are very high in my list of job requirements .

I'll try posting more examples as i go on in this class .

There's another thing i noticed . Back in india , we just don't instill anything called ethics in our proffesional students . We're just too bothered to produce more and more engineers who can code , build and reconstruct . Follow a map ... but we don't see true innovation , true thinking . thats why we have inept engineers , useless lawyers . Everyone trying to make a quick buck . Its cuz no one sees the importance of acting ethically correctly . All professional associations in india have a code of ethics . Ask any engineer you know what the code of ethics says . Just Don't expect an answer .
Paraphrasing a very insightful line from jurassic park "We are so busy figuring out if we could do it , we never both to sit back and see if we should do it " .
I really think such a course should be incorporated into all levels of professional degess in our system back home . I can think of so many reasons why its a good idea and so many goods that will come out of it .


Beatrice said…
Wow!!that really was impressive, I wish I had a course like that.
I really dunno what i would've done..but what the station master actually did was what came to mind instinctively.

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