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Ethics in America

Build moral reasoning by examining ethical dilemmas in this video series.

A video instructional series on ethics for college and high school classrooms and adult learners; 10 one-hour video programs.

This series uses the Socratic method to build analytical skills and examine ethical questions. The programs aim to sharpen moral reasoning without favoring a particular position by exploring ethical dilemmas in legal, political, medical, corporate, and military arenas. Panelists include Antonin Scalia, Faye Wattleton, and Peter Jennings.

Series Reviews and Awards

Audience Reviews

“I can’t tell you how much my family enjoyed the ethics show last night. My two teenagers, my husband and I sat around for over an hour after the show and discussed not only the questions raised on the show but other ethical questions as well. It really felt wonderful – I think this was what my vision of what parenting was all about when I was a new mother. Thanks to PBS, it came true for one brief shining moment! We are all looking forward to the next show.”

Viewer, Boise, ID

“It is with great pleasure I write to thank all of you for this program in particular and all I have seen of the Annenberg/CPB Project. Television at its finest. I’m extremely delighted by whoever develops the format and the issue to be presented.”



January 1990

Ethics in America, a diverse, articulate, and witty discourse about ethical dilemmas, makes stimulating viewing in ‘Do Unto Others’ and ‘Under Orders, Under Fire,’ two segments sampled from a provocative 10-part television series.”

Video Librarian
March 1989

“Four Stars.”

Ethics in America is a brilliant use of television – as a public forum for intelligent discourse. Highly recommended.”

May 1989

Ethics in America shows extensive, challenging discussions skillfully condensed into compelling one-hour programs as the camera prowls the arena, focusing on the individual speaking, glimpsing the reaction of another player in these ethical scenarios, and perhaps most effectively, capturing the perplexed expressions of participants visibly tussling with the issue at hand.”

Ethics in America…becoming immersed in the diverse, articulate, and witty discourse that evolves, the viewer is treated to intelligent and truly stimulating fare…this is another accessible and moderately priced series.”

Wilson Library Bulletin
May 1989

Ethics in America video programs are never dull….they are unusually compelling.”

“Television seldom asks us, its viewers, to exercise our minds, nor does it often ask us to examine our consciences and morality, in the way that Ethics in America does.”

School Library Journal
July 1989

“High school students often consider ethics a vague, abstract concept….this series refutes that preconception perfectly and shows that ethics impact almost every decision we make.”

“The whole series is extremely reasonably priced for such a high quality product, and are very highly recommended for public library collections and for schools in which the titles can be integrated into specific curricular units.”

Reston Times, Reston, VA
February 1989

Ethics in America examines contemporary ethical conflicts and gives students a grounding in the language concepts and traditions of ethics. The course will provide young adults with the intellectual tools they need to analyze moral dilemmas in their personal and professional lives.”

TV Guide
February 1989

“When so much is being written and said about the decline of ethical behavior in our country, Ethics in America is a timely effort to allay confusion over the difference between what we have a right to do and what is the right thing to do.”

“Lively, intelligent, surprisingly witty and down-to-earth, Ethics in America is fun to watch. It proves once again that when abstract subjects are presented in a palatable, entertaining form, television does indeed have the ability to make us think – and enjoy it.”

The Atlanta Constitution
January 1989

Ethics in America is not merely good, it’s fantastic. And it’s not just pointy-headed intellectual rub-a-dub. It’s more exciting than any 10 TV car chases, it’s more intense than Geraldo, it’s funnier – yes funnier – than most sitcoms.”

Ethics in America is the best public affairs series since “Power of Myth.”



Houston International Film Festival “Worldfest Houston”
1989 Silver Award for “Politics, Privacy, and the Press”

International Association of Audio Visual Communicators
1989 Special Achievement “Cindy” in Talent

International Film and TV Festival of New York
1989 Finalist Award for “To Defend a Killer” and “Under Order, Under Fire Part I”

National Educational Film and Video Festival
1989 Bronze Apple Award for “To Defend a Killer”

Ohio State Award
1990 Award for “Under Orders, Under Fire”

Series Credits

About the Producers and Advisors

Ethics in America is produced by Columbia University Seminars on Media and Society. The television course print materials were designed and developed by public television’s station, WNET. The two accompanying texts are published but Prentice Hall.

The Moderators:
Lewis B. Kaden
Davis Polk & Wardwell

Arthur R. Miller
Bruce Bromley Professor of Law
Harvard Law School

Charles R. Nesson
Harvard Law School

Charles Ogletree, Jr.
Jessamy Fort & Ogletree

The Educational Advisory Panel:

Tom L. Beauchamp, Ph.D.
Senior Research Scholar

Joseph and Rose Kennedy Institute of Ethics
Georgetown University

Sue Commanday, Ph.D
Coordinator of Special Programs
Rockland Community College

Kenneth E. Goodpaster, Ph.D
Associate Professor
Graduate School of Business Administration
Harvard University

Louis Hodges, Ph.d
Director, Society and the Professions
Washington and Lee University

Phyllis Walden, Ph.D
Philosophy Instructor and Director, Credit for Prior Learning Program
Sangamon State University

Margaret Wherry, Ph.D
Assistant Director of Academic Outreach
Kansas State University