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This module uses student absences as an opportunity to reflect on the moral values of honesty and responsibility. Students are provided with a framework with which to understand their class attendance responsibilities. (This includes a framework for examining critically the excuses they offer to "get off the hook" for missing class. Then they are encouraged to "take responsibility" by coordinating with their class work teams, keeping up to date on class learning activities, and adopting preventive measures to avoid future absences. The goal is to reconceptualize class attendance as continuing responsible class participation. This reconceptualization de-emphasizes compliance strategies centered on establishing minimal conditions of compliance, monitoring of behavior, and punishing non-compliance. Students explain absences but move forward quickly to reestablish contact with classmates and course content. Because much hinges on truthfulness (including alleviating the burden of monitoring behavior), the practice of responsibility is supplemented with that of honesty. Students testify to the truthfulness of their assertions by signing a pledge at the end of the module. This module has been developed in conjunction with NSF SES-0551779, "Collaborative Development of Ethics Across the Curriculum Resources and Sharing of Best Practices."

Module introduction

Class attendance is a normal part of every college course. In the past, attendance was left up to the individual student. Now universities, adopting the responsibility of being local parents, require that teachers monitor class attendance closely by taking attendance each class and reporting students who are chronically absent. This makes use of what are termed "compliance systems": minimum standards of acceptable attendance are established and communicated to students, behavior is regularly monitored, and non-compliance is punished. In compliance approaches, the focus is placed on maintaining the minimum level of behavior necessary to avoid punishment. But this leaves unmentioned higher levels and standards of conduct. Students who miss more than X number of classes are punished by having points subtracted from their overall grade. But what constitutes outstanding attendance or, more positively, excellent participation? This module uses class attendance as an occasion to teach the different concepts of moral responsibility. After outlining blame responsibility and excuse-making, it explores responsibility as a virtue or excellence. Being absent creates its own responsibilities (1) to the teacher (you are responsible for finding out the material covered and learning it on your own), (2) to your classmates (what did your class group do in your absence and how will you reintegrate yourself into the group as an equal participant), and (3) to yourself (what habits will you change to improve your participation in class).

Where excuses come from

    Understanding morally legitimate excuses

  • The table below lists characteristics of what ethicists call "capacity responsibility." These conditions--presented by F.H. Bradley--describe when we can associate an agent with an action for the purposes of moral evaluation. They consist of (1) self-sameness , (2) moral sense , and (3) ownership .
  • Self-sameness bases responsibility on the ability to maintain an identity over time; you must be the same person at the moment of accountability that you were when you performed the action. You cannot be blamed for actions performed by somebody else. So Jorge cannot be blamed for classes missed by Jose. Your professor should be held responsible for taking accurate attendance and not marking you absent when you are actually in class.
  • The moral sense condition requires that you have the capacity to appreciate and comply with moral directives. This includes certain perceptual sensitivities (the ability to recognize elements of a situation that are morally relevant), emotional responses (that you respond to moral elements with the appropriate emotion), and the ability to shape action in accordance with moral standards. Those who lack moral sense, whether temporarily as with children or because of psychological limitations as with psychopaths are non-responsible rather than guilty or innocent. They simply lack the general capacity to be held accountable.
  • Ownership gets down to the specifics of a given situation. Did factors in the situation compel you to miss class? Did you miss class because you lacked certain crucial bits of knowledge? Why were you unable to attend class and can this "why" be translated into a morally legitimate excuse. In excusing an action, you "disown" it. There are three ways to do this: a) by showing unavoidable and conflicting obligations , b) by pointing to compelling circumstances , or c) by citing excusable ignorance .
  • Formally defined, compulsion is the production in an individual of a state of mind or body against the actual will. Sickness is a state of mind and body that could compel you to stay at home even though you want to come to class and take the test. Having a flat tire on the way to school could also produce a state of body (being stuck at the side of the road) against actual will (driving to class in order to take the test). With compulsion, the key test is whether the compelling circumstances were under your control. Did your tire go flat because you postponed getting a new set of tires, even when it was clear that you needed them? Are you sick and in bed now because you overdid it at the party last night? If the compelling circumstances resulted from actions that you performed voluntarily in the past, then you are still responsible.
  • You also need to have the knowledge necessary to act responsibly in a given situation. Imagine that your class was being taught by a professor who claimed to be a CIA agent. He would repeatedly change the times and locations of class meetings at the last minute to keep from being discovered by enemy spies. Not knowing where (or when) the next class would be held would make it impossible to attend. Here you would get off the hook for missing class because of excusable ignorance. But suppose changes in class schedule were announced during class by the professor, but you were absent on that day. You are now responsible for your ignorance because you should have found out what was covered while you were absent in the past. In other words, your ignorance in the present was caused by your neglecting to find things out in the past. You are responsible because voluntary actions in the past (and inaction) caused the state of ignorance in the present.
  • The table below provides sample excuses given by students for absences. These are correlated with conditions of capacity responsibility such as ignorance and compulsion. Correlating excuses with conditions of imputability is one thing. Validating them is something else, and none of these excuses have been validated .
  • Here are some more typical excuses offered by students for missing class. Try correlating them with the conditions of imputability to which they tacitly appeal: (1) I missed your class because I needed the time for studying for a test in another class. (2) I missed class because the electricity went out during the night and my electric alarm clock didn't go off on time. (3) I planned on going to class but got called into work at the last minute by my boss. In all these cases, you have missed class and have a reason. Can your reason be correlated with ignorance or compulsion? Were you negligent, careless, or reckless in allowing these conditions of ignorance and compulsion to develop?
  • Excuses (and blame) emerge out of a nuanced process of negotiation. Much depends on trust. Your professor might excuse you for missing a class at the end of the semester if your attendance up to that point had been exemplary. He could, on this basis, treat the absence as an exception to an otherwise exemplary pattern of attendance and participation.
  • But you may have trouble getting off the hook this time, if there have been several previous absences, because the new absence falls into a pattern of poor participation accompanied by lame excuses. Excuse negotiation (and blame responsibility) occur over the background of other values such as trust and honesty.

Questions & Answers

how can chip be made from sand
Eke Reply
is this allso about nanoscale material
are nano particles real
Missy Reply
Hello, if I study Physics teacher in bachelor, can I study Nanotechnology in master?
Lale Reply
no can't
where is the latest information on a no technology how can I find it
where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
has a lot of application modern world
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
ya I also want to know the raman spectra
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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What you would do if you were in the position of the tourist?
Irha Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Corporate governance. OpenStax CNX. Aug 20, 2007 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col10396/1.10
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