As a follow on to my conversation with Mark McClennan, APR, Fellow PRSA on his Ethical Voices PODCAST, I offered some insight into the ethical framework we teach to our future naval officers in our ethics course at the Naval Academy.

We break our course several sections. Beginning with moral perception, we examine how we see the world and work to expand our viewpoints. We spend a bit of time looking at our personal narratives and how they impact our perception of morality. For example, we read C.S. Lewis and his commentary on “inner rings” and our human desire to be part of something or some group – but often at a cost. As students reflect the inner rings they desire to join, they examine the compromises that might come because of the choices they make. As we work to expand our students view of moral perception, we dive into the concept of integrity and what it looks like in practice. We discuss rationalization – when do we rationalize our choices good or bad then start to socialize behaviors that are acceptable or absolutely unacceptable?

Once we have broadened our students’ moral perception, we move into moral deliberation – the heart of our course. We provide a framework or our “moral deliberation roadmap” that is filled with questions for ethical consideration. Starting with constraints, we ask, “are you viewing others with dignity and respect?” “Are you recognizing their autonomy while honoring their rights as humans and as citizens?” We discuss rights, waiver, or forfeiture of rights along with importance of justice – both retributive and distributive. Then we move onto consequences and examine the consequences of our decision(s). And it’s not just the short-term consequences of our decisions. We push our students to examine the long-term consequence of our actions including who is affected and how are they affected by our decisions. Then we move on into special obligations. Members of the military have a very special obligation incorporated into the oath of office and that is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. As we complete this moral deliberation framework, we look at the impact our actions have on our character. Ultimately, we are working to develop students and naval officers of character and moral excellence.

Ethical behavior starts with how we and others see thinks – our moral perception. Then by using a framework for moral deliberation, we make the best ethical decision possible for ourselves and others. What might your ethical framework look like?

Want to know more? Listen to the full Ethical Voices podcast. Need to improve your ethical environment? Connect with me at CaptainBarbaraBell.com.

Fly high,


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Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash