Beginning in 2012, twelve Kent Place School students were chosen to participate in The Bioethics Project—a student research program developed by The Hastings Center, an internationally recognized institute for the study of bioethics, and the Ethics Institute at Kent Place, a leader in high school ethics education. The Bioethics Project is an interdisciplinary program that bridges subjects such as science, philosophy, critical reading and writing, history, and politics.
Since the inaugural year, students have learned how to identify and analyze contemporary ethical dilemmas that emerge in the context of science and medicine—issues ranging from the fair distribution of resources in health care, to debates surrounding modern reproductive technologies. A community-wide symposium in the spring is their chance to share their findings with their families and school community and to lead us all in a conversation that tolerates opposing viewpoints and acknowledges the complexity inherent in complex social debates.
The Bioethics Project is modeled after The Hastings Center’s hallmark research methodology, which emphasizes the importance of bringing stakeholders and experts together to explore the ethical and social
implication of a given bioethical issue.
Building off of this foundation, the Ethics Institute at Kent Place School began a partnership with Georgetown University’s Kennedy Institute for Ethics in 2017. The theme for the 2017-2018 school year was Medical Innovations. As students explored the debate over the various innovations, they became the “experts,” honing in on a subtopic within this larger theme. Some examples of their research questions included the the impact of memory removal on truth and happiness, the use of CRISPR with animals for organ transplantation, and the ethical issues surrounding the use of virtual reality in medicine.
Genius Block: Students took an intensive crash course in ethical decision-making and bioethics, in which they were introduced to ethical concepts through engagement with a range of major topics and cases, each of which illustrated key ethical principles and the tensions between them. By the end of the fall trimester, students had identified their individual research topics.
Research and Mentorship: At the start of the school year, and with the guidance of Kent Place teachers and Georgetown University mentors, the students conducted their individual research projects. In the winter, they presented their preliminary findings to their teachers, mentors, and to each other at a day-long project workshop. Students articulated their findings and conclusions, and provided feedback to one another about areas for further research and development.
The Website and Community Symposium: With the benefit of the workshop feedback, students completed their research and drafted essays describing their findings and conclusions. These essays are published on this website. The community symposium is the signature event of The Bioethics Project. It is an opportunity for the students to lead their community in educational workshops that showcase their research and analysis.
The Partners: Georgetown University and The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School
The Kennedy Institute of Ethics is a center for engaged ethics at Georgetown University. Established in 1971, it is one of the oldest academic ethics centers in the world. It helped to invent the field of bioethics, beginning a tradition of creative leadership in practical ethics that continues into the twenty-first century.
The Ethics Institute at Kent Place has developed ethics education for Kent Place School students, teachers, parents and other community members and teacher training for primary and secondary school faculty to help them integrate the teaching of ethics into existing curricula in a variety of subject areas.