By Richard Krueger, Laurus College Instructor
At Laurus College, ‘Ethics’ is an important concept for all students to understand, whether their program is 3D Animation, Computer Networking, IT & Service Professional, Medical Billing, Office Support, or Professional Business Systems. What’s so important about having a foundation in ethics? As it turns out, just about everything.
Some people contend that the distinction between morals and ethics is not very significant, but there is an important difference. Morals define an individual’s character, whereas ethics are about the standards of conduct expected by a group, organization, or company to which an individual belongs.
So what standards are we talking about? According to the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, they are standards of right and wrong—what people ought to do, usually in terms of their obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues like honesty, compassion, and loyalty. In addition, ethics refer to people’s rights, such as the right to life, the right to truth, the right to freedom from injury, and the right to privacy. These are considered adequate ethical guidelines because they are supported by consistent and well-founded reasons.
Moral codes are generally established by the time we reach teenage years, but organizational ethics can vary based on many factors. Obtaining a defense lawyer is a classic example of this moral vs. ethical difference. A lawyer’s personal morals most likely hold that capital crimes are evil and inexcusable acts. However, the lawyer’s professional ethics demand that an accused client be defended as vigorously as possible… even when the lawyer is skeptical about the client’s innocence and an acquittal could lead to more crime and danger to society.
In the case of a legal firm, professional ethics override personal morals for the greater good of upholding our system of justice: the accused and presumed-innocent defendant is given a fair trial, and the prosecution must prove guilt based on the standards of the law and evidence.
Laurus College lays the foundation for understanding, appreciating, and complying with business standards of conduct. When we learn that our opinions are important but subject to organizational facts, we are better equipped to deal with workforce issues. Building on this knowledge, students can then confidently acquire practical business and technical skills—skills that they can directly apply in their chosen career fields.
 Santa Clara University, The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Paraphrased excerpt from an article that appeared originally in Issues in Ethics IIE V1 N1 (Fall 1987).
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