David Bruce (born 1954): Are Students Morally Obligated to Attend Class on a Regular Basis?

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Ethics will be a concern in your life. At times, you may have to decide if a certain action you are thinking of doing or a certain communication you are thinking of writing is moral. Therefore, it is a good idea to know some ethical rules and how to apply them to real life.

Mama Bruce’s Ethical Rules

The rules of ethics are T-shirt simple, and chances are, your mother is an expert in ethics. I know that my mother was. Here are Mama Bruce’s T-shirt simple ethical rules:

  • If you are allowed to do it, everyone (in a similar position to yours) should be allowed to do it.
  • Treat other people the way that you want to be treated.
  • Do actions that have good consequences

Mama Bruce’s Ethical Questions

Along with the ethical rules go ethical questions. These are questions that a person can ask when determining whether an action that person is thinking of doing is moral:

  • What would happen if everyone were to do what you are thinking of doing?
  • Would you want done to you what you are thinking of doing to other people?
  • What are the consequences of the action you are thinking about doing?

Let’s say that a student is thinking about cutting large numbers of classes this grading period.

Are Students Morally Obligated to Attend Class on a Regular Basis?

Let’s apply Mama Bruce’s ethical rules and ethical questions to determine whether students are morally obligated to attend class. 

  • What would happen if everyone were to do what you are thinking of doing?

Most students attend Ohio University to get an education; in fact, the purpose of Ohio University is to get an education. What would happen if large numbers of students were to cut large numbers of classes? Certainly, the students would find it more difficult to get an education. In addition, the professors are likely to get very angry and to toughen the attendance policies for the professors’ courses. There is a contradiction here. The student makes the rule “I will cut large numbers of classes” so that he or she can cut class, but if everyone follows the rule, the result is that the professors will toughen their attendance policies and make it much more difficult for students to cut class.

  • Would you want done to you what you are thinking of doing to other people?

Here the student can think about the teacher. If the student were the teacher, would he or she want lots of students to miss lots of classes? Possibly, an answer would be, “That would be great! If no one ever shows up for class, then I don’t have to teach!” But of course if no one ever shows for class, then the teacher will not have a job for very long. In addition, many students are supported in part by their parents while attending Ohio University. If the student were a parent using their money to send a son or daughter through school, would the student want his or her son or daughter to attend class?

  • What are the consequences of the action you are thinking about doing?

Of course, we have to think about the consequences for everyone affected by the action. If the student misses lots of classes, then the student will not learn very much. If parents are paying lots of money (perhaps using money that could be used for their retirement) for the student to get a good education, then if the student misses lots of classes, the parents are not getting a good return for their money and perhaps that money should be used for their retirement. Much the same is true of the taxpayers; because Ohio University is a state university, tax money pays for part of the student’s education at Ohio University. If a particular student blows off lots of classes, the taxpayers may very well be unhappy and prefer to use their tax money to support a student who regularly attends class.

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