Ethical Reasoning: A Comparative Study
ARMY WAR COLL CARLISLE BARRACKS PA
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The unwritten code of ethics by which American military officers serve demands strict adherence to the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and decency. While most officers live up to these lofty standards, a few do not. Most studies of leadership focus only on leaders who have succeeded but there is also much to learn from those who have failed - those who have derailed ethically. This paper is a report of the results of a study conducted to compare levels of ethical reasoning displayed by a group of officer inmates at the United States Disciplinary Barracks and a similar-sized group of CAS student officers. Ethical reasoning was measured using the Ethical Reasoning Inventory ERI, an instrument developed by Roger Page and James Bode, Ohio State University, based on the theories of Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg, Harvard University. The study also examined the two groups in terms of family, religious, and educational backgrounds. The results of the study showed no significant differences between moral reasoning levels of the two groups, nor could ERI scores be explained by the limited information collected on family religious, and educational background. The members of both groups felt family upbringing had the greatest influence in their ethical decisionmaking. Both groups reported receiving minimal ethical education or training in the military and assessed its influence on ethical decisionmaking as minimal. Ethical education and training for military officers should be examined in detail both for quantity and quality.
- Sociology and Law
- Military Forces and Organizations