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From Outrage to Integration

This post originally appeared on July 20, 2015.

On my way to lunch the other day, about a week after the horrific shootings in Charleston, I found a noose suspended over an otherwise sunny sidewalk. I took it down and threw it away.

I spent the rest of the day distracted. I live outside of Austin, Texas—a liberal enclave if ever there were one. If I’d heard that this had happened elsewhere, I’d have been discouraged, though not surprised. But on one of the main streets in my town? A block from campus? On a breezy, beautiful summer afternoon?

Who would do such a thing?

I don’t know, of course. But if I had to guess, I’d say that it was someone who did it on a dare. Or someone who wanted to be shocking for being shocking’s sake. Or someone trying to get upvotes in some dark corner of reddit. Whoever it was, though, I doubt that I would be pleased to find out. It probably wasn’t the Platonic form of American racism: the Angry Southerner, complete with cut-off t-shirt and muddy boots. Given the demographics here, it was probably someone much like me: white, male, from a middle-class background, raised in a fairly segregated environment, and perfectly polite and pleasant—even to people of color—in various professional circumstances.

And yet this person hung a length of rope from a tree, in a town where you can still visit the slave’s section of the cemetery. How should we—how should I—respond to this act?

I’d like outrage to be sufficient. I’d like it to be enough that I denounce the perpetrator, that I share my anger with my friends, that we complain together about those people.

But it’s not enough. Outrage pushes racism underground; it doesn’t end it. More importantly, outrage doesn’t counteract the effects of racism. When, in the future, my sons encounter reminders that lynchings still happen, they won’t worry about their safety. They’ll never be concerned that someone is angry about their presence in a particular place, or that someone is so upset about “how things are changing” that he wants to place a symbol of death near city center. My sons will—I hope—mourn that this is how things are. Still, they won’t be mourning that this is how things are for them. If that isn’t an advantage, I don’t know what is.

In The Imperative of Integration, Elizabeth Anderson argues that racial segregation leads to three forms of racial injustice: it limits economic opportunity (good jobs tend to be in “white” areas), it enables racial stigmatization (it’s easy to form negative stereotypes about people of color when you rarely encounter them), and it undermines democracy (insofar as lawmakers can ignore the interests of a segment of society). Accordingly, she argues that integration must occur: first, formal integration, which involves repealing laws that lead to inequality; second, spatial integration, ending the de facto segregation of playgrounds and post offices; finally, social integration, where the institutions in which we learn and work are reconfigured to better serve the needs of a diverse populace.

We won’t hear many objections to formal integration. Spatial and social integration, on the other hand, can feel like radical proposals. But if justice is the first virtue of social institutions, then radical solutions are sometimes required. What should we do in a society where some children are—and others aren’t—disadvantaged by accidents of birth? We should actively support policies—at all levels—that reorganize society to counteract the effects of racism, whether that racism is explicit or implicit, conscious or structural, blatant or barely visible.

Frankly, the thought is overwhelming. It’s to our shame, however, that black children enter a world where nooses still hang from branches. It’s time to give direction to our outrage.

What We’re Reading, May 29, 2015

Check out these links suggested by members of The Prindle Post staff:

Grammar snobbery and feminism (Jacquelyn)

How much of California’s water do you consume every week? (Linda)

Nebraska ends the death penalty (Linda)

FIFA’s corruption has a human toll (Andy)

Why we should think more about death (Andy)

Be careful when you upload the contents of your brain to a computer (Andy)

Uber claims that disability laws don’t apply to their drivers (Andy)

This is why good bread costs more (Camille)

A plea for culinary modernism (Christiane)

In France, supermarkets will soon be required to give away unsold food (Camille)

Yes, that HR person is judging your class background (Camille)

Finished reading? Check out this video from The New York Times about Obamacare. What have you been reading lately? Share a link with us in the comments!

That’s Not Art!

In February, Dr. Wesley Cray of Grand Valley State University presented his talk “That’s Not Art” as a part of the Young Philosophers Lecture Series hosted by the Prindle Institute and the DePauw Philosophy Department. Next week, we’ll post his research-level talk, “Unperformable Works and the Ontology of Art.”

Throughout May and June, we’ll continue to post videos of each talk (also available on YouTube).

Enjoy, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comments!

What We’re Reading, May 21, 2015

Need some reading material for the long weekend? Check out these links from members of The Prindle Post staff.

Student activism is on the rise (again) (Camille)

Will the supermarket giants ever win back our trust? (Camille)

Are video games and porn destroying men? Philip Zimbardo claims they are (Jacquelyn)

Palmyra’s ancient treasures might be in danger (Jacquelyn)

How should we garden in a time of climate change? (Linda)

United States and Cuba are close to restoring diplomatic ties (Linda)

Wall Street professionals increasingly pressured to act unethically (Andy)

Rand Paul is leading the charge against data collection (Andy)

What The New York Times got wrong about the Kitty Genovese tragedy (Christiane)

Finished reading? Listen to this great Philosophy Bites podcast about relativism.

The Power To Do the Impossible

In February, Dr. Brandon Carey of Columbia Basin College presented his talk “The Power To Do the Impossible” as a part of the Young Philosophers Lecture Series hosted by the Prindle Institute and the DePauw Philosophy Department. (In case you missed it last week, here is the video of his introductory-level lecture, “The Paradox of the Stone.”)

Throughout May and June, we’ll continue to post videos of each talk (also available on YouTube).

Enjoy, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comments!

Going Down With The Ship

The captain going down with the ship is a trope used in literature and movies, although it does stem from reality. Captain Smith’s decision to go down with the ship is focused on in Titanic during the chaotic sinking scenes, and captains of boats that are beginning to sink or could sink regularly exclaim that they will go down with their ships. While it could be a point of pride for some characters, or the ship is all they have and they do not wish to loose it, do captains perhaps have a moral obligation to stay onboard the vessel until everyone else is safe, even if it means that they will go down with the ship?

Continue reading “Going Down With The Ship”

Mes Aynak’s Intrinsic Cultural Value

One of the many reasons that weighing ethical dilemmas is such a challenge is because we’re often faced with a conflict between measurable and immeasurable value. We see this often in relation to environmental issues. Because we can’t place an exact value on the intrinsic worth of nature, we struggle to cognitively compare environmental health with economic benefits. Thus, many companies pursue profit over environmental wellness, without fully understanding the detrimental consequences. The inability to directly quantify something doesn’t entail that it is value-less or that its interest should be disregarded, but it can be awfully difficult to convince some groups of this. Continue reading “Mes Aynak’s Intrinsic Cultural Value”

What We’re Reading: May 15, 2015

Need some reading material for this weekend? Check out these links from members of The Prindle Post staff.

Why it can be so difficult to clean up (Jacquelyn)

Men’s rights activists want to boycott Mad Max (Jacquelyn)

In “Architecture vs. the People” Bryan Finoki analyzes “defensive design” (Christiane)

Finished reading? Listen to this amazing story from NPR about what it takes to lift families out of poverty. (Camille)

Plus: All of the videos in this series are great, but this one on drug arrests is a good place to start. (Christiane)


The Paradox of the Stone

In February, the Prindle Institute and the DePauw Philosophy department hosted the Young Philosophers Lecture Series. Each scholar presented an introductory-level talk and a research-level talk. In May and June, we’ll be posting videos of each talk (also available on YouTube).

Up first is Dr. Brandon Carey of Columbia Basin College, who presented his introductory-level talk “The Paradox of the Stone”. Stay tuned for his research-level talk “The Power To Do the Impossible.”

Enjoy, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comments!

Prindle Intern Spotlight: Rachel Hanebutt

Rachel is a senior intern from Huntingburg, Indiana. She will graduate this Sunday with a double major in Political Science and Education Studies and a minor in Chemistry. This fall, she will pursue a Masters degree in Mind, Brain, and Education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

1. Tell us about an ethics/social justice issue that is particularly important to you.

Education. The ethics surrounding the education system, issues involving schools and the ethics of the classroom.  This has allowed me to expand my thoughts and work to encompass ethics on DePauw’s campus as well. I am especially passionate about investigating the ethics of zero tolerance policies and juvenile incarceration. As Nelson Mandela reminds us, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” however, I believe that ethical education and ethical empowerment of students are the ways you can truly make a difference.

2. What was your favorite Prindle event from the past year?

Meeting Piper Kerman and hearing her Ubben Lecture was hands down my favorite Prindle-sponsored event this year. Getting to ask Piper about her experiences and thoughts about the prison industrial complex was life-changing. Her perspective is brought out through her book and somewhat through the Netflix series and I personally think that she has allowed more Americans to critically assess, or at least think about the unethical nature of our current legal punishment processes.

3. Which class(es) at DePauw have most challenged and expanded your worldview?

Decolonization Education Theory, a 300-level Education Studies course taught by Dr. Rebecca Alexander, was one of the most challenging courses for me both intellectually and emotionally.  Being one of two white students in a class completely focused on privilege and colonization, I was forced into an uncomfortable, vulnerable, but entirely necessary space.  This course helped me to grow because it allowed me to truly learn about my own learning for the first time. A close second, Political Economy of Schools, a 300-level Education Studies course taught by Dr. Marcelle McVorran, expanded my views of education and acted as a much-needed capstone, pulling together all of my political science and education studies courses.

4. What’s the coolest thing you’ve heard about in the past week? This could be something you read, listened to, watched, talked about, etc.

I am completely in love with learning new things, both figuratively and literally. Somehow, it has taken me until this past week to discover “Duolingo,” an online app for learning new languages (If you have not heard of it, you should definitely check it out). I took Spanish for three years in high school, but tested out of Spanish at DePauw. I have really missed speaking in a second language and this app has the visual appeal and addiction factor of a video game. In other words, I am obsessed!

5. Tell us about one of your hobbies, interests, or passions.

Many people might not know this about me, but I am a licensed safe server for the State of Indiana, which is basically a bartending license.  I am not to the point where I can flip bottles and put on a show, however, I have interned at a winery making wine and served at a bar. I love the way that social drinking can bring people together, especially because I feel that college-social drinking has distorted society’s view of consuming alcoholic beverages. Whether it’s making wine or serving a perfectly poured Blue Moon, I plan to continue to learn about the industry and maybe learn a few tricks of the trade in years to come!

Learn more about Rachel here, and read more of her articles on Prindle Post here.

The NFL’s Concussion Controversy

The NFL has definitely taken some hard knocks lately.  One of these issues that the League has struggled with over the last decade is controversy over the brain damage that can be caused by repeated concussions. Studies tend to show that repeated concussions (and sometimes repeated sub-concussive blows to the head) can potentially result in many unpleasant side effects later on down the road, like cognitive/functional impairment, irritability, confusion, nausea, headaches, memory loss, unusual or violent behavior and dizzy spells. Additionally, they increase the chances of neuro-degenerative disease (e.g. Alzheimer’s, CTE, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) later in life, along with numerous case studies of former professional athletes and recent research showing a possible correlation between concussions and higher rates of depression and suicide. Recently, a federal judge finally signed off on a settlement between the NFL and a number of retired players in a class-action lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in 2011, and over 4,500 former players are involved, including stars like Tony Dorsett and Jim McMahon.
The settlement could cost the NFL up to one billion dollars over the next 65 years or so. It mandates that players suffering early-onset of any of these diseases linked to concussions be given compensation, and that testing and subsequent medical care (where applicable) be covered by the NFL. It doesn’t cover potential functional damage, miscellaneous symptoms (memory loss, headaches, uncharacteristic behavior), increased risk of suicide and depression, or anything but that handful of diseases. The payouts for affected athletes are on a sliding scale based on the age of the player (a 40 year old with Alzheimer’s will receive more then an 80 year old), and this coverage will be available to any retired NFL player, not just those who sued the league.
The major issue at hand is how much the NFL actually knew about the dangers of head injuries. As you can see from this helpful timeline, for years the NFL denied and undermined links between concussions and degenerative brain damage later in life. Whether they did this honestly, or in an effort to cover themselves is uncertain. The players litigating contend that the NFL had reason to believe that there could be a connection, and that this denial was done out of self-preservation and without any concern for the well-being of the players. For their part, the NFL counters that this wasn’t the case, and they really didn’t know. Since then, the NFL states that they have made more of an effort to inform players of the dangers, and are trying to change the culture of “just toughing out” what is now known to be a serious, potentially life-altering injury.

Is the NFL to blame for the diminished quality of life for retired players? Since the athletes voluntarily chose to play, sometimes try to hide concussions and other injuries, and get paid a significant amount of money, do they really have valid grounds on which to sue? If one, both, or neither party were aware of the long-term impacts of concussions, would that change the responsibility of the players or the league for the current situation? Is the settlement enough, or does it not go nearly as far as it should?

Tragedy Strikes in Baltimore

Growing up with a police officer in my family, I have always felt a great deal of admiration and respect for the police force and their service and commitment to making communities safer places to live. However, I also realize that I have been blessed in that I have never had a bad encounter with a police officer.  I do realize that police brutality appears in the news frequently and this greatly challenges me. In a way, it has come down to the fact that most of society, including myself, has developed a love-hate relationship with police, where on one hand police officers are respected for their efforts to protect and help us, but on the other hand, their power to punish and abuse of violence has led to some terrible situations that cause society to question the intentions behind some officers’ actions.

The recent tragedy that occurred in Baltimore seems to be a poignant example of police brutality. According to CNN ‘s news report, it appears that Freddie Gray was arrested for trying to flee from officers who eventually arrested him. The initial cause for arrest is unclear. Officers did find a knife in Gray’s pant pocket, yet it was a legal model in the state of Maryland, making it an illegitimate reason for detainment. Baltimore City State’s Attorney, Marilyn Mosby, reports that during the arrest, Gray pleaded for an inhaler which he was not given, yet officers proceeded to handcuff him, put shackles on his ankles, and put him in the van (with no seat belt) where he was driven around for over forty minutes before arriving, unconscious, at the police station.

“Police officers arrested Gray on April 12. He slipped into a coma after suffering his injuries and died a week later.” (CNN)

Several details in the story of Freddie Gray’s arrest give rise to ethical questions. First, it is unclear if there is a legitimate reason or incident reported that would justify his arrest. Second, it appears that the treatment he received during the arrest was most certainly abusive. Officers also broke protocol in transferring him without a seatbelt. Other prisoners who witnessed this in the van openly stated that the life ending injury Gray sustained could not have been self-induced, or a result of normal van movement. And finally, officers who saw Gray suffering failed to get him medical help, which ultimately led to a coma and ended his life.

Who ought to take responsibility for this injustice? How will the cycle of police brutality be broken? The officers involved in the Freddie Gray incident are facing charges such as second-degree assault and involuntary manslaughter, yet will these charges or convictions bring justice? Can the criminal prosecution of police officers solve the confusion between lawful protection and bullying? What is the road to healing this tragedy and others like it?

The Vaccine Debate: Where Do We Go From Here?

The vaccine debate is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore: there is an article published on the topic almost daily, and it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t have an opinion on the subject. But for all the discussion, it seems that we are making very little progress towards resolving the issue: vaccination rates continue to fall, even as more and more public resources are being spent to reverse this trend. Likely there are several reasons for this lack of resolution.

For instance, there is the name-calling: a recent pro-vaccine article in the New England Journal of Medicine[1], for example, charged that “antivaccinationists tend toward […] denialism, low cognitive complexity in thinking patterns, reasoning flaws, and a habit of substituting emotional anecdotes for data.”  Of course antivaccinationists, or “vaccine hesitators,” as they are often called, didn’t take kindly to this, pointing out that the highest rate of vaccine hesitancy, at least in this country, is amongst those who hold PhDs[2]. For their part, vaccine hesitators accuse the pro-vaccine camp of caring more about pharmaceutical profits than about the health and safety of our children. But underneath the highly political, sensational and divisive surface of this debate is a deeper ethical and evidential issue: we simply do not have enough research data to resolve this issue.  And until we address this research gap, the debate will continue.

Of course there is a lot of research that we do have. We know that vaccines are effective against the acute communicable diseases that they are designed to prevent. We also know that, for the most part, these vaccines pose little medical risk to those who receive them[3] (although whether or not they are harmful to certain sub-populations is still not well understood)[4]. But what we don’t know is how and whether vaccines affect the risk of certain chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and conditions such as asthma, allergies, autism spectrum disorder, multiple chemical sensitivity, and irritable bowel disease, all of which have been on the rise in highly vaccinated countries in recent decades.

We don’t know anything about the relationship between vaccination and NCDs because we haven’t done any studies that compare vaccinated groups against unvaccinated groups. While such studies are the standard for approval for all other medical interventions, comparative studies that check for NCD harm from vaccines are non-existent. This is due to the pro vaccine stance that such trials in the case of vaccines would be unethical (because it’s not ethical to leave anyone unvaccinated). However, evidence-based medicine researchers, such as Wouter Havinga, M.D. and others, are increasingly calling for studies that investigate the effect of vaccination on NCDs because, “This lack of vigilance […] would be unacceptable in any other area of medicine.[5]

In particular, while it is known that vaccines affect the microbiome (just as antibiotics do), which in turn affects immune responses, and causes non-specific side effects, we don’t know how vaccines have change our internal flora, what these side effects are, and whether or not these changes in turn have affected the prevalence of NCDs and conditions. In other words, it is not known whether or not vaccines, while preventing acute, communicable diseases, in turn increase the risk of certain chronic, non-communicable conditions and diseases. In order to learn how and whether vaccines affect chronic health conditions, we need to begin systematically collecting NCD data in connection with vaccine schedules in both developed and developing countries.

If we want to resolve the debate between the pro- and anti-vaccinationists, then we must move beyond the political and commit to conducting comparative studies. In order to “let the evidence decide,” we must first collect the data.

[1] Demicheli et. al.  (2012)

[2] Lieu et. al. (2015)

[3] King (2015)

[4] Demicheli et. al. (2012)

[5] http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f5535/rr/664108


Demicheli, et. al.  (2012) “Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Feb 15;2:CD004407. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004407.pub3

King, Bryan. (2015) “Promising Forecast for Autism Spectrum Disorder.” JAMA. 2015;313(15):1518-1519. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.2628

Lieu, et. al. (2015) “Geographic Clusters in Underimmunization and Vaccine Refusal.” Pediatrics. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-2715)

Poland, Gregory and Robert Jacobson. (2011) “The Age-Old Struggle against the anti-vaccinationists” NEJM 364:2

Want to read more? Check out a related discussion from Prindle interns in a recent Ethics in 5 column.

What We’re Reading: May 8, 2015

Need some reading material for this weekend? Check out these links from members of The Prindle Post staff.

An incredible story about a reunited mother and daughter (Carrie R.)

Virginia Heffernan’s discussion of the muddied meaning of the word “mindfulness” (Rachel H.)

A profile of the three powerful women who questioned Wall Street (Rachel H.)

New restaurant in Philly does away with tipping (Amy B.)

Researchers are finding surprising ways to fight Ebola with HIV drugs (Annaleise D.)

Ending fossil fuel investments at NYU (Annaleise D.)
(Check out a related 2015 Prindle Prize-winning op-ed from DePauw professor Rich Cameron)

A great advice column on The Grist answers questions like “When I eat honey, do I hurt bees?” and how to tell if a business is really “green” (Camille V.)

Bloomberg Business reports on an adultery website seeking an IPO (Rachel G.)

Fascinating story on the connection between riots in Baltimore and the movie franchise The Purge (Sarah E.)

Companies might be able to attract more employees with B Corporation certification (Jacquelyn S.)

Who are the rightful owners of artifacts of oppression? (Christiane W.)

NPR report about patrolling Greece’s borders with the Greek Coast Guard (Leopoldo B.)

The MLB should stop allowing pitchers to hit batters (Andy C.)

Finished with your reading? Watch John Oliver dismantle standardized testing. (Camille V.)




Failures in our Education System

There are certain things about boys in relation to girls that I always assumed to be true. Boys eat more. Boys get into more fights. Boys drive more recklessly. And boys don’t do as well in school.

While the first three of these claims can probably be validated by your own personal experience, the last claim has been the focus of many studies concerning equally in America’s educational institutions. As children, males and females learn and develop in different ways and at different rates than the opposite gender. Research shows that boys’ struggle begins in kindergarten when children start learning to read anything – numbers, letters, etc. Literacy at that age requires certain skills, such as prolonged attention and focus, so while girls are already in the process of developing, the boys haven’t even started yet.

This difference can set boys behind for much of their lives – not only do they start learning later, but their inability to perform as well as females locks them in the mindset that they just aren’t as capable as females in this area, and their morale and ambition taper out over time. “According to Gurian, boys learn by doing and by moving their bodies through space. The more emphasis is placed on the development of early reading skills, and the less emphasis is placed on a healthy amount of movement and experiential learning, the more disadvantageous our schools will be for males.”

So why doesn’t our school systems reflect these changes?

I believe we have a moral obligation to remedy this difference because it is not fair for children to fall behind immediately and struggle for the rest of their academic lives (by no fault of their own). Also, the notion of doing more activities outside is beneficial to all. Outdoor learning teaches critical thinking and problem solving, as well as listening, self-awareness, and respect for one’s surroundings. This discussion reminds me of a quote by Albert Einstein: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” Our traditional school system is assessing boys’ ability to participate in an activity that is more geared towards the female student. Rather, we should place boys in an environment that is most conducive to their style of learning.

Ethics in Indiana

Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed ethics bill HEA 1002 this week in response to the recent unethical behavior of Rep. Eric Turner and former State Superintendent Tony Bennett. The newly signed bill is meant to require legislators to disclose investments over $5,000; the previous Indiana law required legislators to disclose investments over $10,000. This ensures that state legistlators cannot hide their significant personal finances or the lobbying activities of their families.  Along with increasing financial transparency in the state government, the bill also requires all members of the General Assembly to complete an ethics training course. Pence states that his support in the bill by saying that “the people of Indiana deserve an ethical and responsible government that efficiently and effectively serves their needs.” House Minority Leader Scott Pelath shares that one of the main goals of the bill is to strengthen “public trust” in the state government. This bill will also allow the public to see if their legislators are making financial deals that rewardtheir investments or conflict with their legislative work.

Although HEA 1002 is generally supported by both Republican and Democratic state legislators, there are of course some dissenters. Some state legislators feel as though these regulations are unnecessary, and others do not appreciate the supervising of their financial investments. However, this bill exists because of past unethical financial missing of government policies and personal finances. Maybe once all legislators complete mandatory ethics training, this bill will no longer be as crucial.

Should the Indiana public have knowledge of state legislators personal investments? Will this bill be able to prevent unethical behavior related to financial favoritism?

Is it Wrong to Ask Where Else You’re Applying?

When we all were seniors in high school, we filled out the numerous applications to universities that we hoped would accept us and would one day be our home for the next four years. The Common Application made this process much easier for many students, since it allows one student to apply to several universities at once without having to print or type up several different applications. Some colleges add additional questions for applicants to just the basic ones on the normal Common Application. The ethics of one question in particular is raising some eyebrows: should universities be able to ask where a student is also applying?

Continue reading “Is it Wrong to Ask Where Else You’re Applying?”

Ethical Responsibilities of DePauw Graduates

As a member of the graduating class (yes, I said it) and a Prindle Intern, I feel that it is my ethical duty to bring the following question to your pre-graduation attention: What, if any, responsibility do we as graduates of DePauw University, have in living ethical lives post-graduation? I raise this question because of the incredibly important conversations that have occurred on DePauw’s campus during our time as students. Additionally, the privileges inherent in graduating with a college degree, privileges we all now share, become a part of who we are as not only individuals, but as the future change-makers of the Class of 2015. Continue reading “Ethical Responsibilities of DePauw Graduates”

Ethics in 5: Printerns on Vaccinations

Every week, the Prindle Intern team weighs in on an ethical issue together. Each intern is challenged to keep their response to five sentences – Ethics in 5. Click on an intern’s name to check out their previous posts on The Prindle Post!

This week’s question: Vaccinations

The anti-vaccination movement has been gaining momentum over the last few years, resulting in many children remaining unvaccinated. California is currently debating a bill that would prevent parents from opting their children out of vaccinations in the wake of a Disneyland measles outbreak. Opponents of the bill say it imposes beliefs onto parents who believe vaccines are dangerous and have personal or religious beliefs against them; supporters say that it will make the population healthier overall and prevent outbreaks of potentially deadly diseases. There have been numerous other cases beyond vaccines of parents denying children medical care for personal or religious reasons. Is it ethical for parents to refuse medical care or vaccinations for children due to personal/religious convictions? Is it ethical for the state to force vaccinations? Do parents have the right to deny vaccinations to their children when it may affect others’ children?

Rachel HanebuttFirst of all, I believe there is a discrepancy between parental rights and parental responsibilities here. The question should not  be whether it’s a parent’s right not to vaccinate their child but rather if it’s ethical for parents not to vaccinate their children; it’s not a matter of individual health, but rather one of public health.  In my opinion, it becomes a matter of child negligence when a parent chooses not to vaccinate their child and are therefore not providing proper care to ensure they will not contract diseases that can be preventable and are potentially life-threatening. Parenting operates in the private sphere, yes, however, their children interact with others in public spaces, such as school, that do not allow sickness or other dangers to impede on the wellbeing of the others around them. Unless society is going to ban children who have not been vaccinated from all public spaces (highly unlikely), then all parents should be held accountable to vaccinating their children in the same ways they are legally responsible for the use of car seats and seatbelts.

Corby Burger: I would have to agree with Rachel. There comes a point when societal benefits trump personal choice. When this threshold is reached, it is morally permissible for the state to subdue the choice of a minority faction for the betterment of society as a whole. Is this not the most basic function of government? This is truly a public health concern that directly defies conventional knowledge and health procedures. Those that choose not to vaccinate their children are deliberately putting others in harm’s way, which seems to be a basic prerequisite for amorality.

Amy Brown: I find that when personal choices begin to affect the larger public group in a damaging manner, it’s not right to allow the specific type of behavior when it is a danger to society. While taking away rights is unethical in general, the overall health and safety of the population make it unethical to not vaccinate children. Vaccinations are something that affects the entire group, so religious and personal convictions hold little to no personal wait in this situation. If a grown adult refuses medical care for a non-contagious disease due to religious or personal beliefs, fine; but when it comes to parents denying vaccinations and medical care to their children, that steps over the line into unethical and societally dangerous behavior.

Caroline ZadinaMy heart goes out to the parents who believe that the vaccination their child received has caused him/her sickness rather than health. In my eyes, that presents a very real and scary problem. I am also sensitive to the cultural/religious beliefs that go against vaccinations in general. However, when contemplating an ethical issue like this, I think it is important to look at the larger issue at hand. If your child is not vaccinated, becomes sick, and causes other children to become sick and suffer, it is a lose-lose situation for everyone involved. I do not believe that is ethical for a parent to withhold a vaccine used to promote the health of a child when it has been proven safe. Especially when the consequence of that decision will be directly felt by the child, and may also impact the wellbeing of the greater society. However, I do think that a more sensitive explanation that explains the consequences of the situation at hand, rather than making it appear like a threat to individual freedom, is warranted.

Noelle WitwerPersonal and religious convictions can affect medical care decisions in a number of ways, and these situations tend to be ethically complex. I agree with Caroline that it is important to consider the reasons behind parents’ opposition to vaccinations. Learning more about why parents don’t wish to vaccinate their children may help design the most effective solution to this issue. However, I agree with Rachel and Corby that, essentially, the widespread use of vaccinations is essential for maintaining public health, and thus may ultimately warrant legislation.

Cheney Hagerup: Looking back on the N1H1 virus and the widespread (and possibly unfounded) fear that caused much of the population to seek vaccination, I began to question the necessity of such vaccinations. It is difficult for me to align with the warnings I hear about the necessity of vaccination because the existence of major pharmaceutical companies that make ridiculous sums of money off of these vaccinations makes me feel blinded from real medical recommendations. I remember that with the H1N1 vaccination, there were extensive side effects and health risks involved (especially to pregnant women and children) and, yet, families continued to seek out the vaccination en masse. Due to the impossibility I see in separating genuine medical recommendations for vaccinations from pharmaceutical biases involving financial gain, I support each individual parent’s decision on whether to vaccinate their children or not. In light of recent events (i.e. RFRA, Baltimore police brutality), I have come to see that governmental institutions do not always have the best interest of the individual in mind.

Eleanor PriceAs Rachel said so well, vaccination is not a matter of purely individual rights. But beyond the danger of causing other children (and the public at large) sickness, diseases that we had thought on the way to eradication might begin to reappear. Suddenly this becomes more than a domestic problem — it’s global. The physical health of world should be weighted more heavily in the ethical dilemma than individual desires.

How do you feel about this week’s question? Have something you want to share with an intern or a question about their stance? Leave a comment below on what you think of vaccination ethics!

What We’re Reading

Need some reading material for this weekend? Check out these links from members of The Prindle Post staff.

Documentarians discuss the ethics of their craft (Camille V.)

An Armenian-American perspective on Barack Obama and the truth about the Armenian genocide (Amy B.)

Some leaders in Baltimore question the use of the word “thug” (Sarah E.)

News about lethal injection from the American Pharmacists Association and the Supreme Court (Jacquelyn S.)

“How to Short-Circuit Hunger” from Harvard Medical School and an interesting Ted talk by Paul Tudor Jones II on the need to rethink capitalism (Rachel H.)

The saga of the two-way mirror continues in the Chicago Tribune (Carrie R.)

Scientific American on the ethics of unlocking the brain’s secrets (Noelle W.)

Powerful photograph of a child in Baltimore goes viral (Rachel G.)

German Lopez explains the Supreme Court’s battle over gay marriage (Andy C.)

Desmond Cole describes the experience of repeated police interrogation in “The Skin I’m In” (Christiane W.)

Do you have any interesting links to share? Let us know in the comments below!