Students who major in business, journalism, law, and other fields are required to take courses that explore ethics in their fields. Students who want to go into politics and public policy ought to do the same.
Students in Political Communication Ethics are asked to consider what, if any, ethical obligations political professionals have, and to whom or what they have them. The course is a combination of theory and practice. Readings range from Plato and Aristotle through civil religion and modern conceptions of discourse ethics. The course includes guest speakers who are practicing political professionals discussing how they view ethical challenges in their day-to-day work. The course recognizes that most ethical challenges are not obvious – in 25 years of working in and around Congress and the administration no one has ever offered me money in exchange for a vote or favor. The challenges tend to come in rushed decisions, allowing things to slide in the name of expediency or with the promise of greater gains later, and without thinking. Ethical violations are rarely big moves in exchange for bags of cash; they are typically minor steps allowed on a Tuesday morning deadline or a Friday afternoon rushing out for a long weekend.
The course is a work in progress, I welcome your feedback.