Right or wrong isn't always black or white.


Professor Mark Price, Ph.D., helps students to think about the difference.

A few years ago, associate philosophy professor Dr. Mark Price began exploring ways to expand Columbia College's profile as an institution focused on ethics education. In time, he came up with the idea of offering a Summer Ethics Academy for high school students.

Price believes that high schoolers are at a prime age to begin examining their moral philosophies. "How you ought to live your life is an important question to ask," Price said.

Knox County High School senior Jonathan Clark agrees. "It was helpful to solidify what I believe in and know how to defend it," Clark said.

Clark was one of nine Missouri high school students who attended last year's three-week Summer Ethics Academy at the home campus. The participants lived in Columbia College dorms and spent four hours a day studying ethics under the guidance of Price.

Price began class discussions with topics on which everyone could agree.

"Like killing. Walking up to someone on the street and murdering them. Everyone can agree that is wrong," he said.

He then asked the students to explain why killing is wrong. "That forces them to begin constructing solid principles for their moral beliefs," he said. Once the discussion is flowing, Price introduces a tougher topic-such as capital punishment-to see if students change their views. Some of the students who think killing is wrong will argue that capital punishment is acceptable. Price gets them to confront their convictions so they understand why they believe what they believe.

Students spend their free time in group activities, but they also have to write several papers. Clark said he appreciated the way Price pushed them to work on a collegiate level.

The Summer Ethics Academy is supported by the Schiffman Endowment. Once accepted, students attend for free and receive three hours of college credit, plus a $500 scholarship if they decide to attend Columbia College.

Pacific High School senior Lisa Procter attended the Ethics Academy last summer and is considering Columbia College because it impacted her personal belief system.

"When I went there, I was pro-choice," Procter said. "But then we talked about abortion, and my beliefs seemed to support a pro-life stance."

Both Procter and Clark said that the hardest part was Price's assignment to develop a moral theory they could apply to every situation. Procter explored several theories, such as always following the action whose outcome would allow for the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

"It is important for us to have a secure understanding of what we think is right and wrong," Price said. "That way, in the future, dilemmas won't stump us. We won't be at a loss as to what to do because we've thought about it."