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Last week's Sunday New York Times had its usual array of breaking national and international news on the front page, but my loudest "Oh No!" came when I turned to page 14 of the Magazine. Randy Cohen, author of The Ethicist, announced that he is retiring his column. For those of you who are not familiar, Cohen's weekly column typically posed two moral/ethical dilemmas followed by his expert analysis and perspective.
This column has been part of our family's Sunday morning ritual since it started being published 12 years ago. Bagels, lox, coffee...and... The Ethicist column. We all knew the routine:
1. Archelle reads the dilemma. Twice.
2. Each daughter, youngest to oldest, must take a definitive position and defend it with clear rationale (yes, even Zoe is included in the lineup).
3. David, then Archelle, declare their positions. (I always go last since I seem to have the strongest opinion and don't want to influence everyone else.)
4. Family debate...aka...we argue.
5. Once we're exhausted or reach an impasse, we read Cohen's expert opinion.
This discussion, every Sunday, week after week, was valuable for teaching the girls a process for deciding between right and wrong. The everyday scenarios that Cohen presented were a non-threatening way to proactively work through many of the seductive temptations that they would inevitably face later in their lives.
From December 2002: Is it okay to Google someone you've started dating to check up on them? SN, New York
In 2002, this was a dilemma. In 2011, this seems like a no-brainer.
From May 2004: I am an American posted to Vietnam, where pirated movies on DVD are cheap and ubiquitous, and legitimate copies are nearly nonexistent. Would it be ethical to purchase pirated DVD's if I also join a monthly unlimited rental service like Netflix? Ben Moeling, Hanoi, Vietnam
Arielle found herself with this exact dilemma as she spends the year in China.
From September 2007: A friend and I will soon take the LSAT. His father, a psychiatrist, gave him Adderall to help him take the test. I asked if he could share some with me, and he said that would be unethical. Is it?