Communicating Ethically

Reflecting on the topic of increasing communication ethics literacy offers many different contexts of how it can be applied. Arnett, et, al (2009) states that “questions regarding religion, race, gender and ethnicity now join questions about the environment, crisis communication, and issues of language and science literacy” (p.220). “No longer does the human race live in an age in which information increases but is also in the age where the responsibility for information increases also” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 220). What a fascinating concept; not just to learn but to take responsibility to learn, which opens up a whole new level of understanding and applying communication ethics literacy in today’s world. As a community college professor, I challenge my students to take responsibility and ownership of their learning. Arnett, et. al, (2009) echoed my thoughts regarding the barrier between teaching and learning through this statement;“communication ethics committed to learning suggests that the defining characteristics of unethical communicative acts are twofold: assuming that you know everything, and assuming what the other knows is not worth knowing”(p.221). Of course, it is import to remember what assuming can do! This also draws in the “pragmatics of dialogic ethics” and the concept that “dialogue requires that one know the ground from which one speaks, meet the Other with a willingness to learn, and learn about the ground from which the Other’s discourse emerges” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p.223).

The barriers and breakdowns I mentioned can be the avoidance of learning and education by people, because “a commitment to learning never permits the smugness of assurance to eclipse the necessity of learning and the possibility of new insight to offer a corrective” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p.226-227). Therefore, this is a principle I can use in taking steps to increase my own communication ethics literacy in my position as a professor in and out of the classroom. It is pretty much “learning from the difference” whether that be in opinions and methods or ways of learning (Arnett, et, al, 2009, p.227). This reminds me of a quote I recall from a television show I watched recently in which the character stated “sometimes we forget that not everyone grows up the same as us”. But it also goes back to pragmaticism, because when viewing dialogue, it is about content; mainly ‘privileging content over style” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 223). Therefore it is important not to discount another’s view or idea just because  “that person does not do dialogue as we demand” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p.223). It is something I am very conscious of, when I am engaging in conversations regarding politics, current events with friends, relatives and colleagues and many times I will find myself just sitting back and listen and observe others, especially, if it is from folks who have lived life a little more than I. My mindset is that education does not just take place in a classroom but all of life is an education. The two specific examples I mentioned in this blog is how I take the steps and personal ownership and responsibility of my learning to communicate.


Arnett, R.F., J.M. Harden & Bell, L.M. (2009). Communication ethics  literacy: Dialogue and difference. Los Angeles: Sage.


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