published on April 7, 2017
Teaching Taboo Topics
Why It Matters and How to Pull it Off
In this paper, I offer justifications and strategies for teaching taboo, unpopular, or rarely contested views in undergraduate ethics courses. Teaching taboo topics, while challenging, forcefully demonstrates the commitment that few topics in ethics have obvious answers, and that the study of ethics is more than just debating right and wrong. Drawing from my experience teaching on the topic of bestiality, I articulate the importance of motivating topics that may appear remote and irrelevant to students. Inspired by Kathy Rudy’s queer theory approach to the question of bestiality, I propose that we broaden and reframe taboo issues when teaching undergraduates. Instead of introducing these issues with the typical “Is it right or wrong to do X,” I recommend that we examine the essential political, metaphysical, and epistemological presumptions that inform and shape our moral judgments.