McHenry County College Twofers class links classroom with real-life issues
Is it immoral if an 83-year-old woman with terminal pelvic cancer refuses to eat or drink?
McHenry County College students recently explored this real-life scenario at Centegra Hospital-Woodstock with a panel of health care professionals, including two nurses, a social worker and a chaplain. This off-campus activity provided 25 students an everyday connection to their Playing God class, which examines questions in medical ethics at the beginning and end of life.
The class also combines Intro to Ethics and Composition I, and is one of MCC's growing number of learning communities courses or "Twofers."
Twofers combine two classes, giving students the opportunity to make connections between subjects and interact more with their team of two instructors and classmates. Students also earn credits for both classes.
Philosophy instructor Jim Gould and English instructor Ted Hazelgrove have taught Playing God for the past three years, but have been teaching a variety of "Twofers" learning communities classes since 2001.
"Learning community classes are really good at integrating the content of separate disciplines to create a learning experience that is holistic and coherent," Gould said. "Academic learning is often disconnected from the world beyond the classroom, but our Playing God learning community looks at questions in medical ethics at the beginning and end of life."
In addition to the interdisciplinary aspect of the class, Gould said he strives to link in-class learning with out-of-class real world issues -- a topic he and Hazelgrove presented this fall at the National Learning Communities Conference in Chicago.
Gould and Hazelgrove use multiple methods to forge connections between the theory being discussed in class and practical medical issues happening in the world, including inviting guest speakers and discussing current event news articles related to an ethical topic, such as abortion, assisted suicide or genetic modification. Students then write a paper about each topic.
"We want our students to hear varying viewpoints on abortion from professionals actually working in the community on these issues. The end-of-life panel had the same goal. We want our students to hear the viewpoints of chaplains and nurses and social workers on end-of-life decision-making."
In other class sessions on life and death, students examined the genetic screening of pregnancy for disabilities and disease and discussed the state of Oregon's Death with Dignity Act.
"My favorite part of this class are the instructors," said Samantha Metreger of Wonder Lake. "They have a friendship that brings an energy to the class that is contagious. They work so well together and they challenge each other and the students. Class discussions are always very interesting and thought-provoking."
Joshua Powell of Woodstock agreed. "This Twofer class was more than what I expected. We went in-depth on subjects, including touchy subjects. I like how we were able to voice our opinions on these subjects."
Shawn Flesher of Cary said he plans to pursue a career in the engineering field and Playing God class provided valuable lessons that can be applied to technology advancements.
"Engineering and technology make progress, but the advances can raise ethical questions," Flesher said. "Just because we can do it, should we do it?"