Ethical Dilemmas for Essay Topics

Questions for Speeches or Papers

A young boy being bullied at school.
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Do need to discuss, argue, or examine an ethical issue for your class? This list of ethical issues was designed for students. Consider these topics for your next speech or essay, including subtopics these questions might cover.

Should teens have plastic surgery?

Good looks -- or attractive physical appearance -- are highly prized in our society. You can see advertisements everywhere urging you to buy products that will supposedly enhance your appearance. But, plastic surgery is probably the ultimate game-changer. Going under the knife to enhance your looks carries risks and can have lifelong consequences. Consider whether you think teens -- who are just developing into mature individuals -- should have the right to make such a big decision at such a young age.

Would you tell if you saw a popular kid bullying?

Bullying is a big problem in schools -- and even in a society in general. But, it can be difficult to show courage, step up -- and step in -- if you see a popular kid bullying someone at school. Would you act if you saw this happening? Why or why not?

Would you speak up if your friend abused an animal?

Animal abuse by youngsters can foreshadow more violent acts as these individuals grow up. Speaking up might save the animal pain and suffering today -- and it might steer that person away from more violent acts in the future. But, would you have the courage to do so? Why or why not?

Would you tell if you saw a friend cheating on a test?

Courage can come in subtle forms. Seeing a friend cheat on a test might not seem like such a big deal. Perhaps you've cheated on a test yourself. But, would you speak up -- perhaps tell the teacher -- if you saw your buddy cheating, even though it might cost you a friendship?

Should news writers slant reports toward what people want to hear?

Newspapers -- and news television stations -- are businesses, just as much as a grocery store or online retailers. They need customers to survive. Slanting reports toward what people want to hear could, theoretically, save newspapers and news shows, as well as jobs. But, is this practice ethical? What do you think?

Would you tell if your best friend had a drink at the prom?

Most schools have strict rules about drinking at the prom, but many students still engage in the practice. After all, they'll be graduating soon. If you saw a friend imbibing, would you tell -- or look the other way?

Should football coaches be paid more than professors?

Football often brings in more money than any other single thing a school offers -- including academic classes. If a business is profitable, the CEO is often rewarded handsomely. Shouldn't it be the same for football coaches? Why or why not?

Should politics and church be separate?

Candidates often invoke religion when they're out campaigning. It's generally a good way to attract votes. But, should the practice be discouraged? The Consitution, after all, dictates that there should be a separation of church and state in this country. What do you think and why?

Would you speak up if you heard an ugly ethnic statement at a party filled with popular kids?

As in the previous examples, it can be very hard to speak up, especially when an incident involves popular kids. Would you have the courage to say something -- and risk the ire of the popular crowd?

Should assisted suicides be allowed for terminally ill patients?

Some countries, like the Netherlands, allow assisted suicides, as do some U.S. states. Should "mercy killing" be legal for terminally ill patients who are suffering from great physical pain? Why or why not?

Should a student's ethnicity be a consideration for college acceptance?

There has been a long-standing debate about the role ethnicity should play in college acceptance. Proponents of affirmative action argue that underrepresented groups should be given a leg up. Opponents say that all college candidates should be judged on their merits alone. What do you think and why?

Should computer internet companies secretly gather information about their customers?

This is a big -- and growing -- issue. Every time you log onto the internet and visit an online retailer, news company or even a social media site, computer internet companies gather information about you. Should they have the right to do so, or should the practice be banned? Why do you think so? Explain your answer.