12 Interesting Ethical Topics for Essay Papers

A young boy being bullied at school.
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Essays covering interesting ethical topics are often assigned to students, and this list of potential topics was designed for students. These topics and subtopics might inspire you when writing your next essay, position paper, or speech.

Should teens have plastic surgery?

Good looks are highly prized in our society. You can see advertisements everywhere urging you to buy products that will supposedly enhance your appearance. While many products are topical, plastic surgery is probably the ultimate game-changer. Going under the knife to enhance your looks can be a quick fix and help you achieve the look you desire. It also carries risks and can have lifelong consequences. Consider whether you think teens — who are still developing into mature individuals — should have the right to make such a big decision at such a young age, or if their parents should be able to decide for them.

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 report it 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, and that can include reporting seeing someone cheat on a test. Cheating on a test might not seem like such a big deal, perhaps you've cheated on a test yourself. But, it is against the policies of schools and universities world wide. If you saw someone cheating, would you speak up and tell the teacher? What if it was your buddy cheating and telling might cost you a friendship? Explain your stance.

Should news stories slant toward what people want to hear?

There is much debate over whether or not the news should be unbiased or allow commentary. Newspapers, radios, and news television stations are businesses, just as much as a grocery store or online retailers. They need customers to survive, and that means appealing to what their customers want to hear or see. Slanting reports toward popular opinions could increase ratings and readership, in turn saving 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? Why?

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. In the corporate world, if a business is profitable, the CEO and those who contributed to the success are often rewarded handsomely. With that in mind, shouldn't it be the same in academia? Should the top football coaches get paid more than the top professors? 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 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? Who would you tell?

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? What about patients whose diseases will negatively impact their families? 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 companies 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, 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.