A Matter of Ethics

Objective :

  • Realize the influence that advertising exerts over us.

Description :

The class is broken down into teams and the students are given four ethical questions. A classroom debate is organized, and each team chooses whether to argue in favour of or against the question, then prepares its arguments.

As an alternative to this activity, students may write an opinion piece or take part in a discussion among subgroups.

Equipment :

Introduction :

To kick off the activity, the teacher asks the class the following question:

“In your view, is advertising necessary? If so, why?”

Inform students that the next activity will be a debate.

Explanations :

If necessary, the teacher can explain certain ethical concepts and ensure that students know how a debate works.

Instructions :

Ask students the following questions:

  • With such a high rate of obesity among children, should we continue to allow junk food advertising?
  • According to specialists, pollution from cars is having a major impact on global warming. Should automobile advertising be prohibited?
  • It has been shown that prominent personalities who promote certain products (clothing, cars, toys, food, etc.) have an impact on sales figures. Are you for or against using stars in ads?
  • Is advertising to promote green products more acceptable?

Ask every student to fill out the What Do You Think? document and to reflect on his or her position (for or against, and why?) for each topic. Do the exercise again after the debate to see if the students' opinions have changed.

Break the class down into eight teams and assign each team one of the following positions:

Junk food ads

“For” team

“Against” team

Automobile ads

“For” team

“Against” team

Stars in ads

“For” team

“Against” team

Ads for green products

“For” team

“Against” team

The teams take some time to come up with arguments. Arguments can be found through team discussion or by consulting the Internet or the literature. Teams must find specific examples that support their arguments.

When the teams are ready, the debate can begin.

To fuel the debate, the teacher can use the Teacher’s Document, which provides arguments for and against each of the topics.

Conclusion :

Ask students:

  • Now that you've taken part in this activity, has your opinion on these topics changed?
  • If so, what made you change your mind?

Whatever formula the teacher chooses, the point is to show the entire class that it’s not easy to decide in favour of corporate freedom versus public protection, or between respect for free will and interventionism.