Module 2 Discussion: Ethical Dilemmas in Public Speaking

Ethics and Counterarguments

For this activity, you will explore and discuss ethical dilemmas surrounding information you find while researching on the internet for your speech.

The internet offers an almost unlimited amount of research on any topic, but with that large amount of information comes a heightened number of concerns, including the following questions: Is the information accurate? Is the source credible? Is the source biased? Many organizations and experts use the internet generally and social media in particular to share information and opinions because of its ability to widely and quickly reach a mass audience. Think about how many times you have seen a similar comment made by multiple people on Twitter, though. Do you know who was the first to tweet it? How can you figure that out? If you see a comment multiple times on Twitter, can you use a variation of it without attribution? Many ethical dilemmas exist around the use of evidence you find on the internet, and it’s important that you think critically about the information you find and read before you decide to use it in your speech.

Step 1: For the purpose of this discussion, choose one of the following topics:

  • Climate change
  • Police reform
  • Abolishing the electoral college

Step 2: When doing research on your topic, find one article that aligns with your current thinking about the subject and another that presents evidence that the exact opposite is true. This is a persuasive speech. Write a 200–400 word post about whether or not it is ethical to ignore the evidence you found that disproves your point in light of the evidence you found that states the opposite of your perspective.

Step 3: Respond to at least two separate posts on this topic from two different classmates (at least 75 words for each post).  Using what you have learned about ethics in public speaking, consider the following in your responses:

  • Are both sources credible and trustworthy?
  • Is either source biased?
  • Is there more than one source that can be found that expresses similar evidence?
  • How would acknowledging the other side of the argument dilute the

Example Post:

My topic is the voting age should be lowered to 16. A lot of my research talks about low voter turnout, especially for youth voters, and that engaging 16-and 17-year-olds at a time when they are learning about civics and government in their communities would be a great way to get them to be engaged in the voting process for life. One article I found has information from a research fellow at the Hoover Institution that cautions that this change would be bringing the least informed into the political process. I understand why this research fellow makes this conclusion. Of course, 16-and-17 year-olds would be the least informed because of their age, but is there really a big difference between 16 and 18 in that regard? If we can impact voter turnout long term and get more people engaged in the political process, increase in voter turnout would have a tremendous impact. I can acknowledge and include this research, even though it does not support my point. However, I also found a 2018 poll from The Atlantic and the Public Religion Research Institute that says that 81% of Americans do not want to lower the voting age to 16. More surprising was that only 19% of young people supported it. I do not think it is ethical to ignore this finding in my speech, but I really am concerned that it shows that the voting age never will be lowered because popular opinion is so against it.

Example Response:

The sources you mention seem to be very credible and trustworthy as well as unbiased. I agree with you that ignoring that information in your speech would not be ethical, but I think those opinions in the poll are really part of the problem your speech is focusing on—the majority in our country do not think lowering the voting age is valuable. I think you DO need to include it, but you need to figure out a way to use that information to illustrate why we need to make a change. Ignoring that public opinion is against it will not help you make your argument, but showing that you recognize those opinions exist and making your arguments stronger because of them is a great way to approach it.