By Melissa Coakley, Professor
On Friday, September 30 the St. Petersburg College Applied Ethics Department sponsored a student field trip to the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg. The visit helped solidify some of the theoretical notions learned in PHI 1600, such as Kant’s Respect for Persons, the categorical imperative put forth by philosopher Immanuel Kant that holds humans should treat each other – and themselves – always as valuable ends and never as mere means.
More than three dozen SPC Applied Ethics students met at the Holocaust Museum at that morning and were treated to a presentation and tour of the facility by knowledgeable museum docents. In addition, Robert Sherman, who teaches PHI 1600 at the SPC Downtown campus, shared some beautiful and moving thoughts on the value of human life and the ethical implications of the Holocaust.
During the tour all attention was focused and students appeared to be taking in the scenery and curiously contemplating the poignant and moving art that adorns the walls throughout the museum. There was a feeling in the air in the form of an unasked question: How could such a crime against humanity have occurred?
After the tour, students had the distinct honor of sitting in the audience as Lisl Schick, a courageous Holocaust survivor, took center stage and shared the story of her emotional childhood journey. Lisl was born in 1927 in Austria and she was 11 years old when she took, along with her little brother, the Kindertransport to England. Mrs. Schick’s story was moving and students listened to her words with rapt attention. After her presentation Lisl answered several questions from SPC students.
The theme of the day was repeated often and is one that is in line with another ethical theory, that of the social contract. Our dignity and worth affirms us of what we owe one another as fellow humans. In other words, we all have a social obligation to avoid turning a blind eye to actions that threaten the value and sanctity of human life. If we witness something wrong, it is imperative that we avoid remaining idle in the face of injustice.