Type: Narrative Essays
Sample donated: Gilbert Pope
Last updated: May 28, 2019
Theorigin of the word “ethics” is derived from the Greek word “ethos,” which means”character” or “conduct.” Despite this, ethics is not limited to the actions orbehaviours of an individual, as it also includes practices of a profession, anorganization, a government agency, or a corporation. Historically, opinionsfrom philosophers and moral ethicists on the topic of ethics in relation to theindividual and society have fallen into two camps. While one group places theindividual as more important, the other considers the society itself as moreimportant than the individual. Part of this argument is brought to lifeon-screen by Spock in the acclaimed film StarTrek II: The Wrath of Khan, where the aforementioned character states that”…were I to invoke logic, logic clearly dictates the needs of the many outweighthe needs of the few” (Meyer 1982). This now-infamous quote brought the conceptof society taking priority over the individual into the cultural zeitgeistthirty-five years ago, and it is something that has remained there to this day.It implies that no one person can take priority over a group, a group which mayinclude their peers.
This is a central ideal when it comes to creating anethical classroom, as the “conduct” of a “character” cannot be allowed tonegatively impact, in this scenario, the education of a group ofschoolchildren. Accordingto research carried out by Corley and Mathur for Arizona State University, manyof the concerns which are confronting teacher in public schools, both in theUnited States and around the globe, require ethical decision making (2014).Corley and Mathur go on to state that teachers may experience tensions betweenpersonal beliefs, professional codes of conduct, and moral values when facingethical issues. Robert Bullough, in a review which analysed twenty-two articlesfrom Teaching and Teacher Education,found that teachers understood and responded to ethical dilemmas differently,and also showed different levels of ethical sensitivity (2011).
While some of theseteachers made certain ethical determinations about what was the right thing todo based on their own personal ethics and life experiences, others gavepriority to social and institutional norms, while a third subset held a more workableand thoughtful view which attended to a wide range of moral privileges(Bullough 2011). What is made clear by all of this is the fact that while noteveryone adheres to the same ethical code, it is essential that teachers in aclassroom setting are provided with the necessary tools to support theirconsideration of multiple perspectives surrounding an issue, and that they alsoattain a capacity for ethical decision making in order to create and maintainan ethical classroom. Atits heart, an ethical classroom, not unlike a good home, is ideally a place oflearning, sharing, trust, nurturing, personal and spiritual growth, and peace.This is a sentiment put forward by Rosanna Pittella and Philip Rotstein (2017)when they state that places which give rise to such feelings among those whothrive there are built around a consciousness and respect of ethical concepts.They go on to claim that goodness, truth, a sense of self, fairness, and theresponsibility to do no harm are the supporting beams of any teacher’s ethicalclassroom, and that intentional teachers are those who chose their careersbased on the need to make a positive difference. For teachers such as these theethical classroom is the ‘ultimate incubator of learning by their students andserves as the litmus test of their skills, experience, and creativity. Thissupports the work of Gail Furman who, in her work The Ethic of Community (2004), made the claim that there are fiveframeworks of ethics which have been identified in education; these are theethic of care, justice, critique, profession, and community, with all five ofthese being of particular interest to those seeking to create an ethicalclassroom. Firstly,Virginia Held (2006) tackles the the ethic of care put forward by Furman in herresearch and claims that it is based on the tenet that people are relational,interdependent beings.
She states that as infants, humans begin life thoroughlydependent upon the care of others for survival, as human babies do not emergeindependent and self-sufficient like some animals do. The ethic of care rejectsthe idea that the goal of healthy child development is to become independent,and instead the advocates of the ethic of care view people as both relationaland capable of autonomy throughout their lifespan. Within this ethical framework,teachers meet individual student needs, and also develop positive relationshipsthat show nurturing and care for students (Corley and Mathur 2014). Secondly, theethic of justice is one of the most recognisable within the school system, asit includes both an individual’s choice to act justly and the schoolcommunity’s choice to act or govern justly. As per Sullivan (1986), the ethicof justice provides a framework for people to solve problems by firstestablishing what is just and fair for the individual and for the schoolcommunity. Teachers operating within this ethical framework must respectindividual students and deal with them with fairness, following due process toprotect civil and human rights (Corley and Mathur 2014). Thirdly, the ethic ofcritique is entirely concerned with questioning everything and asking why arethings the way they are. To embrace the ethic of critique requires awillingness to reflect upon social justice, upon issues of access, inclusion,and also distribution of resources (Giroux 2003).
While the ethic of critiqueilluminates flaws, so too does it illuminate its own as it typically does notinclude offering any solutions. The teacher’s role within this framework is toengage in the questioning of the status quo and also demonstrate sensitivity toinequity. Mergingthese first three ethical models of care, justice, and critique, Shapiro andStefkovich (2001) use the best interest of the child as their touchstone tocreate the fourth ethical paradigm mentioned by Furman, which is that ofprofession. The ethic of profession focuses on moral aspects and questionswhich are specific to schools and, within this model, educators are expected toconsider their professional principles, codes, and standards, to position thebest interests of the student.
Here the teacher uses professional code ofethics and keeps the student at the centre of decisions (Corley and Mathur2014). Furman (2004) then, noticing the absence of the discussion of thecommunity in the ethics literature focusing on educational leadership, built anew, fifth framework with the ethic of community at its heart. This finalframework incorporated not only the most widely accepted ethics paradigms ofcare, justice, and critique, but also the work of Shapiro and Stefkovich in theform of the ethic of profession. Within the ethic of community the teachersmust concern themselves with community issues, such as student achievement andsuccess for all (Corley and Mathur 2014).
These five frameworks providemultiple ethical lenses through which educators can view the issues theyencounter, and also understand different perspectives and take more thoughtfulactions. Furthermore,the role of educators extends beyond just these five ethical frameworks, accordingto the Teaching Council’s Code of Professional Conduct (2012). This documentclearly states that the role of the teacher is to educate, however there arealso four ethical values which underpin the standards of teaching, knowledge,skill, competence, and conduct as outlined in the Code. The first of theseethical values is Care, which does share overlap with the research done byCorley and Mathur, and the Teaching Council states that a teacher’s practice ismotivated by the best interests of the students entrusted to their care.Teachers are to show this through positive influence, professional judgement,and empathy in practice. This is where the overlap ends, as the remaining threeethical values outlined by the Teaching Council are that of Respect, Integrity,and Trust.
In order for a teacher to show respect in an ethical manner theymust uphold human dignity and promote equality, as well as emotional andcognitive development. They must also show respect for different spiritual andcultural values, diversity, social justice, freedom, democracy, and theenvironment. In order for a teacher to have ethical integrity they must showhonesty, reliability, and act in a moral fashion, as well as exercise integritythrough their professional commitments and responsibilities. Finally, tomaintain the ethical value of trust teachers must be the embodiment offairness, openness, and honesty when interacting with pupils, colleagues,parents, school management, and even the public. Whenthese five ethical frameworks as laid out by Furman (2004) and the four coreethical values as laid out by the Teaching Council (2012) are implemented intandem, any learning environment can be made decidedly more ethical. This tiesback to what was said by Pittella and Rothstein when they claimed that anethical classroom is ideally a place of learning, sharing, trust, nurturing,personal and spiritual growth, and peace.
This is then further elaborated onwhen they state that certain characteristics of an ethical classroom will forma scaffold for students to climb toward “enriched learning, cooperation,thoughtfulness, self-awareness, and partnership” (2017). One of thesecharacteristics is the learning which occurs in a classroom environment beingpresented in ethical language. Every subject taught within an ethical classroomcan be enriched when it is presented with an awareness and exploration of itsethical qualities and applications. An example given by Pittella and Rothstein(2017) is that of a discussion facilitated by the teacher helping students toidentify when and where ethical concepts can be found within the readingmaterial. Pittella and Rothstein (2017) state that in this ethical classroom,students will come away with stimulation of the mind, practical skills, and theknowledge of ethical language and ideas that will transcend their lives whichwould not have happened otherwise.However,the aforementioned scaffold which should be created for students is not justconcerned with subject matter being presented in an ethical manner, but alsowith the lesson itself being conducted in an ethical manner. Education is morethan imparting knowledge of subject matter as it also influences, among otherthings, the development of ethical decision making (Corley & Mathur 2014).
The adults in schools play powerful roles in the development of a child andthese adults, be they teachers or other administrative staff, are the guideswho can lead students beyond their current juvenile state of understanding andmastery to the next, decidedly more advanced, level (Vygotsky 1990). It istherefore crucial for the adults in schools to model ethical practices and tohelp students construct a moral compass which is guided by fairness, honesty,integrity, civility, compassion, constancy, and responsibility (Campbell 2008). Everyclassroom has its own standard operating procedures which have been created byeither the teacher or the school, or a combination of the two. These are oftendirectives which forbid certain actions such as “No pushing” or “No talking,”however this should not be the case in the ethical classroom.
A different wayto approach ethical codes of conduct as advised by Pittella and Rothstein(2017) is to form an agreement with the students which describes a certainstandard of behaviour which is expected to be met by all. The example given isto translate “No pushing” in the hypothetical agreement to “We do not touch oneanother without permission, and never in a way that could cause harm.” Theseguidelines to be upheld in the daily interactions of an ethical classroom cancomprise a life lesson that will be carried by the students well beyond itswalls. This is necessary because in the ethical classroom the educator shouldteach beyond rules, to the underlying reasons why certain behaviours arenecessary for the greater good of all. Theprevious remark harks back to the opening quote of this speech “…were I toinvoke logic, logic clearly dictates the needs of the many outweigh the needsof the few”, as it relates to the need for the behaviour of any one studentwithin the classroom to not impact on the education of their peers.Additionally, as has been made clear, the behaviour of the teacher is just as,if not more, important than the students’ when it comes to ensuring that theireducation is both conducted and delivered in an ethical manner. In order for anethical classroom environment to be created, not only do the educatorsthemselves need to conduct themselves in an ethical fashion, but they must alsoinstil in their students the capacity to question, learn, and behave in a waywhich is also inherently ethical.
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