Ethical Issues for ESL Faculty: Social Justice in Practice

Ethical Issues for ESL Faculty: Social Justice in Practice

Ethical Issues for ESL Faculty: Social Justice in Practice

Ethical Issues for ESL Faculty: Social Justice in Practice


This book explicitly addresses ethical dilemmas and issues that post-secondary ESL faculty commonly encounter and examines them in the framework of social justice concerns. Ethics is defined broadly, to include responsibilities and obligations to students inside and outside the classroom, as well to colleagues, educational institutions, the TESL profession, and society as a whole.

Scenarios in each chapter provide realistic and compelling situations for reflection and discussion. The authors then set out the issues raised, relate them to the classroom environment, and offer opportunities to examine them in a variety of contexts and to consider possible solutions to the dilemmas. Issues include testing, plagiarism, technology, social and political issues affecting students and the classroom, gift-giving, curriculum decisions, disruptive students, institutional constraints, academic freedom, gender, class, and power.

Busy classroom instructors will find this book accessible, thought-provoking, and relevant to their daily work situations. It is not intended as a theoretical treatment of ethics and social justice in ESL, nor does it propose that ESL faculty teach morals or ethics to students. Rather, it is designed as a concise, practical introduction to ethical practice for both new and experienced ESL faculty in post-secondary teaching situations in the United States, for others interested in the ESL classroom, and as a text for TESL classes and seminars.

Ethical Issues for ESL Faculty:
• maps new territory in the field--ethical issues in TESL, particularly as encountered by post-secondary classroom teachers, are not often discussed in ESL publications;

• makes the complex issues of ethics in the context of social justice accessible to TESL practitioners; and

• includes useful resources, such as additional scenarios for discussion, an extensive reference list, and selected ethics-related Web sites.


The field of ethics is a complex one, with roots deep in human history and philosophy. Questions of ethics are complex ones. Philosophers and theologians over the years, from Plato to Kant to Rorty, have struggled with some of the following questions: Do human beings have free will and therefore the ability to choose their actions freely? Do humans make ethical decisions based on morality, or rather on biological and emotional imperatives? Does ethics concern itself with human intentions, or with the actual results of human action? Is the goal of ethics the achievement of individual happiness, or the welfare of humanity in general? Are ethical principles determined by individuals or by societies? Are ethical principles relative, depending on the society and the circumstances? Of particular interest to us is the last question, the question of whether ethical principles and systems are absolute or relative. We explore this question next.


Fundamentally, ethics concerns itself with morality, right and wrong. Many philosophers use the terms ethics and morality interchangeably as we do here. Sterba (1998) described the connection between the two terms as follows : "Ethics is the philosophical study of morality" (p. 1). Ethics can be, but definitely does not have to be, connected to religion. A revered religious leader, the Dalai Lama (1999), asserted that "Religion can help us es-

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