Magazine article Times Higher Education

Slow Ethics Will Tackle Moral Winter

Magazine article Times Higher Education

Slow Ethics Will Tackle Moral Winter

Article excerpt

We need to calm our frenetic lives and let virtues such as integrity, patience and respectfulness prevail, reflects Ann Gallagher.

It appears that we are in the midst of a moral winter. We are chilled by revelations that those we think ought to know and be better, cannot be relied on to do the right thing. Members of the police force are discovered to be dishonest; politicians are outed as untrustworthy; members of religious orders are found to be predatory; nurses are revealed as callous; journalists are exposed as exploitative; and a much-admired cyclist turns out to be a cheat.

By way of response, inquiries are rapidly commissioned, individuals are demonised, ethical frameworks imposed, compassion training demanded and regulators accused. There is a tendency to identify single causes, to explain moral deficits as the lack of values such as dignity or compassion, and to believe there is some panacea training solution. We should, however, dismiss singular and simplistic explanations, resist quick-fix responses and demonstrate a willingness to learn from the past and from research in a range of academic disciplines. In short, we need some "slow".

In the opening to his book, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed, Carl Honore describes an article he came across as he queued impatiently at a flight gate. It was entitled "The one-minute bedtime story". Honore tells us that his initial response was delight as he had regular conflicts with his small son regarding the lack of time devoted to bedtime reading. He wondered how quickly Amazon could dispatch the full set. But then he had an epiphany and asked: "Have I gone completely insane?" He concludes that he is not alone as everyone around him "is caught in the same vortex".

The "slow movement" is the antidote to our obsession with fast - fast food, fast travel, fast parenting, fast life. We do not have to look far to find manifestations of this in our own fields of practice. The slow movement emphasises virtues such as integrity, patience, courage and respectfulness. It values quality over quantity, heterogeneity over homogeneity, and the local over the global. It values the achievements of communities that thrive, sometimes against the odds.

So how might the slow movement inform our tarnished professions, perhaps suggesting a more constructive response to what appears to be our moral winter? What might the implications of "slow ethics" be for all of our professional practices?

Slow ethics provides for a more sustainable and tempered approach to professional ethics. …

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