Introduction to ethics in teaching
Professional ethics in teaching, as it is presented in this book, is not a concept to be narrowly defined solely by ethical codes of practice and formalized precepts of behaviour and disposition uniquely relevant to the teacher practitioner. Nonetheless, these should indeed embody fundamental core principles of an ethical orientation so essential to overall moral practice. Rather, professional ethics is conceived of broadly as elements of human virtue, in all its complexity, as expressed through the nuances of attitudes, intentions, words, and actions of the professional teacher. Simply, it is the realization of good and the struggle against bad as they apply to the everyday practice of teachers as individuals and as a collective professional group. In this respect, the focus is on more general principles of ethics, such as honesty and fairness, as they apply to teachers' work, than on the identification of particular interpretations of ethics that emanate from the profession itself (such as the oft-quoted imperative to avoid interfering in a colleague's domain of authority).
In his Practical Companion to Ethics, Anthony Weston notes that, 'ethics asks us to live mindfully: to take some care about how we act and even about how we feel'.1 He further explains:
Despite the stereotypes, the point of ethics is not to moralize or to
dictate what is to be done. Ethics is not another form of dogmatism.
The real point of ethics is to offer some tools for thinking about difficult
matters, recognizing from the start – as the very rationale for ethics, in
fact – that the world is seldom so simple or clear-cut. Struggle and
uncertainty are part of ethics, as they are a part of life.2