Collegial fear: the dilemmas within
I can remember it being drummed into me about being ethical: Always
watch what you say about another teacher.
(Fran, elementary school teacher)
Moral agency in teaching is seriously endangered by a longstanding and prevailing professional belief that 'ethical' teachers do not interfere in the business of other teachers, criticize them or their practice, or expose their negligent or harmful behaviour, even at the expense of students' well-being. Norms of loyalty, solidarity and non-interference are reinforced by both the informal dynamics of casual collegial relationships within schools and the more formalized requirements of rules and regulations established and enforced by teachers' federations or unions. Given this context, professional ethics, from the perspectives of many teachers, pertains more to how they relate to their teacher colleagues than how they uphold moral and ethical principles in their practice. Given that, as Goodlad et al. argue, 'The teacher's first responsibilities are to those being taught', such a collegialfocused interpretation of 'professionalism' is alarmingly unethical if its primary consequence is the 'covering up' of teachers' wrongdoings and the protection of those whose actions, ironically, discredit the very concept of professionalism.1 One should be conscious of Hugh Sockett's highly significant question: 'What is the line between collegiality and toleration of inefficiency or immorality?'2
Unfortunately, 'inefficiency' and 'immorality' do occur in teaching. For example, in the Province of Ontario in 2001, the College of Teachers reviewed the files of 467 teachers, a 31.5% increase over the previous year, as a result of concerns raised about them. Of these, more than 190