Both Durff and I agree that ethical behaviour must be stressed in the classroom and modeled by teachers. I think you can tell from our comments that we are both quite passionate about this.
Where our views start to differ is how this is done. You can read about our differing viewpoints in the comments to the original post – what I find interesting is the conversation that has developed.
Ethics is messy – it really does have to do with our own world-views and it can be messy and difficult to talk about the things that really matter to us, the things that hit us in our gut, that touch our values around what it means to be human. The rub in all of this is that we do not all have the same values nor the same world view.
Two of my beliefs related to this topic:
- I strongly believe that we can not assume there to be one ethical plumbline to live by. Furthermore I think that this assumption implies another, that if one does not adhere to this plumbline then one is acting unethically. I think this is problematic in any society that is diverse.
- I believe that ethical decisions should be contextual and arrived at from within a situation rather than determined from external sources like codes of conduct/ethics. (I have written more on this subject, if you are at all interested I invite you to read this paper, though I warn you it is a bit lengthy :) Conversations for ethical decision-making in secondary schools (Rosen, 2005) )
I do think it important – indeed necessary – to create a common ground in order to be able to have conversations around ethics, in order to be able to teach about ethics.
In trying to understand Durff’s insistence on an ethical plumbline, I wonder if perhaps this common ground is something along the lines of what she means.
Such a common ground for me would have to:
- acknowledge that there is more than one world-view in the room
- acknowledge that my world-view is not better or worse than yours, just different
- be prepared to learn about different beliefs and world-views
- be prepared to take a considered position when I am involved in decision-making
- understand that a considered position includes more than one or two considerations
What would be important for you to have in this common ground?
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