Ethical Conundrums Revisited

More About Ethics in Education – Part I

“Food for Thought”

Facing Those Misconceptions, Dilemmas, and Problems in Daily Professional Decision-Making

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As I travel around Pennsylvania presenting sessions on “Ethics for Music Educators” at state conferences, regional professional development workshops, and collegiate music education seminars, as well as writing articles for PMEA News and hosting webinars, I seemed to have stirred up a lot of questions (which is GREAT!) and some confusion (not so good). This “hot topic” has become a lot like “peeling an onion.”

After discovering that few music or other subject area teachers have had formalized ethics training (pre-service or in-service), in fact most never even seeing their state’s “code of ethical conduct,” I feel like this is more complicated than it appears to be. Indeed, here and in other blog-posts, I am endeavoring to “peel the onion” – explore the problem one layer (step) at a time, to thoroughly understand what’s causing the conflict.

As a prerequisite, if you have not read my other articles on ethics from this website, please review the following:

 

A Closer Look at the Definitions

Ethics: moral principles that controls a person’s behavior.

Conundrum: a difficult problem or situation

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An ethical conundrum is a problem that causes one to make a decision based on their personal values. It may question an individual’s beliefs of what is right and wrong. Ethical conundrums can range from simple everyday problems to serious illegal infractions.

What is the difference between an ethical conundrum and a dilemma? Thanks to https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-conundrum-and-dilemma-Can-you-give-example-with-respect-to-a-context, we have a little more clarity (or barring that, at least a lot more detail to consider):

“Remember this phrase — on the horns of a dilemma.”

“A dilemma… [by definition] is a difficult choice between two (and only two) things or courses of action (as in two horns), both of which have some kind of undesirable consequences.”

“A choice of two things isn’t a dilemma — it may be a conundrum. A choice of one good thing and one bad isn’t a dilemma. A choice of two bad things is a dilemma.”

“A conundrum is about one thing — it’s just a difficult or confusing problem, and nearly always in the sense of having no possible solution or answer, or it’s an unbelievably hard challenge to produce the solution or answer. In short, a riddle.”

– Robert Charles Lee

These examples may be helpful, and were provided on the Quora website:

Dilemmas:

  • “We’re stuck in this dilemma of either jumping into shark-infested waters, or staying on board the burning ship and be burned alive.”
  • The proverb “Die if you do, die if you don’t.”

The classic conundrum facing thousands of students everywhere every year is which college to pick (the ‘one’ thing). College No. 1 has a better faculty but not fun. College No. 2 has a reputation of being more enjoyable and a more socially active student body. College No. 3 has average faculty but always get overseas placements. Which college is better for your future happiness?

A conundrum that resembles a dilemma: Should I work abroad alone for high pay? Or should I stay locally with my family for average pay?

A conundrum that feels like a dilemma: Do I save my mother or my children?

How about dealing with the sometimes controversial terms ethics vs. morality? This is from https://www.diffen.com/difference/Ethics_vs_Morals:

Ethics vs. Morals

“One professional example of ethics conflicting with morals is the work of a defense attorney. A lawyer’s morals may tell her that murder is reprehensible and that murderers should be punished, but her ethics as a professional lawyer require her to defend her client to the best of her abilities, even if she knows that the client is guilty.”

“Another example can be found in the medical field. In most parts of the world, a doctor may not euthanize a patient, even at the patient’s request, as per ethical standards for health professionals. However, the same doctor may personally believe in a patient’s right to die, as per the doctor’s own morality.”

– Diffen.com

 

Sample Situations in Daily Life

“A tree falls in the forest, is there sound?” Apply that “open-ended” philosophical approach to the ethics question, “If you find a $100 bill on the sidewalk and no one is around, what should you do?”

There are a myriad of real-life scenarios from numerous sources that may provide more insight in the adoption of ethical and moral “best practices.”

  • “Disabled placard abuse is a big problem in downtown San Diego. Handicap parking places are occasionally abused by people who do not possess a disability. These people typically use a family member’s handicap placards, for their own benefit. This leaves no accessible parking places for the people who truly need them. Would you?”
  • “Involving limited space and sold-out reservations, is it ethical for a hotel to charge someone for late cancellation (family emergency) in the case when no income would be lost because the room is easily sold to another hotel guest?”

 

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Jeffrey Selgin of RealSimple.com released a thought-provoking article, “10 Ethical Questions – Answered” on the CNN news feed website: http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/wayoflife/03/10/rs.10.ethical.questions/index.html.

“Stealing is a no-no; cheating is bad. When it comes to moral quandaries, the thou shalt-nots are no-brainers.”

“The truly tough dilemmas are those small, more ambiguous ones that you may stumble upon anytime, anywhere.”

“The ethical decisions we confront daily are toughest when there’s a significant downside to making the ‘correct’ choice — or when it’s unclear what that choice is. Here’s how to identify the right thing to do; it’s up to you to do it.”

Selgin offers an interpretation of the morality of these sample questions for day-to-day reflection:

  1. If something at a yard sale is far more valuable than the posted price, do I have to let the seller know?
  2. Is it considered stealing to take pens from a bank? What about extra napkins from a fast-food restaurant?
  3. If a charity sends me free address labels and I don’t make a contribution, is it OK to use them?
  4. Is it unfair to move into better (open) seats at a sporting event or a concert?
  5. My boss gave me credit for a project on which a colleague did most of the work. Should I accept the praise?
  6. If someone tells an offensive joke, is it my responsibility to speak up about it?

 

Ethical Conundrums in the Professions

We will start start with a perspective from the science profession, also providing a good summary of the “fiduciary” and moral responsibilities of the medical and law professions:  (https://helix.northwestern.edu/blog/2014/07/ethical-conundrums).

“Medical students, before commencing their duties as compassionate caregivers, take the Hippocratic oath, promising to always treat the ill to the best of their ability and to make decisions that are in the best interest of their patients.”

“Law students, before beginning their duties as defenders of the world, take an oath of professionalism, promising to honor and advocate for the community with integrity and cooperation towards others.”

“Now, let’s talk about scientists, the lab-coat wearing, world-saving breed of professionals, most commonly seen in their natural habitat surrounding long-standing rows of benches usually filled with biological and chemical substances that they use to save lives. Where is their oath?”

– Khyati Meghani

 

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Responsible for discovering drugs or other therapies that could stop us from aging,  finding the cure for cancer or the common cold, or for inventing miniaturized medical devices that could track the health of vital organs from within the blood stream, medical scientists are entrusted with our lives and must face “awesome” ethical obligations.

“Let’s take a time tour starting in the 1800’s. Meet, Alfred Nobel – a chemist and the inventor of dynamite, after whom the very famous Nobel Prize is named. Although his intention in developing dynamite was to create something more stable than nitroglycerine, and even though he is not responsible for killing millions around the world, he is still accountable for creating the invention that did. But, it is important to mention here that Nobel did establish the Nobel Foundation, which is funded by the wealth that he accumulated during his lifetime.”

“Next, meet Shiro Ishii, a microbiologist who had no ethical conscience while unleashing deadly pathogens on thousands of human research subjects under the delusional idea of creating a bacteriological weapons program.”

– Khyati Meghani

In his blog-post, “Ethical Conundrums,”  Khyati Meghani could give us countless other examples where scientists have conducted unethical research either for their love of science or under the delusion that they were helping mankind.

Why don’t we expect all professionals who deal closely with children (especially teachers) to take an oath to adhere to the highest standards of ethics and personal morality? It has always bothered me that educators are the only “fiduciary” whose charges are a “captive audience” and patently uninformed about the subject with little initial “ethics training” or “refresher” workshops. Even my investment counselor has to master (usually monthly) online course work on ethical practices.

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In one published study of educator scenarios (Shapira-Lishchinsky, O., Teachers’ critical incidents: Ethical dilemmas in teaching practice, Teaching and Teacher Education 2010, doi:10.1016/j.tate.2010.11.003), the aim was to “explore ethical dilemmas in critical incidents and the emerged responses that these incidents elicit.”

“Teachers deal with many ethical problems in their practice. They encounter issues such as inappropriate allocation of resources, situations in which pupils are being discussed inappropriately, and irresponsible colleagues. When teachers’ sense of proper action is constrained by complex factors in educational practice and decisions are made and carried out contrary to the ‘right course,’ critical incidents which involve ethical conflict and moral distress result.”

– O. Shapira-Lishchinsky

Five main categories of 50 critical incidents were reviewed:

1. Caring climate versus formal climate.
2. Distributive justice versus school standards.
3. Confidentiality versus school rules.
4. Loyalty to colleagues versus school norms
5. Family agenda versus educational standards

For examples of these incidents, read the entire research study at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8bbd/62c820d76cfaa35181319dcc3906790a4f00.pdf.

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I was also happy to run across the excellent online article “Ethics in the Classroom” by Leah Shafer from the Usable Knowledge blog-site of the Harvard Graduate School of Education: https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/16/04/ethics-classroom.

“Ethical dilemmas abound in education. Should middle school teachers let a failing eighth-grade student graduate, knowing that if she’s held back, she’ll likely drop out? Should a private school principal condone inflated grades? Should an urban district pander to white, middle-class families — at the expense of poor, minority families — in order to boost the achievement of all schools?”

“Teachers, principals, superintendents, and education policymakers face questions such as these every day. And for many, amid the tangle of conflicting needs, disparate perspectives, and frustration over circumstances, lies the worry that discussing an ethical dilemma with colleagues will implicate you as not knowing how to make the right choice — or as already having made the wrong one.”

– Leah Shafer

Research compiled by educational philosopher Meira Levinson and doctoral student Jacob Fay take up these challenges in their new book Dilemmas of Educational Ethics: Cases and Commentaries (http://hepg.org/hep-home/books/dilemmas-of-educational-ethics). “In detailing the moral predicaments that arise in schools, the researchers also provide a framework for educators to discuss their own dilemmas with colleagues, opening the door to making these conversations more common.”

Their book offers “six detailed case studies of common educational dilemmas, each accompanied by commentaries of varying viewpoints.”

“Case studies offer a safe way for educators to begin recognizing and discussing ethical dilemmas they may face in their own work, since no real person is implicated. ‘We hope that by reading and talking about the cases and commentaries, professional communities can become more practiced and comfortable in having these sorts of discussions, so that when their own particular dilemmas arise, they have the cases and a language to be able to speak about what it is they’re struggling with in their own practice,’ says Fay.”

– Leah Shafer

 

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Referencing the National Education Association’s Code of Ethics (http://www.nea.org/home/30442.htm), and the Council for Exceptional Children’s Ethical Principles and Professional Practice Standards for Special Educators (https://www.cec.sped.org/Standards/Ethical-Principles-and-Practice-Standards), RedOrbit posted an outstanding blog “Teachers’ Ethical Dilemmas – What Would You Do?” written by Jessica L Bucholz, Cassandra L Keller, and Michael P. Brady: https://www.redorbit.com/news/education/1141680/teachers_ethical_dilemmas_what_would_you_do/.

“What is considered ethical often comes down to determining what is in the best interest of the student. ‘Behaving ethically is more than a matter of following the rules or not breaking the law-it means acting in a way that promotes the learning and growth of students and helps them realize their potential’ (Parkay, 2004, p. 195). When professionals or students engage in unethical behavior, it can damage a good student-teacher relationship. Unethical behavior can ruin trust and respect between teachers and their colleagues. In extreme situations unethical behavior can result in a teacher losing his or her teaching position and/or certification. Resolving ethical dilemmas requires difficult educational decisions that do not always have a clear-cut ‘right’ answer.

Here we present several short vignettes of ethical dilemmas that both veteran and novice teachers have faced. We then ask you to consider the possible solutions for these examples and ask you what you would do if faced with a similar situation. Finally, we analyze each vignette using either the NEA’s or CEC’s code of ethics, identify ethical indicators that cover the situation, and propose a solution for each dilemma based on the code.”

– Jessica L Bucholz, Cassandra L Keller, and Michael P. Brady

Interesting classroom ethical scenarios are offered with recommended solutions. These six “mock dilemmas” are discussed in detail:

  • Possible learning disability
  • Assessment conflict
  • Medication
  • Standardized tests
  • Petty behavior
  • Religion

 

More to Come

From politicians to movie stars, CEOs to the companies they lead, and especially heinous – teachers, coaches, and other school personnel, ethical misconducts are being uncovered and aired daily in the news. This is too important not to sponsor a frank discussion on ethical standards applied to professional decision-making.

For Part II of this series “Ethical Conundrums Revisited,” we will rehash a few more modern-day scenarios in the school music education workplace, prod you to respond “what would you do?” (at least in your mind) to address these problems, and even explore a few areas you may not think are true “ethical issues.” What are your views on…

  • Privacy protection versus “open door” meetings with students?
  • Acceptance of congratulatory “musical hugs” versus the practice of avoiding all physical contact from students?
  • Refusal of gifts from music industry vendors versus acceptance of “free” offers or dinner meetings?
  • Use of social media networks to support student learning versus the risk of crossing the student/teacher boundary with inappropriate informal communications?
  • The sharing of anecdotes or details of an incident that occurred during a class or school activity with family members or colleagues?
  • The sharing of contact information with outside organizations or businesses?
  • Identification of individuals (especially the names of students), geographical locations, or specific information about your school district on social media?
  • Certification of inaccurate or exaggerated reports, such as “fudging” data on time-in and time-out attendance logins?
  • The exercise of a teacher’s “freedom of speech” rights versus the practice of maligning school administrators or their decisions in public?
  • The exercise of a teacher’s “freedom of expression” rights in having tattoos, body piercings, or wearing certain fad or provocative clothing versus compliance to school policies and norms?

 

PKF

© 2018 Paul K. Fox

Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com: “meadow” by geralt, “ethics” by 3dman_eu, “ethics” by Tumisu, “scientist” by luvqs, “poses” by NDE, “boys” by White77, and “yes” by geralt.

 

Business Ethics

 

 

Ethics for Music Educators II

Part II: The Nitty Gritty

(This blog-post is the second in a series of three articles. For an introduction to this topic, you should first read “Part I: Back to Basics” at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2017/08/28/ethics-for-music-educators-i/)

A good teacher is a doctor who heals ignorance and an artist who inspires creativity. ― author unknown

Societal Changes Promoting Ethical Disputes

Brooks When Cultures ShiftMany have suggested that there has been a decline in moral standards that have contributed to ethical disputes in modern society (and in the public schools). Some say that this is attributed to a breakdown or lessening of the influence of organized religion and family values. “When Cultures Shift,” an excellent article in the New York Times (April 17, 2015), David Brooks explores some of causes and effects of this “slip” to our value systems, ethics, and renewed focus on self:

  • Cultural shift in personal mores
  • Consumerism
  • Self-esteem movement, narcissism, and “the big me”
  • Trends towards acceptance of informality and casual behavior
  • Social media and other technology

Brooks remarked, “The big shift in American culture did not happen around the time of Woodstock and the Age of Aquarius. It happened in the late 1940s, and it was the members of the Greatest Generation that led the shift.”

We now live in a world in which commencement speakers tell students to trust themselves, listen to themselves, follow their passions, to glorify the Golden Figure inside. We now live in a culture of the Big Me, a culture of meritocracy where we promote ourselves and a social media culture where we broadcast highlight reels of our lives. What’s lost is the more balanced view, that we are splendidly endowed but also broken. And without that view, the whole logic of character-building falls apart. You build your career by building on your strengths, but you improve your character by trying to address your weaknesses.

So perhaps the culture needs a re-balance. The romantic culture of self-glorification has to be balanced with an older philosophic tradition, based on the realistic acknowledgment that we are all made of crooked timber and that we need help to cope with our own tendency to screw things up. That great tradition and body of wisdom was accidentally tossed aside in the late 1940s. It’s worth reviving and modernizing it. ― David Brooks

Read his entire piece at https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/17/opinion/david-brooks-when-cultures-shift.html.

The Role of Education in Upholding Standards of Behavior

All I Ever Learned KDo schools, not necessarily families, serve as the “safety net” for socializing its citizens, and teaching morality, manners, and the values of human relationships? Are teachers held to a higher standard of behavior in order to model these principles and charged with the responsibility of indoctrinating the meaning of “right and wrong” and how to get along with each other? Many would seem to agree, including sample codes of ethics for teachers and this from Robert Fulghum (https://www.scrapbook.com/poems/doc/842.html):

Most of what I really need
To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sand-pile at Sunday school.

These are the things I learned:

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Flush.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life –
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.

― Robert Fulghum in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Philosophies in Moral Development

According to Jacques S. Benninga in “Moral and Ethical Issues in Teacher Education” from Eric Digest (https://www.ericdigests.org/2004-4/moral.htm), “Though codes of ethics may not have played a significant role in teacher preparation programs in the past, professional ethical dispositions of teachers must now be addressed as part of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) accreditation process (NCATE, 2002).” He describes the Four-Component Model of Moral Maturity, a program of ethical education first developed for dental professionals at the University of Minnesota since adapted to other professional training programs including the training of teachers. The program assumes that moral behaviors are built on a series of component processes (Bebeau, Rest, & Narvaez, 1999). “Each component is clearly defined, and educational goals, teaching strategies and assessment methods can be derived from those definitions.”

  1. Moral sensitivity, the awareness of how our actions affect other people.
  2. Moral judgment about complex human activities (Piaget 1965 and Kohlberg 1984)
  3. Moral motivation, a prioritization of moral values over personal values
  4. Moral character (acting on one’s convictions)

three-frogs-with-a-message-1316215 Gerla Brakkee.jpgIn Essays on Moral Development: The Philosophy of Moral Development (New York: Harper Collins 1981), Lawrence Kohlberg illustrates his “Six Stages of Moral Development” from ethical decisions based on adherence to rules/regulations and avoidance of punishment to acceptance of universal principles of justice and respect for human life.

Here is a brief outline of Kohlberg’s six moral stages:

  1. Obedience and punishment orientation
  2. Naively egoistic orientation (satisfying self-needs)
  3. Good-boy, good-girl (approval/conformity) orientation
  4. Authority and social-order-maintaining orientation
  5. Contractual/legalistic orientation (social contracts)
  6. Individual principles of conscience

However,  Carol Gilligan proposes a contrasting theme, “Three Evolving Steps of Caring,” in her book, In A Different Voice (Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press 1982).

  1. Decisions based solely on care for their needs.
  2. Decisions based on care for the needs of others.
  3. Decisions based on care for themselves and others.

The Professional Standards and Practices Commission of the Pennsylvania Department of Education resolved these apparently incompatible philosophies:

Despite their contrasting lenses on moral development, when applied to the teaching profession, these two ethical perspectives complement each other.  Teachers should be motivated by a universal respect for human life and also be guided by principles of caring.  In fact, teachers have a fiduciary duty to act in a way that is in the best interest of their students. Inherent in a fiduciary relationship is an imbalance of power where the students place their trust /confidence in the teachers, who are responsible for caring for their students and respecting their needs.  This overarching responsibility of teachers provides an ethical standard of professional practice to which professional educators must abide and has powerful practical and legal implications for their personal and professional lives.

http://www.pspc.education.pa.gov/Promoting-Ethical-Practices-Resources/Ethics-Toolkit/Unit1/Pages/The-Ethics-of-Teaching.aspx

Sample Code of Professional Practices and Conduct

eye-see-you-1239025 Donald CookAs I said in Part I of this blog series, one of the first acts of a new or transferred teacher upon being hired to a specific school district is to visit the website of his/her state’s education department, and make a thorough search on the topic of “code of ethics” or “code of conduct.” There is no defense for ignorance of the codes and statutes relevant to the state you are/will be employed.

A few quotes and material from the Pennsylvania “Code of Professional Practices and Standards for Educators” are listed below. For a complete listing, go to http://www.pspc.education.pa.gov/Statutes-Regulations-Policies-Forms/Code-of-Professional-Practice-Conduct/Pages/default.aspx or download the PDF file from http://www.pspc.education.pa.gov/Documents/Statutes%20Regs%20Forms/Code%20of%20Conduct.pdf.

 

PA PSPC logo

In addition, if you live and work in Pennsylvania, I would strongly recommend you peruse the comprehensive Educator Ethics and Conduct Toolkit produced by Dr. Oliver Dreon, Sandi Sheppeard, and the PA Professional Standards and Practices Commission, a multiple-week induction program with coursework, essential questions, scenarios, and researched sources on teacher ethics (for which permission was given to share segments of their text below in professional development forums and workshops). Go to: http://www.pspc.education.pa.gov/Promoting-Ethical-Practices-Resources/Ethics-Toolkit/Pages/default.aspx.

  1. Professional educators shall abide by the Public School Code of 1949 (24 P. S. § § 1-101 – 27-2702), other school laws of the Commonwealth, sections 1201(a)(1), (2) and (4) and (b)(1), (2) and (4) of the Public Employee Relations Act (43 P. S. § § 1101.1201(a)(1), (2) and (4) and (b)(1), (2) and (4)) and this chapter.
  2. Professional educators shall be prepared, and legally certified, in their areas of assignment. Educators may not be assigned or willingly accept assignments they are not certified to fulfill.
  3. Professional educators shall maintain high levels of competence throughout their careers.
  4. Professional educators shall exhibit consistent and equitable treatment of students, fellow educators and parents. They shall respect the civil rights of all and not discriminate on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, culture, religion, sex or sexual orientation, marital status, age, political beliefs, socioeconomic status, disabling condition or vocational interest. This list of bases or discrimination is not all-inclusive.
  5. Professional educators shall accept the value of diversity in educational practice. Diversity requires educators to have a range of methodologies and to request the necessary tools for effective teaching and learning.
  6. Professional educators shall impart to their students principles of good citizenship and societal responsibility.
  7. Professional educators shall exhibit acceptable and professional language and communication skills. Their verbal and written communications with parents, students and staff shall reflect sensitivity to the fundamental human rights of dignity, privacy and respect.
  8. Professional educators shall be open-minded, knowledgeable and use appropriate judgment and communication skills when responding to an issue within the educational environment.
  9. Professional educators shall keep in confidence information obtained in confidence in the course of professional service unless required to be disclosed by law or by clear and compelling professional necessity as determined by the professional educator.
  10. Professional educators shall exert reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions which interfere with learning or are harmful to the student’s health and safety.

― Section 4: PA Code of Professional Practices and Standards for Educators

 

school-1465744-1 elias minasi

The Teacher-Student Relationship

Trust has evolved into the operative foundation of the relationship of students with their teachers. The duty of teachers is to act as a fiduciary in their students’ best interest and to create and maintain a safe environment for their students derives. When a teacher enters into an inappropriate relationship with a student, the teacher violates the recognized student-teacher boundary and thereby redefines the boundary inappropriately. Some unintentionally fall prey to the “slippery slope” of misconduct. The inappropriate relationship shifts to serving the needs of the teacher and not the needs of the student.

When teachers become confidants, friends, or counselors of students, a dual relationship is created which creates an ambiguity in the student-teacher relationship where roles are less defined. This ambiguity helps to foster inappropriate actions and educator misconduct.

headphones-1415466In addition, in almost every state education system, there are “mandatory reporting” regulations. Teachers are held responsible to ensure that their colleagues conform to the appropriate standards of ethical practice as well. In other words, if you know something is wrong and you do not report it to an administrator, you could also be liable and subject to hearings, discipline, and even prosecutions for negligence of your duty to protect the best interests, health, and safety of the student(s) involved.

 

Vulnerabilities

Teachers who are experiencing difficulties in their personal lives or are socially or emotionally immature may be particularly susceptible to the “slippery slope” of blurred teacher-student boundaries. Typical vulnerabilities include the following:

  • Viewing students as peers
  • Suffering from adult relationship issues
  • Immaturity
  • Need for attention
  • that-s-lame-bad-and-or-stupid-1537799 Daino_16A sense of invulnerability
  • Absence of a developed personal moral compass
  • Lack of personal crisis management skills

New or inexperienced teachers, those near their students’ ages, educators who look or act “cool” or “trendy,” or share common interests or an overlapping circle of friends, may be tempted to share inappropriate feelings or become “too close” with their children.

Every behavior or decision made by a teacher with respect to his or her students should be prefaced with the question:  “Whose needs are being met by my course of action?” There can only be one acceptable answer to this question: “The needs of the student!”

 

Social Media

In terms of teacher ethics, communicating digitally or electronically with students may lead to a blurring of appropriate teacher-student boundaries and create additional challenges to maintaining and protecting one’s privacy. Texts, emails, and social media postings are not private, and may be seen by others, forwarded, and/or copied or printed. Out of context, they may be misinterpreted, appear to be inappropriate, and/or lead to a violation of “The Code.”

computer-and-apple-1241514 Ales CerinIt is the responsibility of the teacher to control his or her “public brand” – how he or she wants to be perceived by students, parents, colleagues, and the public.  One’s public brand can and does impact perceptions, which in turn can impinge upon effectiveness.

When I started teaching in 1978, we did not have “social media.” (Actually, if you can imagine this, there was no Internet yet, most of us did not have computers, and flip or smartphones and tablets were only the subject of science fiction or Star Trek.) Guidelines for use (or abuse) of social media were not even a “seed” in our imaginations.

When MySpace and Facebook came upon the scene in 2003-2004, most school administrators recommended “stay away from these.” The online sharing and archiving of photos initiated the adoption of many other social media apps (Flickr and later Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, etc.), which provoked new challenges in maintaining privacy, appropriateness, and professionalism. However, soon after, school leaders started rolling out “teacher pages” and school web-pages, online bulletin board services, interactive forums, virtual learning environments like Blackboard and Blended Schools, and other educational tools that encouraged two-way communications among students in a class and the teacher. Technology is here to stay… so how should we use it safely?

The American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), a non-profit organization dedicated to placing qualified teachers in the classroom, released its “10 Social Media Rules for Teachers,” appropriate tips for protecting educators:

  1. Know your school district or state’s policies on social media.
  2. Never “friend” or “follow” students on your personal accounts.
  3. Keep your profile photos clean.
  4. Do not affiliate yourself with your school on a personal profile.
  5. Do not geo-tag your posts with your school’s location.
  6. “Snaps” are forever! Anyone can take a screen shot of your posts.
  7. Never mention your school or the names of staff or students in any post.
  8. Set your Instagram account to private.
  9. Never complain about your job online.
  10. Never post photos of your students on social media.

―Summarized from https://www.americanboard.org/blog/?p=249

girl-with-smart-phone-1616794 Eric Gross

 

To be continued…

Part III: Issues and Scenarios in Music Education… will review:

  • Pedagogy
  • Enforcement
  • Finances and Resource Allocation
  • Relationships
  • Diversity
  • More Scenarios – How Would You Judge These Incidents?
  • Bibliography

 

Special thanks and credits go to Dr. Oliver Dreon, Associate Professor at Millersville University (in Pennsylvania), and one of the authors of the Pennsylvania’s Educator Ethics and Conduct Toolkit, the source of much of the research, quotes, and perspective of this three-part series comes.

 

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

 

Photo credits (in order) from FreeImages.com: “Ethics” by Olivier Le Moal, “Three Frogs with a Message” by Gerla Brakkee,  “Eye See You” by Donald Cook, “School” by Elias Minasi, “Headphones” by Benjamin Earwicker, “That’s Lame, Bad, and Stupid” by Daino_16, “Computer and Apple” by Ales Cerin, and “Girl With Smart Phone” by Eric Gross.

 

 

Ethics for Music Educators I

Part I: Back to Basics

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you’re mine, I walk the line.  — Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash sang his love song, “I walk the line…” but for teachers in the education profession, it is a “fine line” to maintain the standards and appearances of professionalism, morality, and ethical codes of conduct in the school workplace.

piano-prodigy-1508755

The purpose of this blog series is to explore an introduction to the definitions, philosophy, and practices of teacher ethics, integrity, professional standards, and behavior “codes,” and some of the available resources, perspectives, and “legalese” on proper relationships among students, parents, and other professionals, appropriate student-teacher boundaries, warnings of vulnerabilities and dilemmas at the workplace, and tips to avoid the problems of unacceptable appearances and actions.

ethics 3However, the disclaimer is that I am not an attorney, human resource manager, nor scholar on school ethics, nor was I ever trained in a single workshop, college class, teacher induction or in-service program on this subject. After reading this article, you should immediately visit the website of your state’s education department, and search on the topic of “code of ethics” or “code of conduct.” A few examples of the “real deal” are listed below, and yes, you must study “every word of” the entire document and  applicable rules from the state you are/will be employed.

Teacher Rules — The Good Old Days?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to Snopes (see http://www.snopes.com/language/document/1872rule.asp), the following “rules of conduct for teachers” — one of the similar “the way we were” documents of questionable origin — may have been circulating since at least the 1930s.

“Nobody has ever been able to verify the authenticity of this list of rules. It has been reproduced in countless newspapers and books over the last fifty years, and copies of it have been displayed in numerous museums throughout North America, with each exhibitor claiming that it originated with their county or school district.”

However accurate, one can only marvel at the real or perceived grimness of the late nineteenth/early twentieth century American schoolteacher’s lot: “the profession was lowly regarded, the work was physically demanding and involved long hours on the job, the position paid poorly, retirement benefits were non-existent, and teachers were expected to be among the most morally upright members of their community.”

Sample Rules for (Female) Teachers 1915

  1. You will not marry during the term of your contract.
  2. You are not to keep company with men.
  3. You must be home between the hours of 8 PM and 6 AM unless attending a school function.
  4. You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores.
  5. You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have the permission of the chairman of the board.
  6. You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man except your father or brother.
  7. You may not smoke cigarettes.
  8. You may not dress in bright colors.
  9. You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
  10. You must wear at least two petticoats.
  11. Your dresses may not be any shorter than two inches above the ankles.
  12. To keep the classroom neat and clean, you must sweep the floor at least once a day, scrub the floor at least once a week with hot, soapy water, clean the blackboards at least once a day, and start the fire at 7 AM to have the school warm by 8 AM.

— http://www.snopes.com/language/document/1872rule.asp

Professionalism

Like medicine and law, teaching is a “professional practice,” a “conservative” occupation with high expectations and close public scrutiny. Although many have considered the 24/7 nature of a career in music education a “calling,” the true qualities of the teaching professional include these values also embraced by doctors and attorneys:

  • on-the-phone-closing-the-deal-1241406 Michael RoachAchievement of higher education, constant training and retooling, specific goals, and self-improvement
  • Adoption and refinement of “best practices”
  • Habits of creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills
  • Acceptance of criticism, peer review, teamwork, compromise, and group vision
  • High standards of behavior, etiquette, appearance, language, and ethics

According to “The California BTES – Overview of the Ethnographic Study” by David Berliner and William Tikunoff, “an effective teacher” is distinguished by exceptionally high standards:

Effective teachers score high on accepting, adult involvement, attending, consistency of message, conviviality, cooperation, student engagement, knowledge of subject, monitoring learning, optimism, pacing, promoting self-sufficiency, and structuring.

Effective teachers score low on abruptness, belittling, counting hours or “clock punching,” defiance, illogical statements, mood swings, oneness (treating whole as “one”), and recognition-seeking. — David Berliner and William Tikunoff

Referred to as “moral professionalism” (see Wynne, E.A. 1995. “The moral dimension of teaching.” In A.C. Ornstein Ed. Teaching: Theory into Practice. pp. 190-202. Boston: Alyn and Bacon),  the bar is further raised:

  • Coming to work regularly and on time
  • Being well informed about their student-matter
  • Planning and conducting classes with care
  • Regularly reviewing and updating instructional practices
  • Cooperating with, or if necessary, confronting parents of underachieving students
  • Cooperating with colleagues and observing school policies so the whole institution works effectively
  • Tactfully but firmly criticizing unsatisfactory school policies and proposing constructive improvement

 

balance-1172786 Stephen Stacey

Ethics

Webster’s definition of eth·ics is “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation” or “a set of moral principles.” Others have tried to clarify the meaning of these terms with more in depth interpretations:

Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do. — Potter Stewart

Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching – even when doing the wrong thing is legal. — Aldo Leopold

Ethics and morals relate to “right” and “wrong” conduct. While they are sometimes used interchangeably, they are different: ethics refer to rules provided by an external source, e.g., codes of conduct in workplaces or principles in religions. Morals refer to an individual’s own principles regarding right and wrong.

— “Ethics vs. Morals” at Diffen http://www.diffen.com/difference/Ethics_vs_Morals

According to Laurie Futterman, former Heart Transplant Coordinator at Jackson Memorial Medical Center and now chair of the science department and gifted middle school science teacher at David Lawrence Jr. K-8 Center, “ethics is a branch of moral philosophy.” Futterman wrote the following in the March 31, 2015 issue of Miami Herald about how ethics “involves defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct.”

“In discussion however, ethics can become eclipsed by commingling concepts of values and morals. They all provide behavioral rules, so what are the differences?

  • Values are rules from which we make our personal decisions about what is right and what is wrong, good or bad. Values help direct us to what is more important and past what is less important. This helps guide us when making decisions.
  • Morals tend to be broad yet are more far reaching because of their strong link to good and bad. We judge others by their morals rather than their values.
  • Ethics, in contrast, are a set of rules that tend to be adopted and upheld by a group of people. This could include medical ethics, journalism and advertising ethics and educational ethics. So ethics or intent, tends to be viewed as something upheld and adopted internally, such as professionalism, while morals are ideals we impose on others.”

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/community-voices/article17030966.html#storylink=cpy

In addition, there are distinctions between “Codes of Conduct” and “Codes of Ethics.” Although they both provide self-regulation of (un)acceptable  behaviors,  frequently the Code of Ethics outlines a set of principles that affect/govern decision making, while the Code of Conduct delineates specific behaviors that are required or prohibited and governs actions.

ethics 29

For the sake of our discussion here about ethics in education, I will add the qualifier that gavel-1238036JasonMorrisona “violation of ethics” is usually associated with significant consequences or punishment, like charges of medical malpractice or lawyers facing an “ethics committee” hearing. Confirmed unethical behavior may result in censure, suspension of license or certification, or other discipline action. Most state education governing entities post legally-binding “educator discipline acts” or codes of professional standards, ethics, and/or behavior, with extensive penalties.

 

Discipline

The grounds for imposition of discipline are broad and far-reaching, and will be governed by the state or county education system to where you are employed. As an example, “the laws” defining infractions in Pennsylvania are:

  • Immorality
  • Incompetency
  • Intemperance
  • Cruelty
  • Negligence
  • Sexual misconduct, abuse or exploitation
  • Violation of the PA Code for Professional Practice and Conduct Section 5(a)(10)
  • Illegal use of professional title
  • Failure to comply with duties under this act, including the mandatory reporting duties in section 9a.
  • Actions taken by an educator to threaten, coerce or discriminate or otherwise retaliate against an individual who in good faith reports actual or suspected misconduct under this act or against complainants, victims, witnesses or other individuals participating or cooperating in proceedings under this act.

— PA Educator’s Discipline Act: 24 P.S. §§2070.1 et seq. Chapter 237/Definition of Terms: http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/022/chapter237/chap237toc.html

For more discussion on these definitions, visit http://www.pspc.education.pa.gov/Promoting-Ethical-Practices-Resources/Ethics-Toolkit/The-Commission-Professional-Discipline-and-the-code/Pages/Educator-Misconduct.aspx.

Violations range from exhibiting poor behavior or even the semblance of impropriety to “breaking the code” or criminal offenses. (Yes, “appearances” can get you in trouble, due to one’s interpretations of the above charges of “immorality,” “intemperance,” and “negligence!”) In short, from bad (unprofessional) to worse (illegal), this illustration ethics 22defines misconducts.

The first two on the bottom of the figure (unprofessional or immoral incidents) may only (?) result in damage to one’s professional reputation, lowering the year-end teacher evaluation score, earning a “warning” or “write-up” by the principal/supervisor, or a job re-assignment, but unethical or illegal conduct usually results in further investigation and possible major (and often permanent) disciplinary action:

  • Private Reprimand
  • Public Reprimand
  • Suspension (temporary termination of certificate)
  • Revocation (termination of certificate)
  • Surrender (of certificate)
  • Supplemental Sanctions
  • Legal (Criminal) Action (fines, suspension, jail time, other penalties)
  • Civil Action

 

Ethical Equilibrium: Consequential “Codes of Conduct” vs. Professional Ethics

“From a decision-making standpoint, I tend to look at it from the perspective of Ethical Equilibrium (some work by Troy Hutchings). Teachers weigh the moral (personal) dimensions with regulatory ones (the law) with the ethics of the profession (ethics of teaching?). While focusing on consequences is important, I worry that teachers may interpret this to mean that as long as they don’t break the law, they can still be unprofessional and immoral.”

– Dr. Oliver Dreon, Associate Professor at Millersville University and author of the Pennsylvania Professional Standards and Practices Commission Ethics Tool Kit.

The foundations of “what’s right or wrong” and what your mother always said was “behaving appropriately when no one is watching you” are all about professional ethical standards that guide decision-making. The work of Troy Hutchings (among other leaders in this field) helps to further clarify these sometimes blurred definitions:

  • Personal Morality: “Personal values and beliefs derived from one’s life experiences… subjective and may/may not align with community mores.”
  • Regulations of Law: “Policies, statues, and judicial activity that articulate conduct absolutes.”
  • Professional Ethics: Professional ethical standards that assist practitioners within situation and systemic contexts in choosing the best course-of-action.”
  • Professional Dispositions: “Agreed upon professional attitudes, values and beliefs to be held by educational practitioners.”

See the slide below borrowed from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education webinar presentation “Beyond the Obvious: The Intersection of Educator Dispositions, Ethics, and Law” by Troy Hutchings and David P. Thompson.

Hutchings Nexus Between Ethics and Conduct

In other words, the intent of these essays on ethics is not to emphasize the “lowest standards of acceptable behavior” or the consequences of misconduct for music teachers. We will strive to move from “obedience and punishment orientation” (stage 1) and “self-interest orientation” (stage 2) to “social contract orientation” (stage 5) and “universal ethical principles (stage 6) of Lawrence Kohlberg’s “Six Stages of Moral Development.” (See http://ww3.haverford.edu/psychology/ddavis/p109g/kohlberg.stages.html).

 

Sample Codes of Ethics

MCEEOne of the best examples endorsed by many states, college education methods programs, and other institutions, the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification has published its “Model Code of Ethics for Educators” (see http://www.nasdtec.net/?page=MCEE_Doc) outlining the following principles:

  • Responsibility to the Profession
  • Responsibility for Professional Competence
  • Responsibility to Students
  • Responsibility to the School Community
  • Responsible and Ethical Use of Technology

In addition, it would be valuable to study the standards proclaimed by other organizations, such as

The latter “Music Code of Ethics” was revised and ratified in 1973 by the Music Educators National Conference (now the National Association for Music Education), American Federation of Musicians, and the American Association of School Administration (now the School Superintendent’s Association). It is worth reading mutual agreement of these parties regarding which performance events are sanctioned for music education programs and those that are only appropriate for professional musicians who make their livelihood in the field of “entertainment.”

music-1237358-1

 

To be continued…

Part II: The Nitty Gritty will review:

  • Societal Changes Promoting Ethical Disputes
  • The Role of Education in Upholding Standards of Behavior
  • Philosophies in Moral Development
  • Sample Code of Professional Practices and Conduct
  • The Teacher-Student Relationship
  • Vulnerabilities
  • Social Media

 

Special thanks and credits go to Dr. Oliver Dreon, Associate Professor at Millersville University (in Pennsylvania), and one of the authors of the Pennsylvania’s Educator Ethics and Conduct Toolkit, the source of much of the research, quotes, and perspective of this three-part series comes.

 

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

 

Photo credits (in order) from FreeImages.com: “Ethics” by Olivier Le Moal, “Piano Prodigy” by Crissy Pauley, “Old School House” by Vikki Hansen, “On the Phone Closing the Deal” by Michael Roach, “Balance” by Stephen Stacey, “Gavel” by Jason Morrison, and “Music” by Ricardo Vasquez.