Paradoxes & Praxis: The 21st Century Imperative for Educational Foundations

Codes of Ethics

In education, particularly when we turn to the practice of teachers, ethics is presented in codes of ethics. Codes of ethics are indeed be necessary and educators should know and integrate codes of ethics for their state, school district, and professional organizations in to their work.

The National Education Association believes that the education profession consists of one education workforce serving the needs of all students and that the term ‘educator’ includes education support professionals.

This preamble continues with conceptually dense ideas of—worth, dignity, pursuit of truth, excellence, democratic principles, freedom to learn, freedom to teach, equal educational opportunity, responsibility, highest ethical standards. The third paragraph then states,

The educator recognizes the magnitude of the responsibility inherent in the teaching process. The desire for the respect and confidence of one's colleagues, of students, of parents, and of the members of the community provides the incentive to attain and maintain the highest possible degree of ethical conduct….

 The code than moves into principles. Principle I focuses on commitments to students and principle II the commitment to the profession.

The education profession is vested by the public with a trust and responsibility requiring the highest ideals of professional service.

 And then specifies that education professionals:

Shall not in an application for a professional position deliberately make a false statement or fail to disclose a material fact related to competency and qualifications.
Shall not misrepresent his/her professional qualifications.
Shall not assist any entry into the profession of a person known to be unqualified in respect to character, education, or other relevant attribute.
Shall not knowingly make a false statement concerning the qualifications of a candidate for a professional position.
Shall not assist a noneducator in the unauthorized practice of teaching.
Shall not disclose information about colleagues obtained in the course of professional service unless disclosure serves a compelling professional purpose or is required by law.
Shall not knowingly make false or malicious statements about a colleague.
Shall not accept any gratuity, gift, or favor that might impair or appear to influence professional decisions or action.

Codes of ethics, such as this one, are at once inspiring and disappointing. Some of the ideals espoused in the preamble rouse the best in us. However, when demarcated into desired behaviors, the codes too often become attempts to avoid problem behaviors. Such codes are created and/or voted upon by groups invested with institutional authority and carry different forms of sanctions. Some violations may be inconsequential and other may carry more serious consequences. The Texas Educators’ Code of Ethics is law, cited in the Texas Administrative Code28 (under Title 19 Education, Part 7 State Board for Educator Certification, Chapter 247). While offering a means to enhance the ethical practice of educators, codes of ethics can essentialize the ethical and reduce it to compliance with generalized statements designed to function for all educators and general circumstances. Educators should know these codes, pay close attention to the language used within them, and build them into their professional practice. Codes of ethics are useful for they can direct behaviors away from the harmful.

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