We make a statement in our School District’s current strategic plan that we value ethics. What do we mean by that? There are many interpretations about the meaning of ethics. There is ethical action, there are ethical practices, how about ethical literacy? And are perspectives which are grounded in theory different from those grounded in practical real-life applications? For example, what does the ethic of care look like in real life applications? One definition that speaks to me says that ethical care compels us to be proactively sensitive to another person, extending ourselves beyond duty and convenience to offer others our concern and attention.
In the 21st Century, shared value systems cannot be presumed. In a globally-linked world, ethics and values cannot be approached as static. Contemporary educational leadership programs encourage school leaders to embrace diverse ethical perspectives, to consider the ethical values of the institutions they work in and assist students to critically think about their own ethics – providing them with approaches to confronting questions and issues of values and ethics that transcend specific rights and wrongs in a changing political, social and economic environment.
M. T. Brown asserts that, “if you teach students what is right, you will have to tell them again tomorrow…if you teach them how to discover what is right, they will find the way themselves”.
Ethics serve as a compass for individuals as we confront and approach moral dilemmas. This is particularly difficult when values compete with one another. A function of ethics is to help us avoid being swayed by emotions, personal interests and beliefs, as we seek to choose morally sound responses to ethical dilemmas.
Parents and teachers know that children feel empathy and can act on behalf of others and that public schools are ideal institutions for preparing children to assume the role and responsibilities of citizenship in a democratic society.